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”.

Q: Any Speaking Skills Advice for Tutoring a Deaf Teen?

Here are some basic tips:

Epstein Family Photos

Epstein Family Photos

1) Always sit facing the student. That way residual hearing and message reading (aka lip reading) can be combined.

2) Sit in a quiet room. Hearing aids amplify unwanted sounds too.

3) Turn on the lights, even during the daytime.

4) Some sounds can’t be seen on the lips and it is difficult to message read unfamiliar words. Always have a pen & paper (or a digital equivalant) on hand as a means of clarification.

5) Speak naturally. Speaking too quickly or too slowly distorts the way the sounds look.

6) Rephrase. Repeating the same words or sentence over and over again does not promote understanding.

7) Context is the key! When the student know the context related to what you are saying, the level of comprehension rises significantly.

Q: Where should the Student with a Hearing Loss be Seated?

The choice of seating for  a student with a hearing loss in the classroom can have far-reaching implications on the degree of his/her comprehension and participation.

Epstein Family Photos

Epstein Family Photos

Teachers often assume that a student with a hearing problem should sit front row, dead center, right under the teacher’s nose.

This is incorrect.

When the student is directly under the teacher’s nose, he/she does not have a suitable angle of the teacher’s face for lip-reading (“message reading”, as explained in previous posts).

In addition, if the student is in the middle of the front row, he/ she will find it difficult to locate and watch the face of any students who may be participating in the lesson, as most of the class is behind him/here.

It is recommended that such a student sit at the side of the class, near the front (second row). This way, the student gets a good view of the teacher’s face and can easily turn in his/her seat to see most of the classmates.

If the class is small and there are no rows, that it is best to arrange the chairs in a semicircle.

NOTE: It is important to make sure there is no glare of sun from the window shining on the teacher’s face. The student should sit on the side of the classroom that is not disturbed by the sunlight masking the teacher’s lips and face. However, teachers should check with their students. Sometime a student hears better in one ear and wishes to sit with the better ear in the direction of the teacher.

Talking to the student about what makes him/her feel more comfortable is always recommended!

Q: Why doesn’t Lip Reading Solve the Problem?

If people who can’t hear lip read, aren’t most problems solved?

Epstein Family Photos

Epstein Family Photos

 

I call it “The Catch 22 Effect”.

The term “lip reading” is actually a misnomer. What people who can lip-read actually do is message read because unfortunately, eyes can’t take the place of ears.

Sounds such as /x/ /k/ /g/ cannot be seen on the lips at all, while other sounds, such as /n/ /t/ /d/ are indistinguishable from one another.

On the basis of his/her knowledge of the language, the lip reader fills in the visual gaps, using situational and contextual clues.

 

When a student with a hearing loss begins studying English as a foreign language, he/she faces the following situation:

 

 

Cannot hear/see all the sounds teacher is saying

SO

Needs knowledge of the language to fill in the gaps

BUT

Lacks the necessary knowledge of the new language

AND

Has trouble acquiring the necessary knowledge

BECAUSE

Cannot hear/see all the sounds teacher is saying

CONCLUSION:

Students with a hearing lossl must learn to read English at a very early stage. Through reading they are exposed to the language in the most complete manner.

Disneyland and a Short Course for Beginner Deaf Adults

Q: What to teach on a short (two month)  course for deaf adults who do not know English at all?

Epstein Family Photos

Epstein Family Photos

Take them to Disneyland! Using their imagination, of course!

Why Disneyland?

Adults in a short term course want to feel they have learned something useful right away. Travelling to the USA is something that could happen and interests a large number of people. But it also lends itself beautifully to the two principles I explained in the previous post, of combining sight words (global reading) and phonics.

While virtually being at the airport, students can practice their phonics reading names of countries and airlines.

Meanwhile, still at the airport, they can learn to recognize words they might actually encounter one day. Words on forms (first name, last name, address, etc.) and signs. It’s always a fun lesson when you work on all the different signs that indicate restrooms!

At Disneyland you have timetables, you can discuss food and so much more!

Enjoy!