Future Reflections Summer 2009
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by Gloria Moyer
From the Editor: Gloria Moyer is a resource-room teacher of blind students at the James Otis Elementary School in Chicago. She was recently honored as a 2009 Golden Apple Fellow. In this article she shares her enthusiasm for teaching Braille and her creative approach to integrating Braille into the school community.
I will always look back on the 2008-2009 school year as a year of celebrations at James Otis School in Chicago—celebrations of a legacy and of individual growth.
I encourage the students in my resource room to embrace life’s challenges and celebrate every accomplishment. High fives and applause are everyday occurrences. My morning reading group consists of four primary-aged children with different visual and cognitive abilities, as well as varying levels of academic strengths. They have learned to work as individuals and as a group, and to encourage each other. Emerging Braille readers mastered the alphabet and are moving on to whole words. The electric Braille writer is a popular tool. My third-grade Braille reader has mastered this year's contractions, improved fluency and comprehension, and has written many creative stories. She competed in the Illinois Braille Challenge for the first time. My large-print reader has grown enormously. She arrives at school each day eager to read another story and learn new spelling words.
Inclusion continues to have a positive effect on my students, their sighted classmates, and the general-education teachers and staff. Everyone has learned to appreciate the strengths and differences in each child and to work together. I smile each time a classmate volunteers to "buddy" with a student of mine. I measure a successful year by the increase of personal independence, as well as academic improvement.
This year I conducted a professional development activity with my colleagues. While blindfolded, they performed money and food activities. The classroom environment was simulated and they also used canes to navigate their surroundings. Afterward we held a group discussion, while everyone was still blindfolded, and talked about feelings. The experience of "walking in another's shoes" was a life-changing moment for many.
We celebrated the life and legacy of Louis Braille and his two hundredth birthday on a grand scale. January 2009, Braille Literacy Month, began with a school-wide assembly. We presented a slide show about Braille's life, delivered individual testimonials entitled, "I Love Braille because…," sang "Happy Birthday" in French, and brought the house down with a performance of the Braille Rap Song. Sighted classmates joined in the rapping and dancing, and are lovingly known as "The Braillettes." The Braille Buddy Board was a popular weekly feature. I posted a riddle on Monday with the answer written in Braille. Everyone was invited to decipher the riddle and place the answer along with his or her name in an envelope. Every Friday, those who answered correctly learned to Braille their name on an index card and posted it on the Braille Buddy Board. Hundreds of names were written over a five-month period. I sponsored a Louis Braille Birthday Poster Contest and received many creative entries. I conducted mini Braille lessons in the regular-ed classrooms and host an ongoing before-school Braille Club for sighted students and teachers who wish to learn the code.This school-wide involvement increased awareness and respect for Braille's remarkable code and life. I am proud to be a member of the Otis School community and look forward to new celebrations next year.
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