Helen Keller



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Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Though not wealthy, her father owned a cotton plantation, and was the editor of a weekly newspaper called The Alabamian. Helen’s growth was normal until she was 19 months old when she became very ill with a high fever. Helen’s doctors did not know what was wrong with her but told her parents that she would probably die. Doctors now believe that Helen most likely had scarlet fever or meningitis, diseases that cause high fevers. Helen’s high fever eventually went away, and it looked like she would get better, but Helen’s mother noticed that she did not respond to sounds like the dinner bell, and she did not blink if somebody waved a hand in front of her face. Helen survived the illness but lost her eyesight and hearing. Helen was blind and deaf.

Helen was frustrated because she could not see or hear and had to rely on touch to discover the world. This frustration led to many behavior problems; Helen had terrible temper tantrums and horrible table manners. At dinner, she would move around the table eating off everyone’s plates. Her relatives thought she needed to be placed in an institution because her parents could not control her. Helen’s mother decided to look for help, and she found a doctor who specialized in the deaf and blind. This doctor told her to contact Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who also worked with the deaf. Dr. Bell believed Helen could be taught, and he helped her mother find Anne Sullivan, a teacher.

Anne suffered from vision problems herself but had operations to improve her eyesight. Despite the operations, Anne had trouble finding a job. When the offer came to teach Helen, Anne agreed even though she had no experience teaching the deaf and blind. Anne began by teaching Helen to finger spell and by trying to correct Helen’s bad behavior. Helen’s behavior improved, but she did not truly understand finger spelling until April 5, 1887, when Anne poured water into one of Helen’s hands and finger spelled the word water on the palm of Helen’s other hand. Helen finally understood what Anne was saying, and from that point, Helen quickly learned hundreds of words.

Helen eventually learned Braille, an alphabet of raised dots that blind people feel with their fingers and even went on to graduate from college with Anne by her side the entire time. Helen became a writer and lecturer, working to improve life for blind and deaf people. Anne worked with Helen translating so audiences could hear what Helen had written or signed. Helen and Anne lived and worked together for many years making the country a better place for the blind and deaf.


  1. How did Helen Keller show her frustration at not being able to see or hear?

    1. Helen was meek and would not leave her room.

    2. Helen decided not to attend school.

    3. Helen threw temper tantrums.

    4. Helen refused to leave her house.

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  1. What does the word institution mean as it is used in the passage?

    1. The place where Helen met Anne Sullivan.

    2. A form of punishment.

    3. An established custom or practice.

    4. An organization that cares for the disabled.

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  1. What is the main idea of this passage?

    1. With Anne’s help, Helen learns to communicate despite being blind and deaf.

    2. Anne has operations on her eyes and is able to get a job.

    3. Helen has terrible temper tantrums because she can’t communicate.

    4. Anne helps Helen graduate from college.

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  1. Why did Anne Sullivan have a hard time finding a job?

    1. Anne had no experience teaching.

    2. There weren’t many blind and deaf people to teach.

    3. Anne had poor vision despite many operations.

    4. Anne never finished school.

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  1. What day was a great turning point in Helen Keller’s life?

    1. The day she was unable to control her temper tantrums.

    2. The day she understood the word water as is was written in her hand.

    3. The day she published an essay about blindness.

    4. The day she lectured about people with disabilities.

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On a scale between 1 and 10 with 1 being low and 10 being how well did you like this passage?



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Connecting: Write a paragraph about what it would be like to go to school if you could not see nor hear? What would be your greatest challenges?


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