Shape Detective

Shape Detective is a series of activity books with tactile diagrams. The idea behind the series is to introduce young learners to a wide range of concepts based on spatial relations understanding which is a key to a meaningful contact with tactile graphics. Moving from lines to geometric shapes and different combinations of shapes and lines children will gain confidence with both simple and complex diagrams which they are likely to find at school (geometry, geography) and in real life situations (floor plans of buildings, maps).

The fact that the lines, contours of shapes and textures are tactile does not automatically make the activities accessible to totally blind learners. For someone living in a three-dimensional world, drawings must be very difficult to understand. To help the child understand that the lines and textures in the books are not just “things to feel” but that they all represent interesting spatial relations which can be found in the immediate and in more distant environment the series has been divided into seven parts:

Shape Detective 1 introduces the child to different types of lines – straight, curved, continuous and broken, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, crossing and parallel. Pages in the book are arranged as pairs of flip charts, with tasks in large print and Braille on the left and tactile drawings on the right half of the page. This arrangement makes it possible to either introduce different types of lines one by one, or to engage the child in a matching game. The level of difficulty can be controlled by limiting or increasing the number of pages which the child will have to flip over to find a drawing matching the task.

Shape Detective 2 introduces drawings of basic geometric shapes. Just as in Shape Detective 1 pages in the book are designed as “flip charts” which make it possible to engage children in a matching geometry game. To make the book really effective it is recommended that it used together with the Space Organizer. The wooden shapes which make the set should be introduced before the drawings and then used to help the child understand that the drawings in the book are just another way to represent the different shapes.

Shape Detective 3 illustrates various types of interaction between lines and shapes – that three lines can make a triangle, or that four lines can make a square or a rectangle. The child will also learn that a line can divide a shape into two new shapes – a straight line can divide a rectangle into two squares, or how a square can be divided into two rectangles or triangles.

Shape Detective 4 is (so far) the only part of the series which comes as a set of unbound cards with a magnetic board. While it can be used without the Space Organizer, it is recommended that the wooden shapes are always at hand. Part 4 teaches the child that two or more shapes can make a new shape. The drawings will give the chance to put together the wooden shapes as shown in the drawings, or to decide which shape is missing and then to fill the gap with a wooden triangle, square or some other shape. All wooden elements of the Space Organizer are mounted on magnets which will prevent losing or accidentally misplacing the shapes on the board.

Shape Detective 5 invites the child on an adventure involving spotting shapes hidden in drawings of larger shapes. Used together with the Space Organizer the book will work as a guide to drawing various less and more complex combinations of shapes on embossing film. The set will reinforce the lesson taught earlier that shapes can be divided into component shapes or put together to build new shapes and that organizing the invisible space is possible even without eyesight.

Shape Detective 6 encourages the child to look for familiar shapes in the environment. The child’s attention will be brought to noticing that both the room which the child is in and the table top may be a square or a rectangle, that the rim of a cup makes a circle and that buttons may come in all kinds of shapes. The child will also get a chance to compare identical shapes which differ in sizes as well as contours and shapes filled with texture. (Set in preparation).

Shape Detective 7 deals with one of the most difficult areas –drawings of three-dimensional shapes. The set is still in preparation but the first trials with totally blind learners are very encouraging.

The whole series Shape Detective 1- 7 is intended as an introduction to other HUNGRY FINGERS educational tools explaining the relation between objects and drawings and “sighted conventions” which make drawings of objects, buildings, plants, animals, vehicles and persons so difficult to understand for someone born blind. The Shape Detective series together with the Rotograph, Symmetrograph, Transfograph, Playing and Learning with Fleximan and other tactile books and resources make a Tactile Graphics Primer which can be used with both young learners and with more mature blind persons who did not get the chance to be exposed to tactile graphics in childhood. It won’t take long before the advantages of feeling confident with tactile diagrams are noticed. Being able to use tactile adaptations of drawings found in course books used by sighted peers, finding one’s way on the basis of a tactile floor plan of a building or a map, enjoying visits to accessible art galleries or simply making one’s own tactile drawings as a leisure activity are only some of the benefits of acquiring and mastering the skill of “reading” tactile graphics.

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