Black and white illustration of Helen Keller

The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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If you had to choose between losing your sight or your hearing, which one would you choose? Take into account your present interests, future interests, ability to communicate, and society’s perceptions of people with these challenges. Compose an essay in which you explain your decision. Add a paragraph explaining what, if any, effect this exercise has on you.

Find a partner and learn the first five letters of the manual alphabet. Then put on a blindfold and earplugs of some kind and have your partner take you to a room that is unfamiliar to you. How do you feel in this strange environment without the benefit of seeing or hearing? Once you have explored the room a little, sit down with your partner and have him or her spell words in your hand using the letters you have learned (bed, bad, cab, bead, ace, deed, etc.). How many words were you able to understand? After you have done all this, trade roles so that your partner wears the blindfold and earplugs.

Research Louis Braille to find out why he created his unique system that allows the blind to read. What five adjectives would you use to describe him?

In The Story of My Life Keller writes, ‘‘It was the Iliad that made Greece my paradise,’’ and later, ‘‘A medallion of Homer hangs on the wall of my study.’’ Read the first chapter of the Iliad. Bear in mind that Homer was blind as you read the passages. Prepare a brief lesson explaining why you think this book was so compelling to Keller. Look for elements, phrases, and features that are perhaps surprising coming from a blind poet and try to account for them.

Suppose your family has enrolled into a ‘‘student exchange’’ type of program and offered to sponsor a blind and deaf person with Keller’s communicative skills for one year. Plan how you will help this student learn the subjects you are currently studying. Think about the education Keller received. Her travels, experiences with things such as the World’s Fair, and interactions with remarkable people all helped her learn more than she could have learned from a textbook. What field trips could you plan in your area? Are there any specialized museums or similar exhibits you think would be appropriate? Document your lesson plans, including at least one activity for each of your subjects.

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