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Developing Reading and Spelling Skills on the Monarch

A young boy reads with both hands on the Monarch's multiline refreshable braille display on a red table in a classroom.

Literacy is one of the cornerstones of education. APH’s Monarch is overcoming obstacles to enhance reading and spelling skills for every student.

Jonathan Hooper, an itinerant Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) for NYC Public Schools, advises introducing braille displays to students as early as possible, similar to how students with typical vision use iPads and phones at a young age. “I have my students scribbling on refreshable braille displays before they even know how to spell their names,” said Jonathan. “I am a passionate believer that braille tech immensely improves the quality of braille literacy instruction as compared to instruction that only uses paper braille.”

The Monarch’s 10-line by 32-cell braille display allows students to read more words, reread, and skim much more efficiently than they could on a one-line display. Monarch users can also adjust the space between lines of braille with the push of a button. Jonathan can open a reading passage on the Monarch and ask students who are building the skills needed to read single-spaced braille to read the text double-spaced and then reread it as single-spaced. “This not only utilizes a repeated reading strategy to improve general reading fluency but also gives the student practice reading single-spaced braille with text that they just read.” This activity also decreases any anxiety students may feel about reading single-spaced braille, and it boosts their confidence, so students feel empowered to finish more books, which makes them better readers.

Jonathan also assists students in developing the skill of skimming. He will make a few errors in a paragraph that the student has already read and have them skim to find those mistakes. This task is easier and can be completed faster on a multi-line display. To increase students’ spelling skills, Jonathan creates worksheets tailored to the errors that his students are making and has them review those files on the Monarch. For example, he made a worksheet for one student who knew the entire alphabet but was struggling with the letters F, D, H, and J. The worksheet contained lines with each braille letter on them so the student could review the letters with Jonathan. It also included multiple words consisting of F, D, H, and J, such as “fat,” “dat,” “hat,” and “jat.” The student benefitted from the Monarch’s multi-line display as they could move their hands across the letters and words without having to advance every 40 cells like they would on a one-line display.

In contracted braille, students learn contractions, which make words shorter. Jonathan teaches students how to spell contractions so they will be able to spell words when they are typing. The Monarch increases student understanding as they can read and reread their work on its 10 lines of braille. “I’ve also created sheets with the alphabetic contraction and the dot-5 contractions because sometimes a student will confuse the word ‘will’ for ‘work’ and need to learn how to differentiate between them. I find presenting them together to be helpful in that,” said Jonathan. Using the Monarch for this activity is beneficial because the device mimics the way a page is formatted. As they work, Jonathan will also practice various hand movement techniques with his students and ask them to reread the worksheet as they go, which builds fluency.

The Monarch will be publicly available in September and eligible for purchase with Federal Quota funds. Stay tuned to the website, APH News, and your email inbox for more information on this upcoming device.

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