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Language Learning for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 1997 | Go to article overview

Language Learning for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing


For the teacher of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, language is the curricular foundation on which the school day is built. The child's acquisition of language in face-to-face communication, reading, and writing is the focal point of instruction. The opportunity that content area instruction provides deaf and hard-of-hearing students to use language expressively and receptively is at least as important, and often considerably more important, than the specific concepts taught within individual subject areas.

It is often said that the teacher of deaf and hard-of-hearing children is a teacher of language first. But language is meaningful only when it is used within communicative contexts. In classrooms with deaf and hard-of-hearing students, language and content instruction need not be mutually exclusive, nor does one need to be emphasized at the expense of the other, because subject areas can provide students meaning-centered milieu for language and literacy development.

Meeting this triple agenda of language acquisition, literacy development, and content area learning is a challenge not only to special education teachers but also to general education teachers with deaf and hard-of-hearing students in their classrooms. In reality, it is a challenge for teachers of all children with disabilities who also have language-learning difficulties, as well as children learning English as a second language.

Teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing children must consistently and consciously offer opportunities for the following:

*Interpersonal communication in spoken English or American Sign Language among students and between the students and teacher (with the assistance of a sign language interpreter if the teacher or other children in the class do not know American Sign Language).

* Intrapersonal language to reflect on new concepts and skills.

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Language Learning for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
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