[blindkid] Using a slate and stylus

H. Field missheather at comcast.net
Fri Feb 19 15:16:58 UTC 2010

Dear Heather,
We are discussing two separate things here. One is how children can be 
taught the slate without reversal issues, the other is whether the 
letters are, in fact, written in reverse to how they are read. In my 
experience the two issues are unrelated.

I was responding to the assertion that young children would experience 
difficulty using the slate and stylus because they have problems with 
reversals. My statement that they would not, if taught correctly, was 
based on my personal experience of over thirty years as an early 
childhood educator. If children are taught the dots that make up a 
letter thoroughly, so that they can recite them instantly when asked, 
then they do not have difficulty writing the letters, no matter where 
the dot positions are located. To prove this to dubious parents and 
teachers I have, from time to time, turned the slate sideways, so that 
dots one, two and three are along the top and four, five and six are 
across the bottom. My kindergarten and first grade children had no 
trouble writing whatever I request. So, in this I am demonstrating 
that properly prepared, well taught young children will not have 
trouble with reversals when writing on a slate. They don't relate the 
two tasks, reading and writing. One is an active placing of the stylus 
in dot positions. The other is touching and reading a letter of a 
certain shape that has a specific motor triggering, from practised 
exposure, in their brain.

Your statement regarding the facts of reversed, or backwards position 
of letters, is a different issue and does not have any relation to my 
stated experience with teaching slate use to young, blind children. In 
my experience it would not matter if we wrote from left to right, top 
to bottom or bottom to top. It is not an issue of reversals but a 
matter of insufficient or inferior teaching on proper dot position and 
letter construction which cause children problems. So, whether or not 
the letters must be written backwards or not is of no consequence if 
children are taught correctly.

Now let me speak briefly to another issue. Your prioritizing of 
knowing how to dial 911 as more important than knowing how to use a 
slate is a false comparison, like saying apples are more important 
than oranges. Is it more important to know how to count or to tie 
one's shoes? Is it more important to know how to button your coat or 
to know grade level spelling? These kinds of questions cannot be 
answered without being framed in a context. Without context no 
educational claims can be validated. For example, if a child lives in 
northern Australia, then he/she will likely never wear an over coat. 
Therefore, spelling will be far, far more important to that child. As 
Australia also has no 911 service, that skill too will be of no use. 
Similarly, counting is only important to young children if they are 
given experiences where counting is important, such as setting the 
table or keeping track of their own money. Knowing how to tie their 
shoes may have very important consequences if they are socially 
stigmatized in cub scouts or brownies because, at age eight, they 
still cannot tie their shoes. In the same way, to be able to copy down 
a new friends name and phone number on your slate may have far more 
impact in a young blind child's life than knowing how to dial 911. A 
skill's value is determined, for the most part, by it's usefulness to 
a child within the context of their life experiences. So, while such a 
comparison of skills based on hypothetical value may seem to prove an 
educational priority, in reality the claim does not prove correct.

Warmest regards,

Heather Field

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Heather" <craney07 at rochester.rr.com>
To: "NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List,(for parents of blind children)" 
<blindkid at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Friday, February 19, 2010 7:30 AM
Subject: Re: [blindkid] Technology and Little Kid

The. Cells. Are backwards.  No, they are not backwards in the context 
of the
sentence, because the writing is also reversed, but when making the 
cells on
the slate, they are backwards.  An L is dots 1,2,3 and if you are to 
of the dots on the slate as being the ordinary way, and I am not 
saying that
is the correct way to go about it, but if you did, for the sake of
arguement, then L would be dots 4,5,6, which is backwards.  So, the 
are forwards in the context of the sentence, but the sentence is 
and so the cells are backwards in the context of the child's prior
experience and personal context.  If we look at Lev Vidgotski's zone 
proximal development, what the child has from early exposure in 
books is contrary to the experience of how to braille on a slate. 
Does that
mean it should never be taught?  That it can never be mastered or
understood?  Of course not, but saying that it is not backwards is a 
confusing and convoluted to a small child.  What I think, from an 
childhood educator's perspective, might be helpful is to show the 
child who
understands basic words of at least three letters how writing the 
writer way, left to right and forwards on a slate yields backwards 
then help them problem solve to find out how to make it look right on 
back of the paper.  Let them experement with writing backwards letters 
to right, forwards letters right to left, backwards letters right to 
and keep having them compare and contrast until they get the 
orientation of
the paper and the letters.  If you just say "Just do it this way 
because I
say so" they are likely to get angry and frustrated at the difficulty, 
if you help them be a part of the proccess and the solution, they are 
likely to embrace the new activity.  Imagine if you at four or five 
suddenly told "Ok, you are just beginning to master which way letters 
go and
how they look and now I want you to write them one way on this machine 
the completely reversed way on this machine."  "Why?"  "Because that 
it look right and I said so, end of story."  I remember in first grade 
so frustrated.  I would make a few letters then open the slate, take 
out the
paper and investigate it.  I wanted to try doing it the "right" way to 
why that didn't work.  I wanted to have explanations and to play a 
bit, but
I was told to "Put the paper back in and do your work."  For very 
children, having to keep their place, with out being able to see the 
being created is also a difficult skill to master when it is first
introduced.  Perhaps place holding activities in lines of letters and
numbers would be helpful, or practicing writing on a brailler or 
reading a
book and being mindful of their position in a word without having to 
back.  Think how upsetting it would be to learn that those cute things 
meow are "cats" and you are so proud that you can write cats, but 
being only
four or five, while you are trying to remember how the c and the a 
sound and
look, and how they sound and look together, then add a t into the mix, 
while you are trying to think about how the letters look, you are also
remembering to write right to left, make sure the letters are 
oriented for that dirrection, while trying to sound out the word to 
sure you don't miss any letters, and then you add in the math of 
trying to
remember which cell you are in because you can't feel what is coming 
out on
the paper?  God, if I were four I would burst into tears over all of 
Let them master phonix first, or basic math first, or just recognizing 
producing left to right, forward facing letters first.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard Holloway" <rholloway at gopbc.org>
To: "NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List,(for parents of blind children)"
<blindkid at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2010 11:57 PM
Subject: Re: [blindkid] Technology and Little Kid

>> This confusion or lack of specificity in precisely stating what the
>> difference between making cells on a braillewriter versus making 
>> them on
>> a slate is, I submit, a great part of the problem. Lack of 
>> precision in
>> thinking leads to lack of precision in results!
> I  cannot speak for the others in this discussion, but I am not 
> entirely
> convinced that either my or my seven-year-old's "lack of  precision 
> in
> thinking" has a great deal to do with her potential to  master the 
> use of
> a slate and stylus.
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