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by Paula Penrod, Kentucky School for the Blind

A Braille Carnival in the middle of January does more than chase away the doldrums of winter from the hearts and minds of youngsters who are blind and visually impaired. It's an invigorating way to incorporate the use of Braille skills and to celebrate Braille Literacy Month. Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) introduced the Braille Carnival in 1994 as an end-of-the-year activity. In 1998, it was moved to January in observance of Braille Literacy Month. This year, 17 elementary school-aged children from across Kentucky joined nine KSB students for a two-hour whirl of carnival-type games designed to provide practice of Braille skills for children at readiness levels through accomplished Braille readers.

Many VI teachers and program directors have expressed interest in having a Braille Carnival in their schools. The KSB activities and procedures listed below will aid schools in "pulling off " a Braille Carnival of their own. Game activities, held in the school's recreation center, include:

  1. Fish Pond [children use a "fishing rod" with a magnet on the end to "catch" a fish (a paper cutout with tactual shape, braille sign, etc.)].
  2. Balloon Pop [children pop a balloon and read the Braille under the balloon]
  3. Sand Box [children reach into buckets of sand to locate and identify items tactually, reading Braille signs or riddles in Braille]
  4. "Cooking" [children follow a Braille recipe to make no-cook play dough]
  5. Cake Walk [children walk around a table covered with Braille signs and tactual symbols while the music is playing and when the music stops they read the Braille directly in front of them on the table]
  6. Bean Bag Toss [children toss bean bags into 6-cup muffin tins to make Braille signs or identify the shapes in the muffin tins]
  7. Reading area [children sit near an adult braille reader who reads stories in Braille thus providing a model for correct Braille reading and fluency]
  8. Seek and Find [children are given a braille list of items to find or do in the carnival area--for example they find a ball and bounce it two times, or say hello to someone they do not know]
  9. The children can also have their faces or hands painted and have their palms read. As a child completes each activity, he or she receives a ticket that may be used to purchase cotton candy, popcorn, soft pretzels and drinks at the concession stand. They may also use tickets to play Chicken Limbo.
Children wear nametags that are color-coded to allow game operators to know individual skill levels. The nametags are also numbered and correspond to the various games. As a child completes a game, the game operator punches the corresponding number on the child's nametag, allowing him or her to keep track of the games they still have to play. After the carnival games, the children move to a classroom to play Braille Jeopardy. Again, the children are separated, according to their Braille skill level. There are three levels of Jeopardy and for children at the readiness level, games such as Dominoes and Cootie are played. The children are served a lunch and receive prize bags which include a Braille book, Braille pocket calendar, Braille alphabet card, and novelty toys.

The success of the Braille Carnival depends on KSB's outreach team, teachers, staff members, and students. The outreach team takes the lead by inviting students from local educational areas (LEAs) to participate; setting up the games; and buying prizes. The KSB elementary teachers and staff members operate the game activities and run a concession stand. Both middle and high school students accompany the elementary students to each game activity. Other classes offer special support by blowing up balloons for the carnival.

Expenses for the Braille Carnival are generally under $250. This is due largely to the fact, that game materials have been accumulated over the years and can be reused year after year. Bags, Braille calendars and alphabet cards are donated. The KSB rents a cotton candy machine and buys soft pretzels to foster with the carnival theme atmosphere. The major expenses are in the prizes and Braille books given to the students.

The Braille Carnival gives young students who are blind and visually impaired the opportunity to become confident with their Braille skills in a relaxed and recreational learning environment, and to discover that BRAILLE IS FUN! If you or your school would like more information on the Braille Carnival, contact:

Karen Corbett
Kentucky School for the Blind
(502)897-1583, ext. 215 (Telephone)
? (Email)