Feature Writer Alena Roberts – A New Curriculum for Teaching Braille to Adults

Last summer when I started my master’s program, one of our classes was to learn the Braille code. The class was quite easy for me since I learned Braille over 15 years ago, but for my cohort members who knew nothing about Braille, learning all that information in 8 weeks was a lot for them to take in. The Braille code is very complex and people who lose their vision as adults often choose not to learn because of its complexity. In order to increase the number of blind adults who do learn Braille, someone needed to change the way that we teach the code. Emily Wharton, an instructor at Blind Inc. in Minnesota, has done just that. The Code Master Methodology curriculum has been demonstrated to be effective at teaching Braille to adults in a much shorter time and with a higher success rate.

An article in the Braille Monitor from this February does a great job of explaining how the Code Master Methodology differs from the traditional way that we teach Braille. The traditional method can take up to six months for people to learn and students are given a textbook to work from. They often don’t get to pick the materials that they read and many find the process very tedious. Emily’s goal was to try to design a curriculum that would encourage her students to be excited about Braille.

Her classes start by having the students learn the dot configurations and learning their letters by using a peg slate. Within the first couple weeks they know the entire alphabet and punctuation as well as how to write using a Braille writer and a Braille display. The students then move on to contracted Braille and reading on a Braille display. Emily has found that the Braille display is easier for beginners to learn to read on because there is only one line.

Another difference from the traditional method is how contractions are introduced. The Code Master method has students start with the short form words which are often the last thing that is learned traditionally. This is done because it’s easier to memorize the short forms. The materials given to the students also include audio CDs and a list of the 1000 most common sight words in their proper contracted form. Once students have learned the contractions they move onto choosing their own reading material which encourages reading outside of class and improves fluency.

Because the new curriculum has been so successful at Blind Inc., Emily has recently been recognized both by the NFB and the National Braille Press. It is also likely that the curriculum will be available to other centers around the country very soon.

To read all about the code, here is a link to the Braille Monitor article: https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm13/bm1302/bm130205.htm

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