There are approximately 50 students who are blind or visually impaired enrolled in the New Haven Public School system. The development of superior oral and listening skills is essential to the academic progress of these students. However, for at least some students with impaired vision, acquiring and improving these skills presents considerable problems.
In my role as Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired, it is my responsibility to provide students with interesting and meaningful lessons and activities to overcome such difficulties. Examining oral traditions is one approach to developing quality oral and listening skills necessary for success.
This curriculum unit was developed to assist students who are blind or visually impaired in their efforts to improve oral and listening skills. This curriculum unit will attempt to help them understand the importance of words and how words are used to convey information and to influence society. Students will learn to appreciate stories, understand how they are constructed, and understand the role they played in African and African American culture.
This curriculum unit will provide students with opportunities to learn about oral traditions by studying storytelling in West African countries whose cultures are primarily oral. They also will study the role oral traditions played in aiding African Americans during their long history of enslavement.
Listening is the primary learning mode for blind students and a strong supportive medium for visually impaired students. Since visually handicapped individuals rely greatly on auditory information they must become skillful listeners. Listening is their link to their immediate environment and the world beyond.
However, listening is a complicated skill and takes time and practice to develop. A skillful listener must be able to organize information and associate it with previous and subsequent learning. Individuals who are visually handicapped must learn to listen carefully whether they are attending a lecture or talking with an instructor. They must remember detailed information heard on an audiotape textbook. They must be able to recall and organize the information obtained from talking software that allows them to access a document on their computer or surf the Internet. To a much greater extent than their sighted peers, students with visual difficulties depend on their auditory capabilities to understand and organize their world.
Auditory processing and listening skills are essential for academic progress and cognitive development of visually impaired students. Students must be able to remember what they heard including facts, figures, and details. In addition, they must be able to organize the material to write or speak about what they heard in a meaningful way.
Listening provides an efficient method of gaining information. Unless the words are remembered, processed and associated with what the individual already knows, the perception may be inaccurate, distorted, or totally without meaning. Therefore, there is a need for developing and improving listening skills.
Learning to organize thoughts and verbally express them are other essential skills for individuals with visual impairments. This is a skill that will allow them to request information needed or convey information effectively to others.
Students know that communication between individuals is critical. The exercises and experiences they encounter in this unit will provide them with a new understanding and appreciation of the spoken word and will help them improve their speaking and storytelling skills.
This curriculum will be taught to students who are visually impaired or blind but also should be of interest to their sighted peers. The students I teach have a variety of visual disorders. There are a number of different causes of visual impairments resulting in a wide variety of visual problems. Children can be born blind or become blind as a result of an accident, illness, or eye condition. Some individuals are totally blind while others may see light, shadows, and colors and yet have no useful vision. Students have a variety of eye disorders including: cataracts, glaucoma, ROP, macular degeneration, detached retinas, ocular albinism, etc. Depending on the eye condition, they may see images that appear blurry, distorted, or incomplete.
Unless students have other major handicapping conditions, they are mainstreamed into regular education classrooms and work along with their sighted peers with the assistance of adapted materials that vary depending on their visual functioning. Some use a cane to travel but others have little difficulty traveling. Students use various adaptations in order to access information such as Braille, large print, audiotapes, computers with talking software and telescopic devices for viewing in the distance.
This curriculum will allow students to practice listening, memorizing, organizing materials, researching and giving oral presentations. All of these areas present problems for my students. The curriculum will assist my students in evaluating stories in an organized fashion. These skills will help them to understand how stories are constructed. Students will be introduced to stories that will help them to explore their world and the world of others both past and present. They will learn that written or spoken words are extremely important and that communication between individuals is critical. All the exercises and experiences will provide them with a new understanding and appreciation of the spoken and written word and will help them improve their reading and listening skills.
This curriculum will assist students in exploring what oral traditions tell us
about different cultures by examining African and African American cultures through their stories, tales, myths and oral histories. This curriculum will explore the role stories and storytelling play in expressing the traditions and values of these cultures.
The curriculum will attempt to:
1. investigate oral traditions
2. learn about oral storytelling in West Africa
3. learn the role oral tradition played in African American history
4. analyze how non-literate stories work
5. improve listening and speaking skills
6. learn how stories are constructed
7. improve storytelling skills
8. examine the use of spirituals in the Underground Railroad
9. gain experience learning from oral tradition
I hope to examine some of the following issues concerning oral traditions:
1. How can the visually impaired community, who depend so much on oral information, learn to improve listening skills by studying oral traditions?
2. What lessons can be learned from storytellers about how to improve speaking skills?
3. How can students improve their memory for detailed information by studying the techniques of African storytellers?
Examining oral traditions may be one way to interest students in improving their verbal and listening skills. I selected studying their oral traditions of Africa to provide my students with a different culture from the own. Learning about a different culture will make the lessons more interesting and provide them with an opportunity to compare their own literate culture with African oral cultures.
I feel that my students, as a visually impaired population who rely heavily on the use of oral information, will relate to cultures that obtain process and use oral information.
I want my students to understand that we are all surrounded by language and stories. Visually impaired and blind use stories to put the world together and gain meaning about their world.
Individuals who are blind or visually impaired depend on verbal descriptions of the world and events around them. They need to connect those descriptions with the other senses that help them to organize their world. Listening provides the most efficient way to organize information and associate it with previous and subsequent learning.
The following topics will be covered:
Week 1: Oral Traditions
1. Understand the importance of oral traditions
2. Gain understanding of oral presentations
3. Learn how oral cultures pass on information
4. Explore the role stories and storytelling play in expressing the traditions and values of
Week 2: Analyzing Oral Stories
1. Explore what oral traditions tell us about different cultures by examining the African cultures through their stories, tales, myths and oral histories.
2. Learn how words are used and how they are presented.
3. Learn how stories help individuals learn the details of about their history, laws, and customs
4. Learn how to analyze stories by examining characters, events, themes and plots while investigating the similarities and differences among cultures and times
Week 3: African Storytelling and Storytellers
1. How do stories work in African cultures?
2. What is the function of proverbs, fables, stories that deal with historical, social and entertainment themes?
3. Explore the role of Griots
4. The skill of the storyteller will be analyzed in order to understand how they influence or teach their audience.
Week 4: African American Oral Traditions
1. The Role of Oral Tradition in African American Culture
2. Folktales, Spirituals,
Week 5: Praise Poems
l. Study of Praise Poems
2. Creating and performing a Praise Poem
Week 6: Improving Storytelling and Listening Skills
What we learned from oral traditions that will assist us in being better speakers and listeners