If you have Deaf or hard of hearing students in your classroom, you might find the following tips and hints particularly useful. These were compiled by Interesource Group in Ireland, but are applicable in Australia also.
10 Tips for teachers of Deaf children in the classroom
1. Face the child
Eye contact is essential. Do not talk to the blackboard. Always face the child when speaking or signing. This is really important for the student so that the child can understand you.
2. Nod and smile
Do not assume the child understands what is being said just because they nod their head in agreement. It is your job as the teacher to ensure that communication leads to comprehension.
3. Lighting and contrast
Be aware of background light in the classroom. Overly dark or overly lit classrooms and poor contrast interferes with access to what the teachers and others are saying.
4. Check for understanding
Do not assume that the child understands something just because they can repeat it in speech or in sign – some children may just be signing vocabulary but not understand the meaning. Be aware that some deaf children do not have English as their first or even their second language.
5. Pre-tutoring and post tutoring
Pre tutoring and post tutoring vocabulary enhances the child’s access to language in the curriculum. This requires teamwork between the class teacher, parents, teachers of Deaf children and also Deaf mentors working at the school.
6. Context is vital
Ensure that signs are used in the appropriate context. Remember that only 5-10% of deaf children acquire Auslan as their first language naturally in the home. Therefore, most deaf children don’t have native use of Auslan. Nor are they automatically familiar with the norms of Deaf culture.
Instructions, rules and materials presented in written form may be difficult for a child to understand if English is not their native language. This may also apply to the child’s parents.
8. Technology is a friend
Be innovative in presenting language. This principle is universal and will support international students as well as those who may be experiencing difficulties with language. Use of technology like (subtitles/signed) videos, internet materials and mobile devices can help.
9. Visual learning
Many deaf children are visual and/or kinesthetic learners. Some children learn by doing. Think outside the box: use props and visual data to support and promote visual learning. Engage children in physical exercises to assist kinesthetic learners.
10. Teamwork is the key
Consider all parties involved in the child’s learning. This includes, teachers, parents, support staff and the child. Make sure that all parties communicate and participate in decision making processes.
For more information on working with Deaf and hard of hearing students in mainstream classrooms, please contact the Shenton College Deaf Education Centre - we can post a booklet to you.
For information on inclusive education and the range of support available for Deaf and hard of hearing students, view information about Sensory (WAIDE) at http://www.ssens.wa.edu.au.
Considering resources and advice external of WA, some useful websites addressing the practical aspects of ensuring an inclusive educational experience for students, and providing appropriate educational support for Deaf and hard of hearing students in particular, include the following:-
An excellent booklet on inclusive practices in mainstream classrooms – a generic resource for teachers of students with disabilities: Click here
Generic inclusive teaching and assessment strategies: Click here
Teaching and learning adjustments required (planning, teaching, assessment etc): Click here
Helpful information for teachers working with educational interpreters: Click here
If you are interested in scholarly reading, refer to any of these recently published texts or journal articles:
Courtin, C., Melot, A. & Corroyer, D. 2008. Achieving efficient learning. In: M. Marschark & P.C. Hauser, eds. Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 102–130.
Dye, M., Hauser, P. & Bavelier, D. 2008. Visual attention in deaf children and adults. In: M. Marschark & P.C. Hauser, eds. Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 250–263.
Marschark, M., Lang, H.G. & Albertini, J.A. 2002. Educating deaf students: From research to practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C.M. & Pelz, J. 2008. Learning via direct and mediated instruction by deaf students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13: 446–461.
Marschark, M., Sapere, P., Convertino, C., Seewagen, R. & Maltzen, H. 2004. Comprehension of Sign Language Interpreting: Deciphering a Complex Task Situation. Sign Language Studies, 4(4): 345–368.
Marschark, M. & Spencer, P.E. 2010. Promises (?) of deaf education: From research to practice and back again. In: M. Marschark & P. Spencer, eds. Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Volume 2. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–14.
Marschark, M. & Wauters, L. 2008. Language comprehension and learning by deaf students. In: M. Marschark & P.C. Hauser, eds. Deaf cognition: Foundations and outcomes. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 309–350.
Marzano, R., Pickering, D. & Pollack, J. 2001. Classroom instruction that works. Alexandria VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Schick, B.S., de Villiers, P., de Villiiers, J. & Hoffmeister, R. 2007. Language and theory of mind: a study of deaf children. Child Development, 78(2): 376–396.
Schick, B.S., Marschark, M. & Spencer, P.E. 2006. Advances in the sign language development of deaf children. Perspectives on deafness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spencer, P.E. & Marschark, M. 2010. Evidence-based practice in educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stinson, M. & Kluwin, T. 2010. Educational consequences of alternative school placements. In: M. Marschark & P. Spencer, eds. Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education, Volume 1, second edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Swanwick, R. & Marschark, M. 2010. Enhancing education for deaf children: Research into practice and back again. Deafness and Education International, 12(4): 217-235.
Wauters, L.N. & Knoors, H. 2008. Social integration of deaf children in inclusive settings. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13(1): 21–36.