Collection: Technology for Students Who Are Visually Impaired


A Process Approach to Teaching Braille Writing at the Primary Level

REFERENCE: Swenson, A.M. (1991). A process approach to teaching braille writing at the primary level. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 85 (5), 217-221.

Description of Article:

CONTEXT: This article describes the "process approach" to writing instruction as it has been modified and used effectively for teaching braille writing to young children who are blind. This approach to teaching language arts includes "immersing students in print, giving students greater responsibility for learning, and integrating literacy skills with all areas of the curriculum (p.217)." Referred to as "reading-writing" classrooms, the ideas and teaching strategies utilized in a process approach are also proving to be highly effective in teaching braille writing.

PRACTICE: In general, the process approach includes less rote skill-development exercises from reading, spelling, grammar and handwriting workbooks and more emphasis on students' extensive daily writing on topics they select. It is the students' involvement in the process of writing - drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing - that is of more concern to teachers than the final product. The author/vision teacher discusses the modified approach to braille writing, providing samples of the work of primary-grade students enrolled in a combination self-contained-resource room for children with severe visual impairments. The children are mainstreamed into regular classes using a literature-based, process approach, with the vision teacher working closely with the regular education teachers.

While the writing program is continuing to evolve, the author describes a number of key components which form the basis for instruction. In summary form these include:

  1. The children are exposed to a wide variety of excellent children's literature with the goal of developing "a feel for the rhythm and pattern of language that (they) will transfer to their writing (p. 217)." A whole language, literature-based language arts program is used that fully integrates braille reading and writing experiences.

  2. Students are immersed in print (braille) and functional opportunities to read and write as much as possible. The invented spelling technique is encouraged since it provides the children freedom in choosing their topics and early confidence in their writing abilities.

  3. Reading and writing strategies are modeled by the teacher, with the children actively participating in assisting the teacher (alias fellow writer) before they are expected to attempt them on their own.

  4. Materials for writing are readily available.

  5. The writer's message always takes precedence over mechanical considerations during the drafting phase of the process.

  6. Braille drafts are typically revised and proofed during student conferences with the vision teacher; opportunities are provided to share their writing with both sighted and blind peers.

  7. Grade 2 braille is used from the beginning of reading and writing instruction. (pp. 217-218).

The author provides a discussion on writing in kindergarten and how, for students who are blind, it requires the development of physical skills necessary to operate the braillewriter, the cognitive skills required for independent creative writing, and an awareness of the many purposes of reading and writing braille (p. 218). She describes in detail and provides illustrations of a sequence of learning skills and concepts to designed to develop independent writing abilities by the end of kindergarten. These include three stages: 1) Dictated writing/"talking writing;" 2) guided writing; and 3)independent writing.

The author then discusses issues pertinent to "the developing writer" as it involves the basic steps in the writing process: drafting, revising, proofreading and publishing. She notes that children who are blind often write drafts as easily as their sighted classmates, but then required additional assistance from a teacher who knows braille during the revision, proofreading and publication stages. He offers strategies on how to support their progress. The learning involved in these stages is supplemented with "mini lessons" related, for instance, to their writing style or mechanical skills.

The author considers diversity in writing that results from exposure to an wide variety of children's literature and the introduction of primary-grade students to nonfiction ("information writing"), the techniques of interviewing, developing categories, taking notes, and constructing sentences from notes (p. 220)."

In her consideration of the assessment process, she emphasizes the need for the vision teacher to be responsible for the continuous assessment of students' progress in braille reading and writing. She provides numerous suggestions that can be used to plan a student's writing program.


The author presents numerous results for children who learn to write braille using a process approach, including:

In conclusion, the author finds the process approach as a highly effective way of teaching writing to children who are blind. Besides the immediate success reflected in students' enthusiasm and confidence, she finds the process "establishes a foundation for the development of future literacy skills, including the use of a talking word processor (p. 221)."

NCIP's funding ended in September, 1998. For more information about this resource, please contact:

Anna M. Swenson, M.Ed., vision teacher, self-contained/resource room for visually impaired students, Pine Springs Elementary School, 7607 Willow Lane, Falls Church, VA 22042.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.