Teaching Strategies and Lesson Plans for Preschool-Age Children with Hearing Loss
Howard-Robinson, Shelley, Volta Voices
Planning and implementing lesson plans for children with hearing loss is a challenging and rewarding process. Creating activities and lessons that are fun and motivating is the most important aspect of a developmentally appropriate and childcentered curriculum.
At The River School, an independent day school in Washington, D.C., preschoolers with hearing loss are educated alongside their peers with typical hearing in a language-rich environment. Each class is taught by a master's level educator and a full-time speech-language pathologist. Together they plan lessons that focus on the needs of the class as a whole and the individual needs of the children with hearing loss. The co-teaching model used at The River School ensures more consistent carryover of speech, language, auditory and pragmatic skills, and allows professionals the opportunity to share information regarding their prospective disciplines.
While planning for lessons, the teaching team considers the current interests and abilities of the children in the classroom while keeping in mind the individual goals of the children with hearing loss. The team keeps a daily related service log that lists the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals of each child with hearing loss and documents ways to incorporate these individual goals into daily lessons. Speech, language, auditory and pragmatic goals are interwoven into activities throughout the day, maximizing the chance of incidental learning opportunities and generalization of concepts.
Creating Lesson Plans
Lessons at The River School revolve around themes that the class studies for two to three weeks. These themes are often chosen based upon the current interests of the children. For example, the children learn about the beach in the summer or perhaps babies when a number of the children in the class are expecting siblings. Literature-based themes have also been popular and successful with preschoolers with hearing loss because they provide a concrete basis for activities and dramatic play opportunities. Books such as Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," Paul Galdone's "The Three Bears" and Judy Sierra's "Preschool to the Rescue" provide numerous opportunities for learning.
The Importance of Spoken Language
For preschoolers with a hearing loss, it is important that they learn that spoken language is a powerful tool. As they progress through a hierarchy of listening skills that include: the detection of sound, discrimination and identification of speech sounds and spoken words, and comprehension of language, they become empowered to communicate with their peers. As children with hearing loss interact with their peers with typical hearing, they are challenged and motivated to fully participate in the class using the spoken language which is modeled for them. Children also learn to monitor the speech that they produce as the auditory feedback loop is activated.* In natural ways, the teacher and therapist help the children monitor the sounds they produce in comparison to what is heard by providing commentary such as "I heard you say pat. Are you talking about the cat?" Games are also played during transition periods or dramatic play, and children are asked to imitate different vocal pitches or emotion-filled voices as a fun way to monitor the auditory feedback loop.
Because children with hearing loss are often at risk for reading difficulties, phonological awareness is an important skill that is emphasized at The River School.
Each day the children participate in a structured activity called Mouth Time which includes oral motor, sensory and phonological awareness activities. All of the children learn the names of their articulators and exactly what these articulators do to produce speech sounds. In a developmentally appropriate way, children are taught to recognize pictures that correspond to these speech sounds. For example a large circle represents the phoneme "ah" and a straight line represents the lips closing to produce the phoneme "m. …