Simple Tips for Making Your EFL Lessons More Inclusive for Students with a Hearing Loss!


Little things matter! Naomi’s Photos

“Garnet Education” and I have collaborated to promote a common cause – making EFL lessons more inclusive for students with a hearing loss.

On “Garnet Education’s” blog, you will find a post of mine presenting some basic information and practical tips that every teacher should know.

Check out the post at the link below:

Remember – if you haven’t had a student with a hearing loss in your class yet, that doesn’t mean you won’t have such a student in your class next year!


“EFL Matriculation Exams for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students – Polish and Israeli Experiences”


I’m pleased to announce that Professor Ewa Domagała-Zyśka and I have written a joint article: “EFL Matriculation Exams for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students – Polish and Israeli Experiences” in which we presented the issue of teaching this population in the context of the Polish “Matura” exam vs the Israeli “Bagrut” exam.  The article was published in “Multicolors: An International Journal of Educational Theory and Research”.  

Thanks to this blog I met the amazing Beata Gulati from Poland, who introduced me to Professor Ewa Domagała-Zyśk (John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland) and to other members of the research group on the topic of teaching English to this population.

Such collaborations serve as an “eye opener” and as a reminder – no one in education has a monopoly on “the right way” to teach and assess students. Such comparisons can serve to enrich and enhance our teaching methods.


Here’s to reading, learning, and blogging!

When a Proctor’s Smile Becomes a Tricky thing – Deaf Students taking an EFL Exam


Naomi’s Photos

The scene is familiar, students seated in rows, one to a table, with an exam paper in front of each of them. Their school bags are lined up against the wall and there’s a dictionary on each desk.  All the students are focused on their exam papers.

However, the room is quite small. There are only nine students. There were supposed to be ten students but one of them, today of all days, missed his pick-up time for the transportation to school and is absent (hmm, I think to myself).

I ponder the advantages of being Deaf during an exam. The room assigned to us overlooks a parking lot of a neighboring municipal building. I seem to be the only one bothered by the noise of the vehicles, and the people talking too loudly on their cell phone. A student in the back taps his foot nervously and no one is perturbed by the repetitive tap tapping.  I’m relieved that there are no real hard of hearing students in this particular class – that kind of noise drives them bonkers (the students who hear better have turned off their hearing aids, I tap them on the shoulder if I need to tell them something).  That is until the nervous student starts knocking his pen against the desk. The student sitting in front of him immediately picks up her head, puzzled. She doesn’t know what she is hearing and which direction it is coming from. I explain and ask the other student to stop. He hadn’t noticed he was making a sound. Everyone else is working quietly.

Being judgmental…
Epstein Family Photos

Then it happens.

The same nervous student in the back gets up for a moment to stretch (the chairs never seem to be comfortable for these really tall boys!) and makes a funny face. I smile at him with a sort of silent laugh and motion to him to sit back down. Another student is instantly alert. What did he miss? What went on here? Why was I smiling? Did I say something when I was moving my hands?

You can’t say “It was nothing, keep working”. Deaf students are very sensitive about feeling left out of things. They have to deal with that feeling a lot in the world outside the classroom.  So there I am, explaining in Israeli Sign Language, about me smiling because of the student who made a funny face and that they both should get back to work when other students pick up their heads. They picked up on the sign language and needed to know what was going on.

In short, I ended up with a “commercial break” in which everyone got the update regarding the funny face made, that nothing more than that went on, no one missed anything and would they please go back to work.

And they did.

I’m still glad I smiled.  Even though it caused some trouble.

Smiles are worth it.

*** Note:  I enjoy following Jamie Keddie’s postings as he inspires teachers to take their own stories and use them with students and with other teachers.  This week his bi-weekly post happens to tie in with mine, as it is about communication or rather miscommunication!

“There is a  Scarface in the bath” by Jamie Keddie 


“Teacher, why won’t the new kid play with me?” – Inclusion in the Classroom

This post first appeared on my other blog “Visualising Ideas”.


Are you ignoring me? Naomi’s Photos

It is so easy to imagine the situation, because we’ve encountered it. The children are curious about the “new kid in class”. Someone asks “the new kid” to play, but he doesn’t respond. It seems to the children that he is ignoring the invitation and that angers them.

How can we talk to students about those children who do want to be friendly but might not respond in a familiar way?

Erin Human knows how to present a subject in a way children can relate to. Even better, her winning combination of pictures and simple text “Social Skills for Everyone” make the infographic sideshow suitable for learners of English as a foreign language as well. And that’s a lucky break because inclusion is a very real issue that needs to be discussed in class. New immigrants , children with a hearing problem, children on the Autism spectrum and more – you will find them all in the so-called “regular” classrooms.

From Erin Human’s “Social Skills for Everyone”


Head over to Erin Human’s blog to see the complete slide show “Social Skills for Everyone” . Erin has kindly permitted me to share the link (given below) to download the slide show as a PDF file for use in class.


Inclusion needs to be discussed.

Q: The Student has a Cochlear Implant, is There Still a Problem?

This post is a reprint of a post that appeared on my other blog: Visualising Ideas

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos

If you happened to walk into my high-school classroom of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students this week, you might have met an eleventh grade student whom I’ll call Young Lady. You can imagine her easily,  the 17 year old girl who does study but has got  a mirror app on her phone which frequently appears when she thinks I’m not looking…

Young Lady has a cochlear implant.  You, the visitor, can chat with her comfortably in her first language, ask her where she lives and what subject she is majoring in and answer her questions to you.  If you  leave the classroom after this exchange you could be forgiven for believing that the wonders of modern technology have solved Young Lady’s problems. You might even wonder why she needs to study in our special learning center and is entitled to accomodations on exams. 

That is, unless you had stayed for yesterday’s entire lesson, when Young Lady demonstrated clearly the effect of being born with a hearing loss (actually not hearing from the fifth month in the womb, before birth!) on language developement. She is a student at the three point level (the lowest of the full matriculation levels) who is doing very well and has good grades.

Follow the marshmallow trail (Naomi's photo)

Follow the marshmallow trail (Naomi’s photo)

Part of the literature component in our curriculum involves teaching higher order thinking skills. Young Lady’s current task was to give an example of something she saw on the evening news that demonstrated the skill we had learned called “cause and effect”. THE EXAMPLE WAS TO BE GIVEN IN HER MOTHER TONGUE.  Here’s our conversation, also in her mother tongue (Note: Young Lady doesn’t really use sign language, mainly with friends):

Y. L: “I saw hospital”.

Me: “What about the hospital? Why were they showing the hospital on TV”?

Y.L:  “Was man, ambulance, siren and hospital”.

Me: “You saw an ambulance take a man to the hospital. Why was he taken to the hospital? What was the cause”?

Y.L.: “Car accident”.

Me: “You watched the news and saw an ambulance take a man to the hospital because he was in a car accident. That’s a good example. Now you say it”.

Y.L.: “I watched news an ambulance take a man to hospital because car accident”.

Me: “I watched the news. I saw an ambulance take a man to the hospital because of a car accident. Now you write it down”.

Y.L. shows me her written sentence (in her mother tongue):

” See accident in ambulance man hospital”.

Most of the verbs are gone. Only one preposition “survived” and is in the wrong place. She knows she’s supposed to use them but she doesn’t  feel a need. The sentence makes perfect sentence to her this way. The order of the nouns shows the sequence of events. Though I can’t see the slightest justification for the disappearance of the word “news” (or T.V) since she didn’t actually see the accident herself…

Young Lady conceded THAT point.

There’s work to be done…

Q: Is a Dictionary REALLY the Way to Go with an EFL Beginner Student who has a Hearing Loss?

Students with a hearing loss are notorious for having trouble remembering vocabulary studied in an EFL class.

A smart move (Naomi's Photos)

A smart move
(Naomi’s Photos)

There are many strategies for working on vocabulary retention (more in future posts) but a beginner learner should learn to view the dictionary as an integral part of his/her studies, from day one. Students, especially the motivated students, get very distressed by the fact that they have forgotten the meaning of vocabulary items they know they have learned (perhaps even were tested on!). This distress easily turns into a belief that their English studies are doomed for failure and that it’s hopeless to try.

Students who have begun using a dictionary early on, know that there is a “life-belt” and while remembering words is more convenient, words forgotten aren’t going to stop them from understanding, and successfully completing, their reading comprehension assignments. Having confidence is an incredibly meaningful factor in predicting the student’s ability to successfully reach expected levels in his/her EFL studies.

Students at the Beginners level should begin with a “Homemade Dictionary”. This can be made from a simple notebook.
Each page of a notebook must be given a designated letter. Ready made alphabet notebooks can be found in stores. The student adds vocabulary items as he/she learns them, with a drawing or a translation into mother tongue. This dictionary should be brought to every lesson, along with the pencilbox and coursebook.

When the homemade dictionary no longer meets a student’s needs it is time to move onto “real” dictionaries. both printed and electronic.

Note: You will find a post on myths related to use of dictionaries with deaf and hard of hearing students in the previous post, under: “The lifesaver – the dictionary”.