Monday, April 7, 2014

Participation in Assemblies

“Do my bangs look okay? I want them to look like my sister’s.” My seven-year-old student smoothed her curly hair to the side as she twirled, a look of anticipation in her eyes.  I’m gonna look at you when I’m on the stage!” she called over her shoulder to me as she ran to return to her classmates. Across the crowded auditorium, her older sister gave me a guarded smile and a small wave. It is the dress rehearsal for their elementary school’s all-school concert. True to her nature, the younger sister eagerly awaited her turn to perform in front of an audience, confidence bursting from her small frame. Her sister, older, more guarded, and more aware of the impending challenge of playing the musical bells with her class, demonstrated poise and calm that separated her from her giggly, whispering peers. 

While both girls do well in school and are in classrooms with teachers who willingly work with me to modify curriculum and instruction, school events such as the all-school concert require some additional thought and planning. After meeting with both teachers and receiving a copy of the program for the concert, I attended the dress rehearsal to assist in ironing out technical issues that could affect my students’ access to information presented during the performances. Both girls use personal FM systems, which needed to be “synced” to one FM transmitter. This transmitter was then  attached to the main microphone on the stage, allowing the girls to access the spoken aspects of the performances. The girls’ classes were the first to arrive at the assembly, a strategic plan so that they could sit in the front and speechread in order to help follow along during the rehearsal. Additionally, both girls would have a turn performing with their classes, so we needed to think about their positioning on stage

Below are strategies we used to ensure that both girls were included and comfortable on stage and their needs were met without interfering with the flow of the program. After the dress rehearsal, the performance went flawlessly the following night!
  •  Find out who will be leading the performance. Sometimes an adult, such as a music teacher or principal, introduces each class. Other times, students have this responsibility. Support the student with hearing loss in communicating specific needs to the person(s) in charge. This might include explaining the importance of speaking clearly into the microphone and making their face visible for speechreading.
  • Get copies of scripts, song lyrics and other spoken information ahead of time. The student with hearing loss can read over plays or skits before the actual performance in order to follow easier. Reading the entire script and discussing the plot can help the student with hearing loss understand his or her role in the performance. In the case of my students described above, we got copies of what each class planned to perform so that my students were able to preview the entire concert.
  •   When more than one student with hearing loss will be in the audience, on stage, or both, determine ahead of time which transmitter will be used on stage. Ensure that the students arrive with enough time to sync them to the designated transmitter.
  •   When students with hearing loss are performing, provide them with copies of the program ahead of time so they know the order of performances as well as any intermissions, introductions and cues for entrances or exits. We wrote such information on the girls’ actual program. Sometimes an adult backstage can be designated to cue students.
  •  Be sure the student with hearing loss knows what will be expected in terms of singing, acting or playing instruments. We often go over songs or lines for a play together to be sure my students are able to pronounce all of the words and understand the meaning of the songs or text.
  •   When students are in a play and need to hear their peers, work with teachers to set up staging that allows for the student with hearing loss to access peers visually and auditorily. For example, the speaker should be close to and able to face the student with hearing loss rather than positioned far across the stage. With planning, this staging can be done in a way that does not draw extra attention to the student with hearing loss.
  • Work with all students to understand the importance of speaking and singing loudly and clearly. This will help not only the student with hearing loss, but the whole audience!

How do you help your students participate in all school performances?

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