Young child using a braille display paired with a tablet.

Writing with a braille display: Lists part 3

Engaging activities for an emerging writer on an iPad and refreshable braille display.

The first post in this series, Writing and editing with an iPad and braille display: Intro part 1, introduced the blinking cursor, how the iPad reacts when inputting braille letters and how to edit with a refreshable braille display. The second post in this series, Writing with a braille display: Scribbling part 2 discussed the benefits of a refreshable braille display and introduced scribbling as a precursor to writing letters. This third post will focus on writing simple words in a list format. 

Once your emerging writer is able to write a number of braille letters, what is next? Writing simple words! Typically, the first words will include the student’s name, simple CVC words, word families and/or standard sight words.

Before writing simple sentences, emerging writers will often begin by writing a list of words. The word list might be a list of CVC words or simply a list of words that mean something to the student.

Many emerging writers might start with a combination list that contains sight words which are CVC words that are also sight words, such as mom and dad. They might make a list of names, such as their name, Mom, Dad, and names of siblings, friends or pets. The goal of writing lists is to motivate the emerging writer to press the desired keys in order to practice writing a combination of letters to create simple words. Initially, spelling is not the main goal with this activity – the teacher can spell the word for the student to type. Emerging writers are excited to create these simple words that they – and others – can read. What a sense of accomplishment!

To make a list on the braille display, after each word is typed, press E Chord (1 + 5 + space; the action for E Chord is “Enter”). 

Note: Braille displays have two additional keys: dot 7 and dot 8. Dot 8 is also known as the Enter key. However, with emerging braille writers, using E Chord (instead of dot 8) for Enter, reinforces the letter “E” in braille. It is also beneficial for emerging writers to position and keep their fingers on dots 1 – 6.

Create a simple list of names

For this activity, create a list that has at least five names. 

Additional list types

Create additional lists that go along with what is being taught in the classroom, such as a word family list, CVC words, and sight words.

Support the student by spelling a word as the student types. As soon as possible progress by spelling the entire word while the student listens carefully, then have the student type the entire word. If creating a word family list, suggest a word in that family or simply say the beginning letter and let the student figure out how what the word is and how to spell the word.


Want to see a 4 year old learning to type mommy, daddy and her sister’s name (Natalie) using her braille display? Watch Layla’s video in this post: Layla: 4 Year Old Learning VoiceOver and Braille Display post. The writing activity in the video begins at 7:00 minutes. 

Resources in this series

By Diane Brauner

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