Ms. Sullivan understood Helen and taught her according to her abilities and needs. Comment on this statement in light of the innovative methods adopted by Ms. Sullivan.

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In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller notes that Miss Sullivan teaches her by speaking to her as if she could hear. As Keller puts it:

From the beginning of my education Miss Sullivan made it a practice to speak to me as she would to any hearing...

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In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller notes that Miss Sullivan teaches her by speaking to her as if she could hear. As Keller puts it:

From the beginning of my education Miss Sullivan made it a practice to speak to me as she would to any hearing child; the only difference was that she spelled the sentences into my hand instead of speaking them. If I did not know the words and idioms necessary to express my thoughts she supplied them, even suggesting conversation when I was unable to keep up my end of the dialogue.

Miss Sullivan did not condense or change what people said when she communicated it to Helen; instead she supplied it verbatim so that Helen would learn common idioms. She helped Helen by showing her how to enter into a conversation.

Because she was with Helen one-on-one, Miss Sullivan could teach her in an experiential, progressive way. They didn't sit in a classroom reading from a textbook all the time. Often they were out in nature, learning by doing. When in the classroom, Miss Sullivan would often give Helen objects to hold, such as a seashell. To learn about plants, they grew a lily in a window, and Helen could touch it as it developed and blossomed. Miss Sullivan kept tadpoles in a bowl, which Helen could hold and feel squirming in her hand. In this way, Helen learned with the senses she had to use. Helen states:

Thus I learned from life itself. At the beginning I was only a little mass of possibilities. It was my teacher who unfolded and developed them. When she came, everything about me breathed of love and joy and was full of meaning. She has never since let pass an opportunity to point out the beauty that is in everything, nor has she ceased trying in thought and action and example to make my life sweet and useful.

Because of her teacher's methods, Helen grew up with a great love of learning.

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Ms. Sullivan did not arrive to teach Helen using traditional methods.  Helen could not see or hear, so she could not use those senses to learn.  Ms. Sullivan could not teach Helen to read letters or words on a page.  She could not tell her young pupil the letters of the alphabet and their accompanying sounds.

Ms. Sullivan instead taught Helen to communicate and to read using the manual alphabet.  This alphabet involved a hand sign for each letter of the alphabet.  Each sign was pressed into Helen's palm.  The letters formed words.  When Helen learned how to communicate using the manual alphabet, she pressed the letters into the palms of other people to speak to them.

In addition to teaching Helen how to communicate, Ms. Sullivan taught the girl how to behave.  When Helen wanted to take food off of Ms. Sullivan's plate using her bare hands, the teacher refused to let her.  Helen became enraged, but Ms. Sullivan was firm.  She insisted that Helen use a fork to eat off her own plate.

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