Standards and Objective
Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.
- A journal for note-taking, or a note-taking app
- Various materials to create an object-based timeline
- The Story of my Life by Helen Keller
The autobiography of Helen Keller, a woman who learned how to communicate despite being deaf and blind, has inspired generations of students as well as teachers. While the autobiography may need to be shared over time, students can keep notes in a journal about major events in her life, and prepare to create a 3D timeline, accessible to students who are deaf/blind. This is a long-term craft project that students may require a few weeks to complete. As students are listening to her story, they should consider how real life events, such as graduating from college, learning how to spell, or meeting a famous writer, might be represented by a real object instead of a photograph or print writing.
Play: The Story of My Life (over several class periods).
An integral part of Helen’s initial breakthrough with her teacher, Ms. Sullivan, came from Anne helping Helen make connections between real items, like water and her doll, to the letters and signs used to represent them. When typically developing students learn how to spell doll, they often both hear the word and see a picture of a doll. Many areas of the brain are working at once.
When students can’t see and hear, senses like touch, scent, and even taste matter much more because these senses stimulate the brain and get you thinking. A cardboard cutout of doll does not feel like a doll, and a plastic toy frog or horse doesn’t remind you of an actual horse, since it has more in common with a plastic spoon than the animal.
The task for students is to reflect on which object would be meaningful for Helen in relation to each major milestone in her life, such as meeting her teacher, starting new schools, graduating, earning honors and meeting dignitaries. Students should create a timeline including at least 8 major life events, but at each point on the timeline, find or create an object that they could give a person with deaf-blindness to make a connection to the event, as Helen did at the water pump with her teacher.
Summary: Once students have completed their “object-based” time-lines, have them share them with peers to see if others have the same understanding of the events that they do, and if the objects are meaningful to them.
Extensions and Variations
Students who are interested in Braille may choose to explore how Braille is created. The site Braille Bug describes how the code works and shows Braille letters. Students may choose to add 3D elements to their timeline, using glue, dots, or pins to create a raised bump. A summary of who Helen Keller was is also on this site.
Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller remained close until Sullivan’s death. At that time Sullivan had also lost her vision and Keller held her hand as she passed. The remains of both women are at the Washington National Cathedral.
About the Common Core
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lay out very specific listening requirements, by grade, as part of a dedicated strand for speaking and listening skills. The standards specify the use of ‘other media’ within the standards, e.g., “CCSS.ELA-Literacy 3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.”
Listening is placed on equal footing with reading, writing and speaking. And for those tempted to just pair audio with visual text, that approach is common and valid with emerging readers, but not what the standards intend.
The CCSS also requires students to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. Audio books can act as an important scaffold that allows students to read above their actual reading level.
Learn more at www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy.