Story of Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. She was a happy healthy baby. Her father, Arthur, worked for a newspaper while her mother, Kate, took care of the home and baby Helen. She grew up on her family's large farm called Ivy Green. She enjoyed the animals including the horses, dogs, and chickens. Dogs were her favourite animals and she had many during the course of her life.


When Helen was around one and a half years old she became very sick. She had a high fever and a bad headache for several days. It is thought that the sickness was either meningitis or scarlet fever. Although Helen survived, her parents soon realized that she had lost both her sight and her hearing. Naturally, Helen's parents felt concern for her future.
From these 2 paragraphs, what do you know about the story?
  • Man in Hole structure: starts off well, then trouble hits
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  • Context: real story, where & when, who, obstacle


Helen tried to communicate with the people around her. She had special motions she would use to indicate that she wanted her mom or her dad. However, she would also get frustrated. She realized that she was different and it was extremely difficult to let others know what she needed. She would sometimes throw tantrums, kicking and hitting other people in anger.
As Helen grew into a young girl, she became increasingly frustrated with her inability to communicate. She learned to recognize her family members by touching their facial features, their clothing, or by detecting a scent of perfume.
Colonel Keller and his wife knew they had to try to help their daughter lead as normal a life as possible. They consulted with Alexander Graham Bell, who worked with the deaf, and he suggested they hire Anne Sullivan as Helen's teacher. This decision would change Helen's life forever.
Which 2 things are revealed here?
  • Hero's goal/call to adventure (learn to communicate)
  • Initial refusal (throwing tantrums) but then supernatural aid appears (Anne Sullivan)
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Show only first section at this point

Enter Anne Sullivan

In 1887, Anne Sullivan arrived at Ivy Green to meet Helen and her family. Anne Sullivan was a determined, young teacher who had lived with blindness herself until undergoing successful surgery. Perhaps her unique experience would allow her to help Helen. Anne soon realized the tremendous challenge she faced in teaching Helen. Helen had received little discipline in her young life due to her physical challenges.
After establishing what would become a lifelong relationship, Anne began to teach Helen the alphabet by finger spelling the sign language letters into the palm of Helen's hand. Soon, Helen recognized the letter combinations that Anne finger spelled to her.
For example, she would put a doll in one of Helen's hands and then press the letters of the word D-O-L-L into the other hand. She taught Helen a number of words. Helen would repeat the words into Annie's hand.
The most challenging lesson was to help Helen make the connection between a word and a concept. Helen still didn't understand that the hand signs had meaning. The world-changing breakthrough happened when Anne pumped well water into one of Helen's hands while finger spelling the word water onto her other one. At that moment, Helen understood that a word represented a concept or a thing. From that point on, Helen had an unrelenting desire to learn.
Name one good and one bad thing that happened in this passage
Action has started. There are temporary setbacks (didn't understand meaning) but then a revelation (water) and transformation (now unrelenting desire to learn). First turning point.
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Learning to Read

Next Annie taught Helen how to read. Helen must have been very bright and Annie an amazing teacher, because soon Helen could read entire books in Braille. Braille is a special reading system where the letters are made out of little bumps on a page. Imagine trying to learn how to read if you couldn't see or hear. It's truly amazing what Helen and Annie were able to accomplish. At the age of ten Helen could read and use a typewriter. Now she wanted to learn how to talk.

Learning to Talk

Helen Keller learned how to talk from Sarah Fuller. Sarah was a teacher for the deaf. By resting her hand on Sarah's lips, Helen learned how to feel sound vibrations and how the lips moved to make sounds. She started off learning a few letters and sounds. Then she advanced to words and, finally, sentences. Helen was so happy that she could say words.
What role does Sarah Fuller play in the story?
A helper that helps here overcome a challenge.

Radcliffe College

Helen Keller had aspirations of going to college. She was a person who didn't allow her physical challenges to deter her dreams. Therefore, in 1900, accompanied by Anne, Helen Keller began taking classes at Radcliffe College (now a part of Harvard).
This was notable for a few reasons. For one, Helen was taking classes alongside students who didn't share her challenges. Consequently, she had to devote more time and attention to her studies than the average student did. Also, at that time in history, it was still an uncommon occurrence for a woman to attend college. In 1904, Helen Keller was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliffe College in 1904. She graduated with honors.

Success in Adult Life

During college Helen began to write about her experiences being deaf and blind. She first wrote a number of articles for a magazine called the Ladies' Home Journal. These articles were later published together in a book called The Story of My Life. A few years later, in 1908, she published another book called The World I Live In.
How does this compare to the beginning of story?
Hero returns to real world and brings gifts.
Man in Hole: comes out even better than where she started.
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After leaving Radcliffe, Helen Keller spent the rest of her life working on behalf of blind and/or deaf people all over the world. With Anne at her side, she went on speaking tours and wrote articles that educated people on the significant role these individuals have in our society. Her far-reaching work won her high honors such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The long line of famous people who admired Helen began in her childhood with author Mark Twain. Alexander Graham Bell, William James, and Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy are just a few of the others who had the pleasure of meeting with Helen.


Helen Keller indeed dedicated her life to helping others. She was a writer (she went on to write 12 books!), speaker, and advocate with a spirit of determination known throughout the world. Her incredible life of eighty-seven years will be celebrated for centuries to come.
Add some stuff here about what we learn (about storytelling) from her journey
What's different about the final section? What value does it add?
Action is over. Instead tells about result: how story ends, but also recap lessons learned, and link back to why we told story in first place.

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