Hi, all. I just began my second year teaching elementary art in NJ. Last year, a younger sibling of one of our students joined us as a kindergartener. He is completely blind. He travels with an aide, and we occasionally get a representative from the Commission for the Blind in the building. She’s been somewhat helpful, but has really only provided me with some supplies and not much by way of advice or other resources. I’m a little worried because this year I will be seeing him more often, and for a longer period of time, and still feel pretty helpless. Does anyone have any experience with blind students that they can share? Thanks so much, everyone!
TL/DR: blind 1st grade student… suggestions/resources?
I worked with a blind student last year. It was a drawing class and she had minor limited vision (could see light and shadow if she saw something up close) but I found multiple resources that really helped me to teach her to use her own skill set and draw what she saw rather than what she knew other people to see. It drastically changed her skill set and ability and after that breakthrough she grew leaps and bounds and looked forward to class which was a welcome change. Once she let go of other’s definition of seeing she embraced her own and got better with value and proportions and I was able to understand how she saw the world.
Before the semester began I was only notified that a student was going to be blind in my class so I didn’t know what to expect and started preparing lessons for a student who had no vision at all. So I started looking for resources and found a great one. Art Beyond Sight.
In my research I learned that the blind have a really good sense of proportion and if you put a 3D object in front of them then they can usually translate it pretty closely to 2D art with charcoal or pencil.
If you have specific projects you can glue string down to a page to create solid outlines so they can do similar projects to their classmates when drawing or coloring.
For painting I watched this great video about a man who didn’t start painting until after he was blind and he used glue, simple school glue, to create raised lines that he used as his guide to make landscapes and portraits that are amazing. As a 1st grader it might not be that complicated but maybe basic shapes that are different colors could be a good project. Let him use his imagination and explore materials.
Paper cutouts are also a great idea to work with scissors and try to make specific shapes by feel. This might require a guide, such as string glued to paper with the edges you want him to try to mimic.
2D-3D – Paper folding to create forms, basic origami shapes, using string, cotton balls, macaroni, and really anything you can think of to glue to create a finished 2D project he can feel the texture of will be important.
Texture will be a very important element of art as a focus for this student.
Clay is a great resource I would be asking the department for because they can work with their hands and build objects the way that they understand the world. Teach them to roll out coils to make round objects, and how to make pinch pots and how to roll out flat sheets to make square or rectangular things.
Mobiles are another great item that can be made by feel. Allowing them to choose the objects, paper cutouts, lightweight 3D objects, etc. and then if you can hang it in the room low enough for him to experience how it moves that could be really great.
Papier Mache is a cliché I know but it again is a physical activity that requires feel and if he has the assistance of an aide to make sure the pieces go on the object to be covered then it could be an excellent project to consider too.
Masking tape sculptures are great and easy to make. You just wrap the tape around but can squeeze it and scrunch it in areas to make shapes or dolls.
I think it’s important to just remember that his actual experience is important not the final outcome. It won’t look like everyone else’s work but there are lots of things that you can do to work with him to improve specific things, explore different textures and that is how he will learn and appreciate art because his experience with the objects is different than his peers it’s important to make sure he learns in a way that is beneficial to his growth.
question submitted and answered through reddit.com/r/Arted by TeacherAffairs