Helen learns words

Words: 801-900

Skills: Main / Central Idea Summary

Grades: 5th 6th 7th 8th

Topics: History

Genres: Biography / Autobiography

Lexile Range: 740L - 1050L

Lexile Measure: 1010L

CCSS: Reading: Informational Text

Themes:

Helen Learns Words


by Helen Keller from The Story of My Life

Chapter IV passage: This passage is from Helen Keller's autobiography written in 1903. Helen Keller, born in 1880, lost her sight and hearing after an illness when she was 19 months old. Her struggles to overcome her disabilities have inspired generations of people. Here Helen learns that the finger letters her teacher has been teaching her actually stand for words, and words are names of things. Student's will read the passage and answer questions on the main idea and the important details of the selection.

Reading Comprehension Passage

Helen Learns Words

by Helen Keller from The Story of My Life
Helen Keller was a remarkable woman. She was born in Alabama in 1880. When she was just a small child, she became very ill. She recovered, but lost her sense of sight and hearing. She was so very young that she had not learned to talk much. She could communicate with her family only through a few signs. At this time, not much was known about teaching someone with a disability. Her parents, however, found a teacher for her when Helen was around 6 years old. Her teacher, Miss Sullivan, came from the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. It was there that the Laura Bridgman, the first blind and deaf person, was educated.

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The morning after my teacher came she led me into her room and gave me a doll. The little blind children at the Perkins Institution had sent it and Laura Bridgman had dressed it; but I did not know this until afterward. When I had played with it a little while, Miss Sullivan slowly spelled into my hand the word "d-o-l-l." I was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it. When I finally succeeded in making the letters correctly I was flushed with childish pleasure and pride. Running downstairs to my mother I held up my hand and made the letters for doll. I did not know that I was spelling a word or even that words existed; I was simply making my fingers go in monkey-like imitation. In the days that followed I learned to spell in this uncomprehending way a great many words, among them pin, hat, cup and a few verbs like sit, stand and walk. But my teacher had been with me several weeks before I understood that everything has a name.

One day, while I was playing with my new doll, Miss Sullivan put my big rag doll into my lap also, spelled "d-o-l-l" and tried to make me understand that "d-o-l-l" applied to both. Earlier in the day we had had a tussle over the words "m-u-g" and "w-a-t-e-r." Miss Sullivan had tried to impress it upon me that "m-u-g" is mug and that "w-a-t-e-r" is water, but I persisted in confounding the two. In despair she had dropped the subject for the time, only to renew it at the first opportunity. I became impatient at her repeated attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in which I lived there was no strong sentiment or tenderness. I felt my teacher sweep the fragments to one side of the hearth, and I had a sense of satisfaction that the cause of my discomfort was removed. She brought me my hat, and I knew I was going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure.

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.

I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.

I learned a great many new words that day. I do not remember what they all were; but I do know that mother, father, sister, teacher were among them—words that were to make the world blossom for me, "like Aaron's rod, with flowers." It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What word made Helen understand that the words Miss Sullivan spelled to her meant something?



2. After she returned from the well-house, how did Helen feel about breaking the doll? Why do you think she felt differently than she did before?



3. How did Helen feel at night when she thought about the next day?



4.  Helen mentions several words she learned: mother, father, teacher. What are three other words not listed that you think would be easy for Helen to learn?