Learning through sense of smell

The spring has come, why not to use a range of blooming flowers available outdoors?
I asked my learner to touch and smell flowers, name them and spell their names. This technique associates learning with the smell or can be used just to stimulate senses.

*Ensure learners don’t suffer from asthma and don’t have allergies.


Grammar continues: English tenses revision

Most of grammar books and websites, when introducing a new grammar tense, present simple diagrams with timelines that show present, future or past aspects. VI and blind learners are in a disadvantaged position as they cannot see them and their description may not be meaningful. That is why I decided to convert all those timelines into tactile diagrams you can see below. You can see the working copies now, waiting for labels in Braille.

We have discussed 5 tenses so far:
Pg 1: Present Simple and Present Continuous
Pg 2: Future Simple and Present Continuous for future
Pg 3: Past Simple and Present Perfect

and this set will be used for a general revision.


20140508_104213 20140508_104220 20140508_104227

Exam preparation and accessing past papers in a relevant format

If you prepare your student(s) for an external exam, it may be worth contacting an awarding body and request their past papers in a relevant format (eg. printed in Braille). Remember to indicate if you need Grade 1 or 2. My advice is to contact customer services as soon as possible as the waiting time may delay (as it happened in my case) and you obviously want to make sure your student(s) has/have enough time to prepare and practise. Just a useful piece of advice 🙂

Embedding Equality and Diversity (E&D)

One of the ways of ensuring that E&D is embedded in a Curriculum is starting a lesson in a way that may reflect diverse backgrounds in terms of topics, individuals, celebrations or places. It is important to build awareness and understanding of different cultures, faiths and traditions.

A few of my recent examples are as follows:

1. St. George’s Day – telling a story about St. George, asking the student to answer comprehension questions, letting the student touch a tactile English flag and asking to describe it.

English flag

2. Pancake Day – bringing all ingredients needed to make pancakes, asking the student to touch, smell and guess what they are and why I brought all of them. Another example is to put together a short recipe.

Useful tip 1: check if the student has any allergies.
Useful tip 2: you may want to have some moisturised tissues handy as the student will be touching various substances.

pancakes ingredients

3. Chinese New Year – playing “Chinese New Year” story available on http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/lets-celebrate/stories/lets-celebrate-chinesenewyearperformance/ and asking the student to answer comprehension questions. This could be followed up by finding out which Chinese Horoscope sign the student is and reading a short description.

4. Remembrance Day – bringing a poppy and a short text in Braille on the Remembrance Day.


5. Eid al-Fitr – playing “Eid al-Fitr” story available on http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/lets-celebrate/watch/lets-celebrate-eid2/ and asking the student to answer comprehension questions. This could be followed up by asking additional questions eg. if the student has any Muslim friends or has tried any types of food described in the clip.

Your lesson’s Big Picture

Sharing clear Aims and Objectives (A&O) is the essential part of each lesson. “Clarity is defined as entering the lesson with a sharp awareness of what is to be learned”. On the top of that, it is also presenting success criteria and a range of activities to be used. It is a great moment to inspire, engage and motivate your learners, making them want to explore a topic (Lightbody, 2012: 213).
Many teachers write lessons’ A&O down on the board or present them in a PowerPoint (.ppt) slide, but these methods are impossible when you teach a VI learner.

You may want to:
a) read the A&O to the learner
b) have cards with A&O typed in Braille
c) insert a list of A&O typed in Braille into a picture frame. This does its job, especially when you do a re-cap, having all of the A&O in one place. An additional advantage is that a student can take this home later.

a big picture

Eat-Well Plate introduced

Some of the Department for Education and Skills’ (DfES) aims for all schools to make progress with are promoting a school ethos and environment which encourage a healthy lifestyle, using the full capacity and flexibility of the curriculum to achieve a healthy lifestyle and promoting an understanding of the full range of issues and behaviours which impact upon lifelong health.
From: https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/…/healthy2563.doc

Healthy lifestyle should be embedded in the lessons and its positive outcomes highlighted at all times, therefore, for one of my lessons, I have adapted the idea of Eat-Well Plate to be readable and meaningful for my VI learner. This allowed us it discuss it in detail. I used various textures (eg. glittery paper, plastic, cotton fabric, foam, etc.).

1eatwell plate from NHS            my eat well plate2

Picture 1 from:

How much & How many? – How I used biscuits to make a coursebook exercise meaningful

Four plates with biscuits did their job when I was teaching quantifiers. I gave my student cards with various expressions (eg. not much, a lot, etc.) and asked to match them with the plates.

quantifiers with biscuits

Adapted from: Speakout Elementary, Pearson, 2011, p. 50.

Should museums be forgotten?

One may say it is purely visual. Not at all!! Louvre Museum in Paris has got a Tactile Gallery, especially for blind and visually impaired visitors, where they can touch the sculptures.

More to read here:


Following that brilliant idea, I used some of my home decorations for a snappy warmer. I asked my student to touch the sculptures and name/spell body parts. In addition to that, there was a brief art-related introduction with naming some famous sculptures eg. The Venus de Milo.


Body language awareness

Social interaction “skills are essential if students are to develop friendships with their classmates and participate in activities typically associated with school-age students, whether educational or extracurricular. Having effective interpersonal communication skills is also highly correlated with employability in adults. For students who are sighted, social skills are primarily learned incidentally through interaction with family members and peers. Most of this learning occurs through observation, imitation and incidental experiences that are part of everyday routines. For students who are blind or visually impaired, this information must be provided through timely, insightful, and sequential instruction. Information associated with non-verbal communication (e.g., gestures, body language, facial expressions) or cultural practices (e.g., how close to stand to the person with whom you are speaking) must be made available to students who are blind or visually impaired. Furthermore, peers of students who are blind or visually impaired require specific instruction to increase their awareness of the implications of vision loss on social interaction if they are to become both comfortable in their interactions with their classmate who is blind or visually impaired and knowledgeable about how to include this student.”
From: http://www.vision.alberta.ca/resources/curriculum/social.aspx

Some students may present body language that is not readable by a culture. I believe it is a teacher’s responsibility to introduce and describe (with examples) the meanings of non-verbal body language. I introduced some of these aspects while teaching job interview skills and how to prepare for a job interview.

Additional input

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