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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nebolsky

Teaching ESL Blind Students about Colors and Shopping

Last week I had to start a part 1 of a difficult lesson. Colors and shopping but with my students who are blind. They have various levels of blindness, ranging from a little color, to almost no color vision, so I wanted to make a lesson that was engaging for all of them.

My start was with my other teachers. I asked what props they had and what sort of shopping they had in mind. We had already done lessons on food and they were very good at identifying which foods were which in English, so I figured we could do more of the same. This time they wanted to me to do clothes shopping. My other teacher prepared a big rack with about 30 different T-shirts. They each had different sizes and colors. I had also brought in my iPad for the song portion but a CD player could be used just as easily.

The Lesson

Intro: 2 minutes

First we started with our daily introduction questions. "How's the weather? What day is it today? What's today's date? How are you today?"

Song: 5 minutes

(repeat 1 time with voice and second time with karaoke version)

Then we sang a song. They asked earlier if we could sing "Let It Go", so that's what we went with. (Since Frozen 2 just came out, all the songs are back and everyone wants to sing them. Next week we're doing "Into the Unknown".)

Materials Introduction: 10 minutes

This was a really important step. Together we ordered all of the shirts in a rainbow order and counted the number of each color out loud. This way, even the students who couldn't see the colors could see/know the placement and order of each item and how many of each color we had. This was a bit of a long process but it was kind of important. For the few students who were almost totally blind, we also held each item up and let them feel the texture of the fabric and examine it up close while we repeated the color of each object.

We also used a bit of time to explain sizes. In Japan, the sizes are just S, M, and L (or LL, SS etc.) but in America we usually write S, M, and L but say Small, Medium, and Large. So we also practiced that for another 2 minutes.

Script: 5-10 minutes

Next we repeated the script. First we demonstrated the dialogue to the class. Then we repeated each line.

Activity: 20 minutes

Since we have a small class of 5 students, we were able to do each student one by one with me as the store clerk. In a larger class, this could be done in pairs with a copy of the script in Braille or written in large font for each group.


As the store clerk, I went through the script, but also changed the order for the students who I knew were better at English. I also let them peruse the rack just like they might at a real store. The kids really got into character and had fun deciding which item was best (for example, one boy wanted a blue shirt but he wanted a large and we only had small in medium in that color. So we pulled out every shirt that was a large and he went through the pile one by one until he chose the one that was his favorite.)

This was a super cute lesson which I honestly thought would be a lot harder to teach to blind students. Luckily, they're very capable and we had a lot of fun pretending to be our own store!

In the part 2, I'm hoping to have them be both the store clerk and the shopper and incorporate some more vocabulary like "I'd like either a medium or a large." and let them decide on potentially buying 2 or more shirts instead of just one. That way they could use "I'd like this and this, but not that"

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