Learning Objective: Students will learn about the various kinds of slates there are, and how to put paper in the slate.
Materials Needed: Slate and a piece of paper.
Activity: When your parents write checks, leave a note for you and your siblings, or sign official documents, what do they use? That’s right, they use a pen, pencil, marker…some kind of portable writing instrument. Imagine a world where no one had a pen or pencil! True, there is technology that allows you to trace your name with a finger. But, technology sometimes fails, or the power goes out.
What about writing braille? Most of us use the braillewriter for writing assignments, or a braille note taker. The brailler will always work when the electricity fails, but your note taker won’t. Taking a writer everywhere you might need to, to write something like a phone number, grocery list, or a note to a friend is clumsy. The slate and stylus is the braille reading/writing person’s pen or pencil. Its portability allows you to write the same kinds of things your parents do—wherever you are--except for a legal signature (which no one could read anyway)!
There are several different kinds of slates. One can order a slate that is the size of a whole sheet of braille paper, 6-line slates the size of a postcard, 4-line slates of about 20 cells for writing on file cards, 4-line slates with 27 or 28 cells, slates for writing on playing cards, double-sided slates with which you can write on both sides of an index card, 1-line slates for writing on Dymo tape…there are so many different kinds!
Let’s look at the one that came with your Learning Kit. Notice that it has 4 lines of cells, and 28 cells per line. The upper part of the slate contains open rectangles, while the lower part has indentations in the pattern of the 6-dot cell.
At each corner of the bottom of the slate is a sharp little pin, while on the top is a little hole. The pin will fit in the hole, with the paper between them, so that you can use the stylus to write without the paper moving.
At the left and right ends of the 2nd line you will notice a slit. This slit allows you to thread Dymo tape along the row of cells, so you can write on it without it slipping.
This is also an item in your Learning Kit, and we will work with it later this week.
Now, let’s use the following steps to see if we can put the paper in the slate so that it is straight.
Open the slate about 45 degrees, and lay it on the table with the hinge to the left, and the bottom of the slate—the part that feels like full cells--toward you.
Next, pick up a piece of paper. Hold it so that the holes along the long edge are in your right hand.
Stand the paper up, so the bottom edge is on the table. Now, slide the paper between the two parts of the slate, until the left side of the paper is right next to the hinge.
Close the slate, and lay the slate and paper down so that the slate is at the top of the paper, away from you. Carefully open the slate.
If you were successful, you should feel the four pins coming through the paper, with the top 2 pins at the top edge. This can take some time to get used to doing, so don’t worry if it didn’t work the first time.
If you try putting the paper in several times and it doesn’t work well for you, try the following.
Place the slate on the table with the bumpy part down, and the hinge to the left.
Now, open the slate. Keeping the holes in the paper on the right, lay the paper down and position it so the top of it is lying on the side of the slate which has the 4 pins on it.
Push the top left corner down on the top left pin of the slate. Then do the same with the top right pin. Once these two pins are securely in the paper, you can close the slate and the bottom 2 pins will automatically be in place.
Let’s spend the rest of the time today try
Learning Objective: Students will learn about the various kinds of styli there are, and how to hold the stylus properly.
Materials Needed: Slate and stylus, paper.
Activity: Yesterday we learned how to put the paper into the slate. Though that might have been a bit difficult yesterday, it may seem a bit easier to do today.
First, let’s talk about the stylus. There are a variety of styli (the plural form of stylus) that one can choose from. These are a bit more difficult to describe in detail, but we will work with one today.
However, it is helpful to know you can choose a stylus which has one side that is flat—to keep the stylus from rolling away so easily—or that some of them have a curved indentation for your index finger to rest in (called a saddle stylus). The most common stylus is the one which probably came with your slate, that has a round top. In order to be able to write on the slate, we’ll have to learn how to hold the stylus correctly.
Look at the stylus, and—using the following steps--let’s try to learn how to hold it.
The top of the stylus should rest on your hand right between your pointer and the 3rd finger of your right hand. These two fingers should go on each side of the shank of the stylus, which is the piece that the point comes out of.
Tuck your fingers in so that their tips touch your hand, and lay your thumb beside them, sticking straight out. This position should allow you to try your hand at writing.
Now, gently use the point of your stylus to feel the sides of the cell. You should notice that these are not perfectly smooth; there are little bumps along them. The area between these bumps is where the indentations for the dots are.
To begin with, let’s try to write a full line of full cells. When you are writing on the slate, dot 1 is the top right dot, dot 2 is the middle dot on the right, and dot 3 is the bottom dot. The left side of the cell is dots 4, 5, and 6, from top to bottom.
Place your stylus in the top right hand corner and press down. Be sure to keep your stylus in a position so you are pushing straight down into the indentation. You should hear a little pop. Then move down to dot 2, which is just a tiny movement. Press down, and then go to the bottom right corner, which is dot 3, and press. Now, stay in the same cell and move to the top left corner to write dot 4, then down to 5, and down again to 6. You have just completed the first full cell. Move to the next cell and continue on in the same way—dot 1 top right, dot 2 middle right, dot 3 bottom right, dot 4 top left, dot 5 middle left, dot 6 bottom left, etc. When you want to make a space, simply skip a cell between letters.
Let’s spend the rest of our time trying to write full cells.
Learning Objective: Students will learn/try to write bs, cs, ks, ls, ms, ps, qs, us, vs, xs, and ys.
Materials Needed: Slate and Stylus, braille paper.
Activity: Yesterday you were able to write some full cells. Today we’ll review putting the paper in the slate, how to hold the stylus, and writing full cells. Then we will go on to make some letters which are fairly easy to write, if you remember to think of the dot numbers as you are working.
When learning to write on the slate, it is very important to think the dot numbers. Decide which letter you are going to write, say the dot numbers in your mind, then think about where each of those dots are located in the slate’s cell as you write them. As you may have noticed, when you write on the slate, you are pushing the dots down into the paper, instead of them coming up, as they do on the brailler. If you just think of the shape of the letter, as you are used to it—and use your stylus to make those shapes—you will end up with writing which is backward. If you think the dot numbers, and use your stylus to press where that dot is in the slate’s cell, it will help a lot. When you take the paper out of the slate, and turn it over, you’ll see that the dots are in the correct formation. We will do this after we write something other than full cells.
Now, if you have several full cells written, we’ll go on to try a line of each of these letters. Let’s begin with a line of bs, then a line of cs, ks, and ls, before we need to move the slate down four lines. This can be complicated, so let me talk you through it.
We call each four-line grouping on the slate a guide. In order to make sure our lines don’t overlap, we have to be careful about putting the paper in the slate again. Try to follow these steps, to keep your lines correctly spaced.
Lay your slate down flat on the table, with the hinge to the left, and the bumpy part down. Now open the slate wide.
Look at your paper. Find the four holes that the pegs made when you closed the slate, on the opposite side of the paper from your writing.
Find the top two pins on your slate. Place the bottom two holes on your paper on the top two pegs of the slate and close it. It is very important that you use the same holes that were used the last time, so your lines will be evenly spaced. This will take some practicing, too, so be sure not to give up too easily.
Let’s try writing ms, ps, qs, and us, on this guide, and then we’ll move down four more lines.
There are only three more of the letters which are a little easier to write. On this next guide we’ll write vs, xs, and ys.
This has been quite a workout for today. Tomorrow we will try to write the more difficult letters, and then I’ll have you write words to see if I can read them.
Learning Objective: Students will review writing letters we’ve already covered, and write new ones.
Materials Needed: Slate and Stylus, braille paper.
Activity: You’ve been doing a great job of learning how to write on the slate and stylus this week. We only have a few more letters to go, which are a bit more tricky, but I know you can do it if you remember to think the dots as you’re writing.
So, let’s get the paper in our slates and write the following letters as I say them.
Full cell—I know, it’s not a letter, but please write one anyway.
Now write c a b space, l a y space, and l u c k y.
Now let’s go on to some new letters. Our first guide will be filled with d’s, f’s, g’s, and h’s. When you have a letter like h, which has one dot in the middle on the side of the cell, always be careful to go straight over to it from a dot that you are sure you are in the right place for. So, for h, write dot 1 in the top right, 2 in the middle right, and then go over to the 5 on the middle left. This will be true for j’s, r’s, and w’s, too.
Now let’s go down a guide. Be sure to let us know if you are having trouble moving your slate down, and we’ll try to help you.
This guide will have j’s, n’s, r’s, and t’s.
Our next guide will have the letter w, and then we’ll start the last letters, which are the ones which you need to think about a bit more. On line 2 we’ll write e’s, line 3 is,
And the last line will be o’s. These letters have diagonals in them, so you’ll have to be careful about which dots you punch.
The last two letters we need to write are s’s and z’s.
I am sure that is a good enough workout for today. Tomorrow I’ll have you write numbers and words. I can’t look at them, to see how you are doing, but if you hold your paper up, perhaps Miss Anna can.
Learning Objective: Students will be able to use what they have learned this week to write numbers and words independently, and learn how to make a label/labels (depending upon how fast they have gotten over the week).
Materials Needed: Slate and stylus, Dymo tape, scissors and Braille paper.
Activity: Maybe you remember me mentioning the slit for Dymo tape on your slate. Before we just write words and numbers, I want to show you how to use this.
If you look at the roll of Dymo tape you got in your Learning Kit, you’ll notice the outside of the roll is a shiny feeling. This is the side that we want the braille to be written on. In order to be able to write on it, especially with it being so narrow, we’ll need a way to stabilize it, and keep it from moving on us.
Look at the slits on the ends of your slate, right next to the second row of dots. Open the slate. We’re going to take the Dymo tape from the slit on the right end of the slate all the way up and out of the slit on the left. It doesn’t have to be a long piece coming out of the left end, but just enough so we know it won’t move on us; maybe half an inch or so.
Take the end of the Dymo tape, being sure you have the back of it facing up, and poke it down into the slit on the right end of the slate. The tape will be crossing over the backside of the top part of the slate. Pull it over to the slit on the left, and poke it up through it about a half inch or a little more. Then, close the slate. The tape should be lined up so that you can write on it.
In order not to waste tape, it is good to figure out how many cells you want to use, and then count that many back from the left end of the slate. So, if I wanted to write Hannah, for example, I would count back 7 spaces for Hannah, which is six letters, and the capital.
Figure out something you’d like to write on your label, count back however many spaces you need to, and try to write it.
Now, let’s go back to writing on the slate and stylus. See if you can get the paper in and write words and numbers. When you have a guide written, perhaps you’ll want to take the paper out and look at your work, or have Anna look at it.
Remember, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If you aren’t having success at first, keep trying. As I read in a piano book once: “Only perfect practice makes perfect.” So, we need to remember to practice things right in order to become good at doing them. Keep thinking about all of the things we talked about, and you’ll get it down!