Lesson 3: Helen's Challenges


Activity 1: A Timeline of Helen Keller's Life

Materials: Who Was Helen Keller? by Gare Thompson and Nancy Harrison
Encourage your child to add an event from the chapter to the timeline.

Activity 2: Senses (Choice of Words)

Discuss how Helen relied on her sense of smell and sense of touch since she could not use the rest of her senses to understand her environment. Explain to your child that often when a person loses one sense, the other senses will become stronger.

Review that writers use words related to all our senses to help us experience situations, characters, places, and events within a text. These sensing words help us to make pictures in our minds. For Helen this would be very hard to do since she had no eyesight and could not hear. It would be hard to get meaning from words that describe how something looks or sounds.

On a separate sheet of paper, ask your child to write a paragraph describing an object such as a flower, a pizza, or her favorite blanket or pillow using only words that describe how the object smells, feels, or tastes. Let her read the paragraph aloud without naming the object. Then you can guess what object she is describing. Before beginning, encourage your child to think of words and phrases to include in her descriptive paragraph. Remind her that she cannot include words that describe how the item looks or sounds.

Let her read her paragraph aloud and make any changes that need to be made. Tell her to think carefully about whether she used any words that describe how the object looks or sounds. If she did, then she must take them out of her description. Encourage her to make sure that each sentence has correct capitalization and punctuation and that each sentence has a subject (noun) and a predicate (verb). Then you can read the paragraph and provide suggestions for additional changes, checking capitalization, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, and interesting words for the three senses that Helen could use.

You can repeat this activity with a different object and then discuss which objects are easier to describe without using words that tell how the object sounds and what it looks like.

Activity 3: Helen's Song or A Gift for Helen

Materials: crayons*, music that reflects different moods*
Choose an option for your child to complete. Option 1 involves writing a song, and Option 2 includes drawing a picture and writing a paragraph. These options are similar in level of difficulty but appeal to different learning styles and multiple intelligences.

Option 1

For this option, ask your child to use the "Helen's Song" page to write the words for a song that reflects what it felt like for Helen to live in her dark world, to not be able to communicate, and to get herself into dangerous situations. To help your child get started, listen to different types of music and discuss which songs tones would be used for Helen's song at this point in her life.

Option 2

Tell your child to think of the perfect gift to give Helen for her birthday. Remind her to consider that Helen could not see or hear. Ask your child to draw a picture of the gift on the page, "A Gift for Helen," and then to write a paragraph that describes how or why she selected the gift for Helen. If your child needs help organizing her ideas, give her a copy of the "Hamburger Paragraph Organizer" page.