Using the PenFriend for Science Instruction

The PenFriend can be used as an auditory tool for science instruction with students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple impairments. I have just become acquainted with this excellent tool and have begun using it in class. It is a simple device which allows the student or teacher to record audio to rerecordable stickers of various shapes.  This audio is then easily accessible using the PenFriend which must simply be turned on and held over the sticker in order to "read" it.  


*** Mount the PenFriend stickers on Velcro before use in order to reuse them later in a different setting rather than sticking them to one surface permanently. 

Many thanks to Joanne Rodgers, TSBVI teacher, for this useful adaptation. 


My colleague Dany Casey notes that the PenFriend has broad usage for any instance where the student would benefit from receiving feedback by referencing their work.  She's used it for math worksheets, story outlines, calendar, instructions, etc. 

Many thanks to Dany Casey and Clare Scallon, both TSBVI colleagues. for sharing their wisdom on the PenFriend and the ways in which the PenFriend has been used for instruction with their students.


  1. In conjunction with the Wheatley Tactile Diagramming Kit, the PenFriend can be used to label tactile diagrams. See picture at the top of the blog of the Moon Lander. 
  2. The PenFriend can be used to label simple tables and graphs made with the Wheatley Kit or to label tactile graphics if the student is able to use them. 

Simple table using Wheatley Tactile Diagramming Kit

  1. The PenFriend can be used for definitions. In the picture below, the student has used square labels for the words and circular labels for matching definitions.  The instructor will want to keep a print list of the definitions for reference.

Pen friend with definitions

  1. The PenFriend can be used by the student to label a tactile diagram as a check for understanding (assessment)  after initial instruction.


Video Demonstrations of the PenFriend and Wheatley Tactile Diagramming Kit

The video clip below shows how to place labels on a diagram and notes that PenFriend labels can be added.

The video below demonstrates how to add labels to a Wheatley Kit tactile diagram, using braille labels, as well as labels for the PenFriend.

The video below demonstrates how to use the PenFriend (recording and playing back). 

The video below demonstrates how to set up a comprehension activity using the PenFriend.

The video below shows how to set up labels with the PenFriend, using print and braille, and storing all of them when a unit is complete.

The video below demonstrates how to set up a T-chart or graphic organizer for classification, such as of vertebrates and invertebrates.

The video below shows how to set up a two column tactile table using the Wheatley Kit.

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