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Braille Cheat Sheet from Duxbury

Braille Handbook for Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics and Scientific Notation, 1972.  Edna Laudenslager,  San Francisco State College.

Braille Music Resources

Braille Readiness Grid from Center for the Visually Impaired

Braille Rules - Appendix Braille FUNdamentals

Evaluating Classroom Functions

  • Organization of materials, furniture, extra workspace, walkways, desk layouts, maps, placement of educational "prompts" (e.g.: alphabet, number line, colors, periodic chart of elements), class rules, placement of chalkboards, overhead screen.
  • Discipline: are rules clearly posted, does teacher have a system of discipline, does teacher follow the system with all students, particularly the VI student, are students respectful of the system.
  • Classroom (group) behaviors: are students on task, can most keep up, are more than just a few "fooling around" when they shouldn't be, do students get up to turn in papers, get materials, go to the bathroom, do they wait for cues from the teacher to move from one activity to another or do they do so independently, are most attentive during the teacher's presentations, is the activity in the room constructive.

Evaluating an Activity

  • Does the teacher present or introduce lessons or is there an established routine that is more auto-tutorial?
  • Are tangible objects used to demonstrate concepts where applicable?
  • Does everyone need to follow along in a book?
  • Do students have to read aloud?
  • Does the activity involve a concept which is very visual in nature, e.g., adding with carrying?
  • Are visual materials used, e.g., maps, charts, diagrams?
  • Is the chalkboard or overhead screen used frequently?
  • Is the pace fast, slow, medium?
  • What do students do when the activity is completed?
  • How many "handouts" are used and what is their quality?
  • Are materials brailled for an activity?

Observing Student Functioning

  • Is student on task?
  • Does student look in teacher's general direction?
  • Is student able to get out all materials on time?
  • Is student using optical devices, or other necessary apparatus s/he's been taught to use?
  • Is student attending?
  • In what condition is the student's desk?
  • Does the student know how to access the educational "prompts" posted around the room?
  • Is the student organized?
  • Can the student maintain the pace of the lesson presented?
  • Does the student get up to get his/her own materials?
  • Do other students help the student in any way?
  • Could the student be acting more independently than s/he is?
  • Does the student raise his/her hand to participate and ask questions?
  • Does the student interrupt inappropriately?
  • Does the student have any distracting mannerisms?
  • How does the student ask for and accept assistance from peers and others?
  • How do peers relate to the student; how is he treated?
  • Is the student displaying age-appropriate skills?

Observing Teacher Behaviors

  • Does the teacher move about the room or remain fairly stationary?
  • Does the teacher's voice carry well?
  • Are board/overhead /charts used frequently; does the teacher read aloud what she's writing?
  • How does the teacher handle misbehavior and off-task behavior?
  • Does the teacher check for understanding and how does she do this with the VI student?
  • If brailled materials are to be handed out, is there a system in place for these to be ready on time?

Observation Tips

  • At the initial conference with the teacher, generally during the first week of school, give her a sheet with your schedule, telephone number, objectives for the student, and a statement on why you will be observing. e.g.: "Observations will be scheduled so that I can see how Nathan functions in a variety of situations and also to determine if my objectives are transferring to your classroom".
  • Does the student use his/her time wisely?
  • What does s/he do when work is finished?
  • Does the student interact appropriately with peers in the room, on the playground, in the cafeteria?
  • How does the student get around?
  • How does the student go through the cafeteria line and to the table?
  • What are the students eating skills?
  • Does the student's appearance blend with the groups'?
  • Does the student have friends?
  • What does the student do during free time and on the playground?
  • If the student fails to complete his/her seatwork, is it due to lack of understanding, poor work habits, or inability to keep up with the pace?
  • How does the general quality of the student's work compare to peers?
  • Does the student talk too much to neighbors?
  • Are the student materials placed so as to be accessible to him?
  • Are games, toys, and materials available for the student to use in interactive play during free time?
  • Are lighting and desk location appropriate?
  • Are any of the student's materials or equipment inconveniencing another student?
  • Can the student fully operate any equipment given to him/her?
  • Is a system in place for the student to correct malfunctioning equipment?
  • Can the student manage equipment and/or materials through class changes?
  • Always call or send a letter a few days in advance with the message that you will be coming to observe at a particular date and time. The teacher should call if the date and time are not convenient.
  • Observe an entire activity; don't arrive late and leave early.
  • Sit quietly and unobtrusively, away from your student.
  • Take notes.
  • Do not interact with the students. If they ask for your assistance, shake your head "no" and act as if you're writing.
  • Be sure to write down problems you see with your VI student so you can address them later. Also write down any ideas you may have on supplementing a concept if it seems particularly visual and difficult for the VI student.
  • If students are given time to complete a written assignment independently, get up and slowly circulate through the room looking at ail the student's work. Avoid the temptation to stop too long at the VI student's desk as this is embarrassing to them.
  • This in not an instructional opportunity.
  • Resist any urge you may have to make remarks to the teacher concerning her lesson or presentation. Keep remarks focused on student's behaviors, e.g.: expectations the teacher has, is the student's behavior typical of his normal behavior, what problems does the teacher see, etc.
  • Never interrupt a teacher when you are coming or going.
  • Keep in mind the fact that many teachers are unclear as to your role and that the act observing can be very threatening to them. You want to assure the teacher by your actions before, during, and after an observation that you are there as a partner in an effort to help the VI student perform successfully in the classroom and school.
  • If something needs to be discussed, leave a message on the teacher's desk or in her box on your way out.
  • If the teacher has been complaining about your VI student's behavior, observe that behavior as well as what the other students are doing. Observe how the teacher applies behavioral methods to see if she applies the same methods to the VI child.
  • If you see a concept being taught for which you have tangible learning materials, offer to loan these to the teacher -leave a note.
  • Save your notes as documentation.
  • Discuss your observations with the student during your next visit with him/her; see if together you can come up with some solutions.
  • Don't discuss your observations with other school staff
  • If you're concerned about a teacher behavior, think it through carefully before discussing it with the principal. When talking with a principal, it is beneficial to avoid blame or criticism. You may start by saying, "I'm having difficulty communicating with Ms. X, could you give me some suggestions on how I can best work with the situation?" Keep your comments focused on your student and the problems he's having within the classroom.

A new VI professional meets with her mentor.

Where to Begin?

As a novice VI professional, you are often alone in the world with little access to colleagues who can lend support and offer ideas. You have so many things to manage from day one: meeting with teachers, parents and administrators, completing eligibility paperwork, doing assessments, developing IEPs, not to mention teaching! You have students that range in age from birth - 22. Some are only visually impaired and others have additional disabilities. You have to be familiar with a wide range of content as well as teaching strategies. You also have to learn consulting and collaboration skills and be able to advocate for your students. You work with everyone on the team as well as the student and parents. Then there is new technology to learn, acquiring and adapting instructional materials, and figuring out what road to take when you are running late getting to your next campus.

Ideally you have a mentor who is working with you. At times though, the mentor may be unavailable to you when you need support. Figuring out what to do first and what to let go of until later is often your biggest challenge. The resources in the LiveBinder (see link below) will help to organize you with tips, forms, strategies, laws, and other information gleaned over the years by many TVIs and COMS.

New VI Professional Year at a Glance LiveBinder

Follow this link to a LiveBinder (digital notebook) that is meant to supplement the support provided by your mentor. The binder is organized by months (tabs). Each month has a “to do” list, which notes documents the itinerant professional may use. These documents are then listed as sub-tabs that are labeled with the document title. Click on these sub-tabs to find your document. In some cases, there will be a link to a video or other document on the web.

Undoubtedly your professional life will not flow according to this proposed progression, but the structure may help you find your own approach to managing the job you have taken on as a VI professional. So feel free to “read ahead”, opening all the months to see what’s available.

For more information, contact:

Chrissy Cowan, Mentor Coordinator

TSBVI Outreach Programs


To Do List for January:

  1. Make sure you know how statewide testing is going to be administered for your students and that the testing coordinator on each campus knows what accommodations are for their VI students.  Familiarize yourself with the TEA document written for testing coordinators, Acc-Brl and LP Statewide Assess.
  2. Start preparing for spring ARD meetings.  Not sure what a PLAAFP is?  Go to this link for a really good Q&A document that will outline everything you ever wanted to know about IEP Annual Goal Development
  3. IEP Annual Goal Development
  4. Check into the TSBVI site called Resources for the Expanded Core Curriculum (RECC) for all kinds of materials and media to support teaching your VI students.
  5. January is the month the TSBVI Outreach Program conducts the Annual Registration of Students Who Are Visually Impaired for the TEA.  This VI Registration is used as a data source to generate Federal Quota funds.  Go to Annual Registration and follow the instructions for completing the annual registration. Students who are deafblind should also be included in the Deafblind Child Count.

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.

To Do List for April:

  1. Plan baby services for the summer—who will provide these?  If you, be prepared to negotiate a fee for contracted services, because your school contract may not extend through the summer months. 

  2. Set up a day where next year’s (elementary) teacher(s) can observe your blind students.

  3. Work with students to prepare information that can be shared with next years’ teachers.  Aim for a product (e.g., document, PowerPoint, portfolio, short video) that the student can deliver.

  4. Familiarize yourself with the rule citations related to infants from Texas Administrative Code, Title 40, Part 2, Chapter 108, Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services.

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.

To Do List for March:

  1. Many of your students would benefit from auditory textbooks to supplement print.  Check out the services of Learning Ally ( for information on registering students, equipment, and teaching ideas.
  2. Work with classroom teachers and school librarians to build a library of auditory reading materials (other than textbooks).  You can find many books on loan from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Talking Book Program
  3. Notify your instructional materials (textbook) coordinators of any accessible materials needed for next year. This includes braille, large type, auditory materials, and electronic materials.  Material orders are entered online from April-June.  There are two websites that educate you on accessible instructional materials: and  Any questions you have about this process should be directed to Tammy Torres (; 512-4753598) or Janet Warren (; 512-463-6849)

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.

To Do List for February

  1. TSBVI Summer School Applications are due on February 14th!
  2. Impress all the people you work with—give them braille Valentine’s Day cards.  You can make them yourself, or buy them from's+Day&Action=ShowCards
  3. Students with visual impairments are at risk for developing strong literacy skills.  Visit the Paths to Literacy ( site for many great ideas, resources, and materials related to literacy for students with visual impairments.
  4. Ordering textbooks 
  5. Concerned about your caseload size?  You might consider completing the Michigan Severity Rating Scale  which gives a range of how much service individual students with visual impairments should receive.  Share this information with your supervisor.

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.

To Do List for August:

  1. Review student folders for: school, IEP hours for VI, recommendations for staff
  2. Prepare a Student Evaluation Dates (.xls) sheet with dates of the latest eye report, low vision evaluation, FVE/LMA, etc.
  3. Make appointments to meet with student's teachers
  4. Prepare student information packets (classroom accommodations, information on monoculars, itinerant's role for general education staff, TVI information, TVI information for MIVI) for each teachers
  5. Meet with teachers to discuss: student classroom accommodations, times to observe/work with the student, special materials/books/optical devices.
  6. Get a list from teachers of ancillary materials that need to be brailled
  7. Prepare a preliminary schedule (Itinerant Scheduling Tips and Scheduling for the Itinerant Caseload)
  8. Make sure braille/large type books have been delivered to appropriate classrooms
  9. Prepare a traveling documents file (classroom accommodations, consultation report form, information on monoculars, itinerant's role for general education staff, materials inventory, school contacts, school evaluation dates (word) or (excel) TVI information, TVI information for MIVI, Vision Monthly Report) on your computer, in a binder, or iPad/tablet
  10. Deliver/demonstrate necessary assistive technology, APH materials, recorded books, and/or optical devices to teachers. Keep an inventory of materials issued.

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.

To Do List for May:

  1. Send assistive technology to be fixed/repaired

  2. Provide parents with camp information for students with disabilities when appropriate

  3. Prepare for August inservice trainings with teachers/campuses that will be getting a blind student.  Keep it short (30 minutes).  See this Sample Inservice done by a TVI in Arizona. 

  4. Meet/observe students you will be getting.

  5. Collect all the materials you handed out at the beginning of the year.  Work with the individual campuses to store larger items.  Make sure these items are clearly marked with your name, the student’s name, your email, and your phone number.   

  6. Return APH items that are not needed.  Go to and find the form that says APH Return Instructions.  Remember—do not hoard!  You don’t have the space. 

  7. It has been a busy year, and you have worked hard.  Now you deserve to treat yourself!  Find a day spa near you.

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.

To Do List for September:

  1. Provide an enlarged/brailled copy of course schedule to middle/high school students who need this

  2. Observe students in their classrooms/gym/cafeteria/playground (Classroom Observation Form for VI and MIVI)

  3. Begin to plan out dates/times for conducting necessary FVE/LMA evaluations

  4. Look at TSBVI Outreach Catalog of Services and Supports for workshop/conference topics and dates

  5. Contact your Education Service Center VI consultant for meeting schedule and local workshops

  6. Set up a system for braille transcription (

  7. Talk with teachers about curricular topics and order any supporting materials from APH

  8. Call each student parent to introduce yourself and conduct a brief parent interview

  9. Prepare a student notebook with a tab for each student (Student Information Template, List of Documents to Place in a Student's Folder, VI Service Monthly Report).

  10. Begin to prepare lesson plans for students receiving direct VI instruction

  11. Develop a system to organize your car, files, materials (e.g., Contact log, VI Monthly Service Report)

  12. Register for a Mentor Center if you are a protégé.

To register for conferences and events, click here to go to the Statewide Staff Development Calendar.