A teacher’s fear is the greatest enemy of all children with special needs – even blind and partially sighted, because it hinders the teaching process and often stems from a lack of knowledge. As we all have a right to knowledge, it is crucial to educate teachers to reconcile themselves with the special needs of the child and to show them the bright light at the end of the corridor, moreover; to tell teachers that their child is unique and special, a winner who could be independent and successful – also due to an appropriate approach to early language teaching through 70 different games and activities.
To start with …
When one wants to be a good teacher, one should never forget what it is like to be a student. If we are talking about a good teacher of blind and partially sighted children the idea is even more important. As an experienced teacher of blind and partially sighted, Roman Brvar, once said (Brvar, 2000: 11): “How is it possible to find something interesting, that does not exist (for you), something you could not imagine, something you have never dreamt of? This
is a challenge for a teacher of blind and partially sighted children – to make a child interested in everything that is behind the wall of darkness. But when a hole is made in that wall … then comes a time of endless whys – a joyfulness for the child and satisfaction for the teacher.”
How to achieve this? To be innovative and able to adapt to one’s special needs (Brvar, 2000: 69), moreover to have energy and positive attitude to teaching, because being without sight means being without 20 different abilities, which are not easy to compensate for.
Early language teaching with the correct attitude – a lot of games and funny activities – can be fun, because a new language, new culture, variety … is easily taught in that way. What does »correct attitude« mean? Firstly an emphatic and well-educated teacher is needed. What about if there is a blind or partially sighted child in our classroom? No games and fun approaches to teaching anymore? As an itinerary teacher I am really sorry, but my answer is: “Yes.” But why? It happens often that a teacher feels sorry for the blind or partially sighted child and suddenly does not find his subject or/and goals in the curriculum important any more. “Why should a blind child know colours?” “Why should she or he understand a foreign language?” “Why should one have to name all the buildings in the city in a foreign language since he/she could never see them?”
Sad but true. With the above statements we underestimate blind and partially sighted people.
As I always say: “Blind and partially sighted (children) are not stupid, they just do not see (well) – they see things in their own way.” And it is our job to help them see.
To understand better:
Possibility to visit Antarctica in one’s life is not very likely, but children are still taught about different types of land in the first years of school. This is the same story as when we talk about the blind and colours. We (teachers) are obliged to teach all the things in the curriculum, despite the fact that we find some things unnecessary; it is not a question, it is our duty to do so.
The beginning is always hard, even when teaching a blind or partially sighted child. In Slovenia teachers who are expecting a blind or partially sighted child to come in their class, are usually invited to the Institute for blind and partially sighted, Ljubljana, to participate in a seminar about teaching blind and partially sighted children. The itinerary teacher comes to their school to talk about the blind or partially sighted child and his/her needs. There is a lecture for all the school staff and parents … that is organized at the school, but despite that, in the end teacher stands alone in front of the class. There are some teachers who seek help and advice from the itinerary teacher, but those are very few.
And this is the reason why I have prepared a short list of basic advice and more than 70 different games, that can be played in the classroom in which the blind or partially sighted child is enrolled. All the games are authorial and have already been used in the classroom for different subjects: English, mathematics, mother tongue, science, art, physical education … The games are divided into different groups that occur when teaching a foreign language, but despite that all the activities and games can be used with different subjects and also in the classroom without a child with special needs or in the classroom with a child with different special needs – with some reasonable adaptations.
A SHORT LIST OF BASIC ADVICE TO WORK WITH THE BLIND OR PARTIALLY SIGHTED CHILD
- All activities and games are a result of practical work and have already been tested in practice. They have all had successful results. They can be played in bigger or smaller groups of children.
- Blind or partially sighted child should sit closer to the teacher, so he/she will be the first one to get a new object in his/her hands.
- Blind or partially sighted child should work with real and concrete material so he/she gains a concrete experience. That kind of experience will make lessons better for all the students.
- Blind or partially sighted child is allowed to do fewer examples than his/her sighted peers, because he/she is often slower at his/her work.
- When talking to a blind child we can still use colours (often in combination with other adjectives) and verbs to see, to look, to observe …
- All the written activities should be taken as an appendix to activities in teachers’ manuals.
- There are several activities that can be used with different subjects in different units.
- A blind child should always be helped with the orientation of the material, picture. We should be systematic and always start from the same position.
- Do not get angry if the child is not looking in your eyes when talking to you, but he/she is turning his/her ears to you. The reason why he/she is doing this is to hear you better.
- Do not get angry if the child is reading »with his nose« – this is the only way for him/her to see what is written.
- If you do not know how, if you do not have an idea, just do not say: “This is not possible.” Rather find the help of an expert who is working with your child, someone who knows how.
ACTIVITIES AND GAMES THAT CAN BE PLAYED IN THE CLASSROOM
DIVIDED INTO GROUPS
(Presentation of yourself, your look, personality, interests, hobbies, experiences and plans)
NAME – MY NAME IS...
Comment: all the children should play. We finish with positive intonation.
Activity, game: children sit on the floor in the circle. In the first round everybody says his/her name in the way somebody would call him/her when he/she would be angry with him/her. In the second round in the way somebody would call him/her when he/she would be satisfied with him/her. We can play this game as long as children are interested and use as many adjectives as we want.
NUMBERS – AN ECHO
Material: cards with numbers or concrete material.
Comment: teacher should ask all the children in the classroom.
Activity, game: children are given different numbers (written on the piece of paper or concrete material – Lego, pebble …). Then the teacher asks: “How old are you?” Child answers (according to the given number): “One.” Teacher: “Sorry?” Class: “One.”
NUMBERS – HOW MANY FINGERS CAN YOU FEEL?
Activity, game: One child turns his/her back to the other. The other child touches his/her back with his/her fingers and he/she should guess the number of fingers he/she has been touched with. They switch rolls.
COLOURS – WHAT IS A COLOUR?
Comment: a discussion about colours, what colour is what. When we are talking about, for example, red colour, we give children a piece of red plasticine.
Activity, game: children are asked to make snakes of plasticine and paste them one above the other in the form of an arc to make a rainbow.
COLOURS – WHAT COLOUR IS A BANANA?
Material: different objects, pictures of different colours (for example: red apple, green grass, blue sea, brown chair, yellow sun, orange orange, black horse, white cat, gold goldfish).
Comment: objects are introduced to the children (in touch and colour). Blind child should keep the objects in the box in order not to lose them.
Activity, game: Every child is given different objects or pictures (everybody the same).
Teacher or one child gives instruction on what to touch. If he/she says: “Touch something blue.” children do not touch anything, but if he/she says: “Teacher (Anna) says, touch something blue.” everybody touches an objects or a picture of a blue colour.
ADJECTIVES – A MAGIC TOUCH
Comment: children can stand around the classroom, in a circle or behind their chairs as well.
Activity, game: Teacher and some children are walking around the classroom. When they touch a child, they give him/her certain order, for example: “big”. This child should turn into a “big one”, until somebody else touches him/her with a different order, for example “small” (fast / slow; thin / fat; happy / sad; old / young; tall / short).
CLOTHES – A FASHION SHOW
Material: a bag with clothes.
Comment: clothes are put on the clothes already dressed up.
Activity, game: child takes out of the bag one piece of clothing, dresses it up and walks around the classroom, pretending to be a model in a fashion show. All the others are saying what he/she is wearing (“She/ he is wearing a hat.”).
CLOTHES – A MAGIC SHEET
Material: a bag with clothes, sheet or a blanket.
Comment: clothes are put on the clothes already dressed up.
Activity, game: children sit in a form of a circle. Everybody closes their eyes or turns around as we pick one child to dress up in new clothing. Then we cover the child with a blanket to prevent other children seeing what he/she is wearing. Other children open their eyes and start guessing what is a child covered with a blanket wearing.
All the described activities and games are simple to play, children love them, they forget about embarrassment when talking a foreign language (My name is...), a lot of them involve movement (A fashion show, A magic touch), which children often lack and laugh (An echo).
Children relax during competition (What colour is a banana?) and make connections in the group. They usually like to guess and be surprised (How many fingers can you feel). Through games they learn to be different and equal (A magic sheet). All the described activities and games can be used in all parts of the lessons, as motivation, introduction to a new theme, vocabulary or at the very end of the lesson for revision, relaxation or just to have fun.
2 MY HOME
(Family, relations, activities, my space)
ROOMS IN MY FLAT – DANCING
Material: objects that are typical for different rooms, pictures of different rooms (written in Braille as well), names of the rooms in English (foreign language) and mother tongue, everything should be written in Braille as well.
Comment: it is good to have some music or at least a musical instrument to make some sound with, or a teacher should sing a song.
Activity, game: Every child gets an object/a picture/a word. They are dancing and exchanging the objects/pictures/words. Teacher stops the music and asks: »Where are you dancing, Tina?« Tina answers (according to the object/picture/word held in her hands): »I’m dancing in the toilet.«
ROOMS IN MY FLAT – FIRE
Material: objects that are typical for different rooms, pictures of different rooms (written in Braille as well), names of the rooms in English (foreign language) and mother tongue, everything should be written in Braille as well.
Comment: chairs are set in the form of a circle.
Activity, game: Every child gets an object/a picture/a word. Everybody is sitting. A teacher is standing in the middle of the circle and shouts: »Fire, fire!« Children: »Where?« Teacher: »In the kitchen.« All the children with an object or a word that represents kitchen should switch places. If the teacher answers: »In my home.« all the children should switch places. Each time the places are changing, the one who is standing in the middle of the circle, should try to sit down. A child, who stays without a seat, tells where the fire is.
FAMILY – MY FAMILY
Comment: organise a limited space for example with pillows on the floor.
Activity, game: Children run (crawl, roll, walk…) and when the teacher claps hands, more of them hug - representing the family. Then »the family« tells who is who? For example: Maya is a mother, Tim is a father and Lana is a brother.
FAMILY – STATUES
Activity, game: We tell one child to change into a family member. Others guess: "Are you the mother?" If they guess correctly, the children cast a spell on the child to make him/her free: "Abracadabra, abracadee, you are now free!" If not, they keep guessing.
FAMILY – CALL ME
Material: models of family members (only one family).
Comment: models must always be the same, for instance: a girl with a braid is always the sister.
Activity, game: Each child gets one model/puppet (mother, brother, sister, father...) and they call each other: "Mother to father." "Father to brother." "Brother to sister." When all the family members are called, the models/puppets are handed over to other classmates. We always start with, for example, the sister.
FAMILY – WHO IS WHO IN YOUR FAMILY?
Comment: children work in pairs.
Activity, game: One child tells the other, 4 names of his/her family members (names can be written down as well). The other child is guessing who is who. For example: "Is Anna your sister?" "Yes, she is my sister." "Is Tina your mother?" "No, she is not my mother."
Comment: different penalties and rewards can be invented. Firstly we play this game with the whole class and then in small groups. It is important that everything we do has a sound (cutting with scissors in the air).
Activity, game: Children prepare their school material on the desk in front of them. The teacher (or a child) tells what to do: "Colour. Write. Cut. Sit down. Stand up. Point to the picture." One speaks and others obey him. The one who is last to complete the command is punished, for example, by being made to stand up. If he/she is not the last one with the next command, he/she can sit down again. First a teacher, and later students lead the game. At the beginning we give commands slowly, then faster and faster.
REVISION AND PRACTICE – THROW THE DICE AND WIN
Material: objects (children know the names).
Comment: we determine a small group of players (up to 6 children). Every lesson, these may be different children.
Activity, game: Students throw the dice and whoever throws the most (least) dots on the dice, gets one of the items that he/she already knows the name of.
The above described games and activities are simple to implement in the classroom, children love to play them because they give them the opportunity to move (Dancing, Fire), which is something children often miss, and laugh (I am the boss), which keeps the brain active. The same game gives children a sense of importance and has a positive impact on children's self-confidence (also Call me). During the competition children relax, because they usually like an element of guessing (Who is who in your family?)and surprises (Throw the dice and win), moreover they revise their vocabulary. All these games and activities can be used in all parts of the lesson – as the initial motivation, for learning new topics, vocabulary, or at the end of the lesson as a revision, or to increase a positive mood, or simply as a relaxation exercise.
3 MY SCHOOL
(School, learning, activities, professions, plans)
SCHOOL MATERIALS – WHAT HAVE YOU GOT IN YOUR SATCHEL?
Comment: at the beginning child chooses only one item. Later we gradually increase the number of items.
Activity, game: Each child chooses a few items others guess what the objects are. Objects can be taken out of the bag, just written down or the child simply makes them up. For example: »Have you got a pencil sharpener?« »Yes, I have. /No, I haven`t.« or »Is it a pen?« »Yes, it is. /No, it is not.«
VERBS – A RUNNING DICTATION
Material: writing words on the blackboard. When a blind student is competing, a record on the blackboard should be in Braille.
Comment: at the beginning a blind or visually impaired student is writing. Not more than 5 pairs compete at the same time. When the blind or visually impaired student is running, the length between the desk and the blackboard should be adapted to that child’s abilities and the teacher should help with orientation (ringing the bell). The number of words for the transcription is gradually increased. Pair-work.
Activity, game: One child is running from the desk to the blackboard, reads a word and runs back to tell and dictate this word to the other child, who is sitting and writing words down. When the word is written, the first child can run back to the blackboard, in order to read the next word. At the same time more pairs are competing. The pair that is the first one to write all the words down, is the winner.
PROFESSIONS – WHO IS A PLUMBER?
Comment: a similar game can also be found in some teachers’ books.
Activity, game: One of the students makes up a word on an agreed topic (for example: professions) and says: »I spy with my little eye something beginning with "P".« Other children guess: »Is it a pilot?« »Is it a policeman?« »Is it a plumber?« The child answers: »Yes, it is.« »No, it is not.« Whoever guesses the correct profession makes up a new word.
TIME – WHAT’S THE TIME MR. WOLF?
Comment: a blind or visually impaired student should have a trailing line (for example: by the wall, at the edge of the pitch, on the marked line). The difficulty of the game can be increased by adding »half past« (children take a half step) and »quarter to« or »quarter past« (children take a quarter step). It is essential that the rate of half and quarter is predetermined.
Activity, game: We choose the wolf (a child), who should come to the other side the classroom. Other children make a line on the other side of the classroom and ask: »What’s the time Mr. Wolf?« The Wolf answers: »It`s 3 o’clock." The children take the same number of steps as is indicated by the time e.g. 3 o’clock = 3 steps. The one, who first comes to the wolf, is the winner and becomes a wolf.
SHAPES – SHAPES
Material: models of the shapes.
Comment: some children may also have pictures instead of models. Models can be brought to school as homework.
Activity, game: The teacher (or the student) says the name of the shape and other children should find this shape and point to it/lift it up as soon as possible.
SHAPES – LET`S BUILD!
Material: magnetic board and magnetic sticks or sticks that are heavier (for example made of metal) for the blind or visually impaired child. Others can use other kinds of sticks (for grill, straws, pens…).
Comment: if needed, the teacher should help the blind or visually impaired child with orientation.
Activity, game: Children are making different shapes, as directed by the teacher.
SHAPES – TRANSFORMERS
Comment: this game can be played, when children have already mastered different shapes. First, children should work alone, then in pairs, threes etc ... At the end the whole class should work together.
Activity, game: Someone gives instructions to the group to follow. For example: »You are a triangle.« The group must be changed into a triangle. »You are a circle.« The group changes into a circle.
Children are often surprised when playing games (What have you got in your satchel?) and proud, when their classmates are guessing their object correctly. During the competition the children relax and link up with each other (Transformers), and so they often play similar games in their free time (What`s the time Mr. Wolf?). Children usually love guessing and surprises (Shapes). All these games and activities can be used in all parts of the lesson – we can repeat the same game over and over again and the children will certainly not have anything against it.
4 MY WORLD
(Friends, idols, party, problems, relationship, modern technology)
POSSESSION – MAY`S BOOK
Comment: the child who is playing should not be able to see (help yourself with a scarf). Only one child at a time should look for an object or two children, but at different sides of the classroom. The items children are looking for should not be close to each other.
Activity, game: Children are divided into two lines (left and right). Someone (at the beginning this should be the teacher) steps in the middle of the class and gives instructions to the children. For example: "Bring me or Go and touch Anna`s ball, Mark`s pencil case, Tadej`s glass..." When children bring wanted things to us, we should have some space for putting things down. To take all the things back to the owner, we can use instruction: "Take Anna`s ball and give it to Anna."
FRIENDS – MY IDOL
Material: each student brings an object (it can also be an audio or video clip, a photo alone is not enough), that reminds him/her of his/her idol and then gives a speech about him/her.
Comment: children should prepare for the speech at home, so the task can be set as project work. In each lesson only a few students present their idols (up to 6).
Activity, game: Each child presents his/her hero, the others listen carefully, view objects, listen to clips, watch a movie. At the end of all presentations (at the end of the lesson) the teacher divides students into groups to ask each other different questions, such as: »Whose hero is her father?« »Teja`s.« »Who is good in swimming?« »Michael Phelps.« »Whose hero is Nelson Mandela?« »Bor`s.«
The competition can take place whenever the children complete their presentations and at the end we determine the two winning groups, which then play »the hardest quiz«, where all the presentations are combined. Questions should be prepared in advance by students.
COLLECTIONS – WHO HEARS THE OBJECT?
Material: objects that can be collected (coins, labels, spoons, pebbles…).
Comment: the game can be played even before children are familiar with naming the objects in a foreign language. In this case, they respond in their mother tongue.
Activity, game: Teacher makes a sound by tapping, scratching, blowing into objects and students try to guess what the object is. When they guess correctly, an object is given to them, so they can test it by themselves (first, we give the object to the blind or visually impaired student). »Audio puzzles« can be played several times, by adding new items, inviting various "players"...
PREPOSITIONS – SIT ON...
Material: chair, table.
Comment: it is important that children experience the significance of the prepositions for themselves first, then in practice and later on in the text.
Activity, game: One (at the beginning this should be the teacher) speaks the commands, the others follow. For example: »Step next to your chair.« »Sit on the table.« »Lay down under your chair.« First we play without competing, just obeying orders as quickly as possible. Later on we can add, that anyone who makes a mistake is placed into a queue for lunch, gets penalty – standing on one leg...
PREPOSITIONS – A DICE AND A CUP...
Material: a dice, a cup.
Comment: the game can be played with different material as well. It can be played as pair-work or in a group.
Activity, game: Someone speaks the commands others obey him/her. For example: »Put the dice in the cup.« »Put the dice on the cup.« »Put the dice under the cup.« When a mistake is made, the roles are switched and the number of correct actions is written down. The winner is the one with more correct actions.
The described games and activities require from children quite a few foreign language skills and confidence. At the same time, with similar activities, children are encouraged to use previous knowledge, to talk about themselves (My idol), to feel important (Who hears the object?), because it is their show, they're the head of the activity, lesson (Sit on …, A dice and a cup). It is important that the teacher with similar activities, does not hurry and exaggerate, and gives every child the opportunity and time to decide when to act or lead. It is true that some children do not want to be exposed, in this case it is helpful to be called by the teacher, but only for a short period of time and activity, where they can be successful.
5 STORY TIME
STORY TIME – FAIRY TALE BAG
Material: a bag with objects mentioned in a story (a dog, a broom, an orange, a girl, a coin…).
Comment: children are allowed only to touch (not to see).
Activity, game: In the bag children should find those items that were mentioned in the story we have read. Children are looking for houses, boys, brooms, animals...
STORY TIME – CONSTRUCTION
Material: Lego or other material to create.
Activity, game: Discussion. What would your house be like (for example a house from the fairy tale "Three Little Pigs")? Build yourself a house. Upgrade: a description of their dream houses in their notebook.
STORY TIME – TELLING THE STORY
Material: an umbrella or a stick.
Comment: suitable for students with a well-developed vocabulary. The umbrella should be closed for safety reasons.
Activity, game: Children are standing all around the classroom. Teacher is holding an umbrella (or a stick) and walks around the classroom. He/she starts to tell a story about the miraculous umbrella (stick), which he/she is holding... When the teacher comes to a child he/she handles the umbrella (or a stick). The teacher stops, and the child continues the story of the miraculous journey till he gets to another classmate and handles him/her the umbrella (stick).
Children love fairy tales and are strongly motivated to listen to them, but it is true that fairy tales in a foreign language require a great deal of concentration and reasoning. As teachers, we have to prepare for »fairy tale lessons« well, in order to make a foreign language fairy tale as interesting (if not more so) than one in the mother tongue.
6 MY COUNTRY (Residents and languages, my neighbours, geographical, cultural, historical and ethnographical characteristics)
RESIDENTS AND LANGUAGES – WHERE DO YOU COME FROM? WHAT LANGUAGE DO YOU SPEAK?
Comment: the area available for movement should be determined. The game can be upgraded by telling name of a classmate; in this case, each child presents himself/herself first, for example: "I`m Nina. I come from Slovenia. "
Activity, game: When music is playing children move around the classroom. When it stops, they quickly ask the nearest classmate, where he/she comes from (what language does he/she speak) and remembers his/her answer. After three interruptions (or more, up to 6) the teacher chooses a child and asks him/her from where were the classmates (or what language did they speak) he/she met. The child answers. "I come from Hungary. One (Robert) comes from Austria, one (Brin) comes from USA and one (Jona) comes from Belgium."
GEOGRAPHICAL, CULTURAL, HISTORICAL AND ETHNOGRAPHICAL CHARACTERISTICS – I`M A MOUNTAIN. LIAR.
Material: papers with details of geographical characteristics (also in Braille).
Comment: children are familiar with written words. At the beginning children take only one and later more and more words (so the possibility "to lie" is smaller).
Activity, game: The child changes into »the thing« written on the paper –in mind only. Other children ask: "Who are you?" The child answers: “A hill.” “A river.” “A meadow.” If children believe him/her, the game continues, otherwise they say: "Liar." A child, who has changed, tells others what he/she has changed into. If he/she did not lie, the game continues, otherwise »the detective« takes a paper to change into...
CULTURAL AND ETHNOGRAPHICAL CHARACTERISTICS – A RESEARCHER
Material: various small items associated with different themes (for example: vases, hay racks, tractors, cars, dolls, apples...) wrapped in plastic bags (unless they can be washed immediately) suitable for a search in the internal sandbox.
Comment: There should be a limited number of researchers (every lesson one group). We can compete, so the time is limited – how many things in 20 seconds?
Activity, game: children look for various items in the sandbox/class and name them.
Activities and games allow children to explore and discover the new, unknown (probably something new in their mother tongue as well), which is necessary to take into account when writing a lesson plan – more concrete material, illustration, explanation, cross-curricular integration. In this way the child’s concepts are formed. For each of us, it is important to have correct concepts of the world around us (for example the size of Big Ben in London) for further communication, as it allows us to imagine things in correct proportions. However when we talk about the person who is blind or partially sighted this is even more important since the creation of accurate concepts and then correcting them is even more complex and difficult than the proper acquisition of new ones. And this is something that »true teachers« should not allow and that is why it is necessary for all the children to get a proper understanding of new concepts, objects.
7 EVERYDAY LIFE
(Food, drink, work, free time, celebrations) FOOD, DRINK, WORK, FREE TIME, CELEBRATIONS – WHAT IS THIS?
Comment: suitable for an introductory hour. The creation of an object can be upgraded with the creation, following directions where children end up comparing their items, creations.
Activity, game: Children create an object (food, drink, sports equipment...) out of plasticine and talk about it. At the end of the lesson an exhibition is made.
FOOD, DRINK, WORK, FREE TIME, CELEBRATIONS – WHERE IS MY LUNCH?
Material: apple or some other object in connection to new theme.
Comment: also an exercise for practising prepositions.
Activity, game: Everybody closes their eyes. Somebody hides an apple somewhere in the classroom. When the apple is hidden, students try to find out where it is, by asking: "Is the apple under the table?" "No, the apple is not under the table." "Is the apple in Lana`s bag?" "No, the apple is not in Lana`s bag." The child who guesses correctly, hides the next item.
FOOD, DRINK, WORK, FREE TIME, CELEBRATIONS – WHAT IS A WATERMELON?
Material: objects and pictures of new words. A box for a blind or visually impaired child.
Comment: game is suitable for beginning – naming the new objects. We start with a small number of items; the same items are put in a box for a blind or visually impaired student – in order not to lose them.
Activity, game: First, children have some time to observe the objects and recognise them (in their mother tongue). Then the teacher speaks the English words (or words in a foreign language) for items that the children have in front of them. Children must raise an item that they think is, for example: "A watermelon."
NUMBERS – LET`S SING COUNTING TOGETHER
Activity, game: counting out loud in parts (for example from 42 to 58), counting together, two-voiced counting (two groups counting with a difference of five numbers, for example one group starts with 6 and the other with 11), three-voiced (three groups, each counts with a difference of five numbers, for example the first group starts with 1, second with 5 and third with 10), counting out loud, counting out quietly, counting in two groups at the same time: one is counting forward (from 50 to 60), one backward (from 60 to 50).
NUMBERS – MULTIPLY AND DIVIDE
Material: blocks of different shapes and sizes – Lego.
Comment: a box for a blind or visually impaired student – in order not to lose the blocks.
Activity, game: Building columns out of different blocks by following the instructions and answering the questions such as: Build two columns of 2 blocks... How many blocks is this all together? Bring them to me. Get me 5-times 2 blocks. How could you shorten your time taken to bring the blocks? What would you do, if you could come to me only once? What would you do, if you could come to me only once and if you could put your hand in the box with blocks only once?
NUMBERS – RAP SONG OF MULTIPLICATION TABLE
Material: musical instruments – not necessary. Children can bring the instruments from home or make them for their homework (rattles).
Activity, game: Children make up "rap" on certain multiplication tables, system of counting. A class rap of multiplication tables is organised.
NUMBERS – 2, PASS ME THE BALL, 4, PASS ME THE BALL, 6…
Activity, game: Repeating of multiplication tables by passing the ring ball – on the floor – in the form of a circle.
NUMBERS – THE NUMBER MASSAGE
Comment: pair-work. We can massage with small balls as well.
Activity, game: Repeating of multiplication tables and/or counting with a massage. One lies on the floor or sits on a chair; the other is sitting/standing behind him/her. First one sets a calculation (4-times 4 is?) while the other says the answer (16) and illustrates it physically by »walking« with his/her fingers over the child's back (16-times). Later on the child can massage an answer only, and the first child can count and say a result.
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – 100 IS BINGO!
Material: bingo (everyone can make his/her own bingo square – everybody chooses 15 numbers from 0 to 100 and writes them down).
Comment: we can switch bingos within the classmates.
Activity, game: Teacher (or a student) calls various numbers from 0 to 100 (it is good to write the same numbers down in order to check the winner at the end) and students cross out the numbers the teacher calls. The student who is first to cover all the numbers says: »Bingo!«, and he/she is the winner.
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – NUMBERS AND GYM
Comment: we can play this activity outside or at P.E. as well.
Activity, game: One leads (at the beginning this should be the teacher) and performs various actions, like jumping, hopping, running, walking…while counting. For example, from 0 to 10 we make a step on each number we say, from 11 to 20 we hop on each number we say…
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – FIND NUMBER 15 AS FAST AS YOU CAN!
Material: small boards (10*10) with numbers from 0 to 100.
Comment: children can make these kinds of boards at home. We teach children to be systematic and inventive.
Activity, game: Teacher says which number to find and children try to find it as fast as they can and point to it.
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – WHAT IS THE RESULT?
Material: a dice, symbols + (plus), – (minus).
Comment: it is good to play this game in a group of 5 players or at least a pair.
Activity, game: One student throws the dice and counts the dots on it, another picks up a symbol + or – (with his/her eyes closed), the third throws the dice and counts the dots on it, the fourth repeats everything written and the fifth calculates it. Difficulty may be increased, by throwing two numbers to get two-digit number. Rules can be changed, for example: a –/+ b = ? or ab –/+ c = ? or ab –/+ cd = ? or a –/+ b –/+ c = ?
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – HIDE AND SEEK WITH NUMBERS
Material: small boards (10*10) with numbers from 0 to 100 – for orientation.
Activity, game: One student makes up a number, while the other one tries to find this number by setting questions, for example: “Is it higher / lower than 50?” “Can it be divided by 2?”
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – WHO HAS MORE DOTS?
Material: dominoes with dots or numbers.
Comment: Can be played as individual activity as well; students write the calculations down.
Activity, game: Children should close their eyes and take one domino (dominoes), count the dots on it (them) and add up the dots. The one who gets more dots is a winner.
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – MULTIPLES BOOM!
Activity, game: Determine the number of multiples, which will be changed into "boom" (for example multiples of number 2). Everybody is standing in a circle and counting out loud (for example: 1, boom, 3, boom, 5, boom, 7...). Anyone who makes a mistake gets a prize: saying all the multiples of the determined number (for example 2) individually (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20).
NUMBERS UP TO 100 – BROKEN BUS
Material: a cap for the driver.
Comment: We »drive« slowly. It is good to have more space.
Activity, game: Teacher is a driver, children are the passengers and follow the teacher – in the form of a snake. Teacher is driving and counting out loud – moving forward. Suddenly there is a loud noise that pulls the bus some places back, for example: 2 stations. The driver asks: "Where are we now?" and children should answer. (For example: 46, 47, 48...iiii! Phew! Where are we now?! Two stations back!? What station is this? Passengers, please help! Children: "46!")
The activities and games described are very familiar to the children, since they meet with similar situations every day. It is true, there is more cross-curricular integration (mathematics), because the activities require lots of reasoning (Hide and seek with numbers), calculating (What is the result?), logical eliminations (What is a Watermelon?). The teacher may be surprised by some students who are not brilliant in mathematics, but who are very good in games with English numbers. Why? The answer could be in the different (appropriate) approach of the teacher and pupils to the problem. It is also interesting, if you ask children why they have decided as they did (What is this?) – you will probably learn a lot about the child and his/her way of thinking; not necessarily always positive and enjoyable, but certainly something that will encourage you to do concrete work.
8 SOCIAL, CULTURAL, NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS
(School, city life, life on the countryside, geographical characteristics, environment protection, festivals, globalization)
TIME, DAYS, MONTHS – HIT ME, IF YOU CAN!
Comment: we always hit on an agreed day/month. It could be Sunday/December or Tuesday/June. It is important to set the day/month in advance.
Activity, game: All students stand/sit in a circle, palms facing upward, right hand is placed on the left hand of a classmate who is on the right side, and left hand is holding right hand of the classmate who is on the left side. Everybody is saying the days/months (January, February, March…December, January…/Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…) and every time the name is pronounced, the hand of a classmate is hit. The classmate on the right hits his/her classmate on the left. When all the names of the days (from Monday to Sunday)/months (from January to December) are said and the last one hits (on Sunday or December), the classmate on his/her left should take his/her hand away before he/she hits him/her. If he/she did not take his/her hand away fast enough and a classmate hit him/her, he/she is out or gets any other punishment (for example: jumping, whistling...).
Comment: it is important the products are placed at a height children can reach, in order to read, touch them… At least some written articles should be written in Braille as well. Alternatively, there could be some products written only in Braille, for which the blind child is responsible, as only he can help their classmates with reading.
Activity, game: Students write names of the days of the week on a piece of paper and next to each day they draw something or form it out of plasticine, typical for that day (for them). Weekly calendar is hung in the classroom at a height children can reach and every day someone is responsible for changing the day. For example: on Tuesday, the clip is attached, where it says Tuesday.
TIME – MONTHLY CALENDAR
Material: posters in a form of a circle, felt-tip-pens, plasticine, clips.
Comment: calendars can be made individually, in pairs or in a group.
Activity, game: Students glue names of the months at the edge of the circle in the correct order (from January to December) and draw or make an illustration under the name of the month. The clip is used for marking the month. Monthly calendar is hung in the classroom at a height children can reach and every month someone is responsible for changing the month, placing the clip on the right month.
Children usually like rhythm, rhymes, what makes new words easier to remember. Allow children to make up their own melodies and rhymes sometimes. Creative activities (Monthly calendar, My week) are often a bit longer, but they may nevertheless be very informative and positive, because in addition to curricular integration, they also strengthen cooperation and compromise within a group, develop fine motor skills and build up correct concepts.
9 SOCIAL AGREEMENTS
(Greetings, appropriate behaviour, customs)
A lot of songs and rhymes should be used, for vocabulary see previous chapters as well.
CUSTOMS – CHRISTMAS IS HERE!
Material: Lego and similar material.
Comment: if possible, use many different materials.
Activity, game: Each child makes his/ her own Christmas tree. At the end we make an exhibition of Christmas trees.
GREETINGS, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR – BINGO
Comment: teachers should write down his/her commands in order to check the winner.
Activity, game: Children write down 5 different ways of saying hello and goodbye (good evening, good morning, see you…). It is also possible to write one greeting more than once. Teacher is saying a variety of greetings and when the children hear the greeting they wrote, they cross out the greeting or mark it with plasticine, write a number next to it, or mark it with a label – the indications are arranged in advance. For each greeting heard, the children cross out only one recorded greeting. The winner is the child, who is the first one to cross out (or mark) all written greetings. He/she shouts "Bingo!"
Bingo game can be played very often, to learn different words, within the most diverse, even in higher grades and children will not get bored. It makes sense to change the rules, to build upon them, to invite children to create. It is important that rules are clear before the game is played, because this is the only way to allow equal participation of all the players.
10 SOCIAL VALUES
(International relationship, family, cultural heritage)
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSHIP – WHAT IS THE POSITION OF...?
Material: network model, magnets – obligatory only for blind children.
Comment: pair-work. Children can draw a network model on a sheet of paper or we can copy it for them. Instead of magnets, different small things can be used (erasers, boxes, glues…).
Activity, game: one child places the magnet on the network and the other should guess its position: »Is it A3?« »No, it is not.« »Is it B4?« »Yes, it is.« Time for guessing can be limited.
CULTURAL HERITAGE – CAN YOU REMEMBER A WORD BEGINING WITH A?
Comment: the activity is suitable for the reinforcement of knowledge, revision. We can play this game in pairs, in groups or individually.
Activity, game: In a group children try to find as many words beginning with a letter, for example a (an accordion, an apple, an aeroplane, an actor...). We compete: Who (which pair, individual, group) makes up more words beginning with a specific letter (or voice)? Who makes up a word beginning with a specific letter (or voice) quicker?
FAMILY – CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING STUPID?
Comment: this game can be played in pairs, groups or individually.
Activity, game: Every couple (group, individual) needs to come up with one of the most absurd sentences with the use of certain words, for example. "Mother, daughter" "Daughter is younger than mother."
Do not forget every fun activity or game is didactic and not only a relaxing activity, because it always requires a certain amount of mental work, in addition to all this, every child wants to win or at least to get good results. That is the reason why every game should be adjusted to the children’s mood, to set different rules, or number of players: we can play one game in groups, if we think individual participation could be too stressful for some children, or we can simply use a certain game because we know children love to play it and are laughing when playing it – even if we did not plan it in our lesson plan.
11 MY ENVIRONMENT
(Street, village, town, city, citizens, activity, service, animals, plants, nature)
VILLAGE, TOWN – I CAN NAME IT
Material: objects we learn to name (home, school, road, church, tree...)
Comment: there should be different objects in the box. The blind or visually impaired child should know the objects in advance. It must be clearly explained, which object represents which institution or building. Once you determine what is what (school is the one with a flat roof) do not change that anymore.
Activity, game: Teacher calls a child to pick up one object from the box and name it (without looking). Then he/she gives it to his/her right, where his blind or visually impaired classmate is sitting. The blind or visually impaired child lifts the object (and feels it), so the other classmates can see it. If the answer was correct, he/she gets applause, if not everybody jumps.
In the case where a blind or visually impaired child is picking up an object from the box, the object is also given to the right, where another classmate lifts it up for the others to see.
When the blind or visually impaired child is neither picking up from the box, nor lifting the object, a teacher should help by saying the correct answer (Yes. No.), so the child can respond appropriately and correctly (gives applause or jump).
Comment: the role of a "Crazy teacher" may later be taken by one of the students. Statements can be based on various themes (animals, activities, school...)
Activity, game: The "Crazy teacher" is saying various statements, such as: chairs are bigger than the table; in the bakery you can buy flowers; you can buy cars at the butchers; the giraffe can climb trees; we write with books; an earthquake happens because of bad weather... Pupils listen carefully and if the statement is correct, they jump and put hands on their heads, if not, they laugh out loud.
ANIMALS – IN THE ZOO
Material: animals we are going to name.
Comment: all the children are taken to the "zoo". We learn to name animals gradually (not more than six at a time). It is recommended that we present the animals to the blind or partially sighted student in advance (in order to get opportunity to feel them); in the afternoon, when having individual lessons…
Activity, game: We organise an exhibition of animals in the classroom – we make a »mini zoo«. We take a group of students to the "mini zoo", where we are showing them different animals: "We are in the mini zoo. Look! It’s a cat (miaow). It’s a snake (hisssss). It’s a dog (woof-woof). It’s a donkey (ia-ia). It’s a pig (oink-oink). It’s a cock (cock-a-doodle-doo). It’s a cow (muuu-muuu)." Other students watch and can later help with sound imitations.
ANIMALS – AN ANIMAL CHAIN
Comment: the game can be played in smaller groups (when there are only a few animals) or upgraded so that children made up a name for their animal ("I’ve got a cat Snowy.")
Activity, game: Children sit in a circle and each tells which animal he/she has got, and repeats all the animals before him/her. For example: "I’ve got a dog."/ "I’ve got a dog Terry." "I’ve got a dog and a cat."/ "I’ve got a dog Terry and a cat Snowy." "I’ve got a dog, a cat and a hamster."/"I’ve got a dog Terry, a cat Snowy and a hamster Little."
ANIMALS, PLANTS, ACTIVITY, SERVICE, CITIZENS – MY FRIENDS ANIMAL CHAIN
Comment: the game can be played in smaller groups (when there are only a few animals, plants, buildings) or upgrade it so that we introduce ourselves at the beginning (for example, if my name is Nina, I say: "I’m Nina. I’ve got a cat (tree, bank).") Or make it even more difficult by saying for our classmates as well (for example: if my classmate on my right is Elvis, he should say: "I’m Elvis. I’ve got a dog (rose, police station). Nina has got a cat (tree, bank).«) We report systematically for each classmate to the left of us (at the beginning only for one and later we make it more difficult and report for 3, 4 classmates or everyone in the classroom).
Activity, game: Children sit in a circle and each tells which animal/ plant/building has he/she got, and repeats all the animals/plants/buildings before him/her. For example: "I’ve got a dog."/ "I’m Nina. I’ve got a dog (tree, bank)." "I’ve got a cat. She has got a dog."/"I’m Elvis. I’ve got a cat (rose, police station). Nina has got a cat (tree, bank).«
ANIMALS, PLANTS, ACTIVITY, SERVICE, CITIZENS – WHAT IS YOUR ANIMAL?
Material: bag of animals (plants, buildings...).
Comment: a child chooses one animal/plant/building only by touching.
Activity, game: Someone chooses one animal and keeps both hands in the bag. The others guess what he/she has chosen (for example "Is it a snake?"). The game can be upgraded with more detailed questions such as: Is it fast? Has it got a long tail? Possible answers are only: "Yes (it is/it has)." and "No (it is not/it has not got one)."
ANIMALS – WHAT ANIMAL SAYS...
Activity, game: One child is chosen to imitate animals, using their voice and body. For example: "Wow-wow!" "Miaow!" "I-aa!" "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" Others guess which animal it is. The one who guesses is the next imitator.
ANIMALS, PLANTS, ACTIVITY, SERVICE, CITIZENS, NATURE – GUESS, WHAT IS ANIMAL...
Comment: children can make up riddles themselves or riddles can be prepared by the teacher so children only read them aloud. We can guess animals, plants, services, people...
Activity, game: We determine the child who will invent a puzzle, for example. "It is big and grey (an elephant)." "It is small and gold (a goldfish)." "You can buy flowers there (florist)." "They speak Slovene there (Slovenia)." Whoever guesses correctly, invents the next riddle.
ANIMALS – WHAT ANIMAL IS THIS?
Materials: bag of animals or any other objects we learn to name.
Comment: this game is suitable for starting to learn the names of animals. It is also possible to learn any other new words, like vegetables, fruits, plants, buildings, flags…
Activity, game: Each child takes one animal out of the bag and says: "This is my cat." Other classmates repeat: "This is your cat." Then he/she puts the animal back in the bag.
Comment: children know the animals, they have already seen them and are familiar with terms to describe them.
Activity, game: The teacher offers the child a bag, from which he/she picks up one animal and describes it. For example: "This is my dog. It is brown. It has got small ears and a long tail." Other children repeat: "This is your dog."
ANIMALS, PLANTS, ACTIVITY, SERVICE, CITIZENS – I (DON`T) LIKE P...
Comment: the game can be upgraded by adding new words from various themes, units. For example, we start with animals then we add plants, then activities…
Activity, game: One begins: "I (don’t) like P..." Others guess: "Pigs? Parrots? Post office? Portuguese? Paddling?" Whoever guesses is the next one to say: "I (don’t), like..."
ANIMALS, PLANTS, ACTIVITY, SERVICE, CITIZENS – I (DON`T) LIKE P...
Material: box and small papers with different themes on them (animals, plants, shops, people, activity...). Everything should be written in Braille as well.
Activity, game: One takes out a paper and reads the topic (which others do not see). For example: animal. He/She chooses one animal and says: "I (don’t) like d..." The other guess: "Dancing?" "Diving?" "Disco?" "Dogs?" Whoever guesses is the next one to take a paper out of the box.
ANIMALS, PLANTS, ACTIVITY, SERVICE, CITIZENS – WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Comment: you can answer with plants, buildings…as well.
Activity, game: Everybody is sitting in a circle and follows the rhythm and, clockwise, asks the question: "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?" The neighbour on the teacher’s right says: "I see a red bird looking at me." Everybody asks again: "Red bird, red bird, what do you see?" The neighbour on the right side of the one answering says: "I see a blue whale looking at me." Everybody asks again: "Blue whale, blue whale what do you see?" Everybody should answer at least once.
When playing different games with children, do not forget to listen to them, because sometimes they will give you a great idea, better than ours, better than those written in the article. It is important that we hear the children’s ideas and consider them important, to make them feel anyone can come up with a good idea about how (in a fun way) to practice, train, learn and teach something. We should listen to them even when they do not understand instructions, maybe the instructions were not said clearly or it may also be that the activity we have chosen is too difficult, too demanding for our children at this time. We must implement the described activities and games as fun and relaxing activities, not a burden. We should not forget that what we, as teachers think or feel often projects onto our children through our working practice, behaviour, speech, teaching approach. So if our children are not enthusiastic over a certain activity... What do we think about this activity?
The goal of writing this article was to show that teaching blind and partially sighted children can be fun as well, without putting much effort into preparation. Although we as teachers and responsible citizens should never forget the words said by a blind woman at the conference Blind woman (Kermauner, 2009: 91): “Do not treat me as a blind (partially sighted) person, but never forget I am blind (partially sighted).” Those who understand her words will always know how to communicate with blind and partially sighted people and help them understand what they cannot see – without demanding any special prize or praise – because that is our work – we are teachers, teachers with hearts.
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Kermauner, A. (2009). Na drugi strani vek: opis prvoosebne fenomenološke raziskave - kako je biti slep. Ljubljana, Študentska založba.
Predlog posodobljenega učnega načrta za angleščino (A proposal of new curriculum for English) (2008). Ljubljana, Zavod Republike Slovenije za šolstvo.
Učni načrt za angleščino (Curriculum for English) (2004). Ljubljana, Zavod Republike Slovenije za šolstvo.