Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Summer Break!

                          Like the students we work with, Hear Me Out is on summer break! 


                Check out my latest EdWeek contribution HERE and I'll see you back in the fall!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Tiny Office Living


 Tiny homes, with an average of less than 500 square feet of living space, have become a trend. Living a minimalist lifestyle with only things that “spark joy,” thanks to a popular Netflix show, has also become trendy. As an itinerant, I mastered this minimalist, tiny-home style long before it was in vogue. The key is to maximize your available space (mine is approximately 80 square feet) and minimize possessions in a way that would make that popular organizing guru proud. Below is a guide to my Tiny Car Office.  





1.     This Tiny Car Office boasts a spacious snack cabinet which includes room not only for snacks to enjoy while on the road, but also storage for utensils, napkins, reusable straws and condiments for the days when you will also be eating lunch in your car. Never worry about forgetting to grab chopsticks with your take-out sushi, there’s plenty of storage space for a few pairs right here!
2.     As an itinerant, my students must be able to see my face in order to speech read along with using their listening skills. This office includes a styling station with everything one would need for the optimal up-do. Hair ties, bobby pins, and headbands are easily accessible for those mornings when you’re running late and need to let your hair dry in the car before putting it up. In a pinch, a pair of sunglasses doubles as a headband in this multi-use accessory station.
3.     As a bonus, this tiny space also includes a hair dryer which when set on high, sends a blast of warm air to help quickly dry your hair on the road.
4.     You may think that you have to make sacrifices to live in a Tiny Car Office, but think again! You can have a complete home office with sticky note bulletin board reminders, pen and pencil storage, an electronics charging station, and convenient phone mount which will allow for Skyping, voice dictation, GPS access and so much more!
5.     In addition, an audiological center is packed nicely into this pouch and fits neatly in the front seat while still allowing room for bags and other materials. All your troubleshooting tools will be ready to go as you head into the schools.


6.     As we all know, it can be challenging to find time to exercise. You’ll have no excuses with your very own Tiny Car Office gym! The low ceilings allow for controlled, isometric movements which really concentrate working the small muscle groups. My physical therapist would be happy to see that I incorporate my shoulder exercises throughout the day.

7.     The roomy center console is the perfect place to store all of your hygiene needs. Nobody likes a teacher with coffee breath! Mouth wash, gum, and mints are right within reach with this handy storage space! There’s also room for bandaids, deodorant and hand wipes for those messy meals that are eaten on the road.
8.     Most people view this as simply the back of a seat, however, it also doubles as a coat rack for those rainy or snowy New England days!

9.     How many times have you chosen a pair of shoes to wear in the morning only to regret it later in the day when your feet are tired and blistered? Tiny Car Office features ample shoe storage so that you will always have options to change your shoes during the day.
10. Snow? Rain? No problem! All your weather needs are readily available right here whether you need an umbrella, a snow scraper, or even a small shovel to clear that winter weather away! Did you get to a school only to find out your student is not there? In the winter, snowshoe storage means that you can take a quick walk in the fresh air while you wait for your next student.


11. Finally, the largest storage section of our Tiny Car Office. Files are neatly organized in these bins for easy access. Frequently used assessments, books, and teaching materials are also organized and right where you need them.
12. Schools don’t always have the specific materials we need. Art supplies, dry erase boards, toys and manipulatives are all stored in this crate system.
13. Do you need to stop at the grocery store on your way home? Maybe you forgot an item you need for a session and need to run into the dollar store quickly to pick up a new one. Reusable shopping bags have their own storage on the side for those last minute shopping trips.
14. Again with the exercise! As a triathlete and marathon runner, fitness is important to me and I’ll never make an excuse to skip a workout! However, especially in the winter when it gets dark early, it can be hard to fit in a long run when I’m at schools late. This closet of workout clothes and space for running shoes means that wherever I am, I can stop, quickly change and get in a run before heading home.

Mastering the art of working from a Tiny Car Office means never having to sacrifice while out on the road. You too can have it all! Now, who’s ready to join me in this trendy movement? J


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

EdWeek Contribution- GAMES!

Do you incorporate games into your sessions? Read my suggestions HERE on EdWeek for tips on how games can enhance the process of learning!


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Your Students are Ready for Testing. Are their Teachers?

While my students have definitely started the countdown to the last day of school, my work is far from over! Spring means preparation for state assessments, standardized testing, PSAT / SAT for high school students, and final exams for junior high and high school kids.  While I don't have control over the standardized assessments other than advocating for accommodations, I can control some aspects of final exams for class content! 
It is important to include as many accommodations for testing as possible into students IEPs and 504s so that they are ready when exams come. Depending on the needs of the student, some of the most common accommodations are: 
  • Extending testing time 
  • Reading aloud and/or clarifying test items  
  • Use of the HAT system by the test administrator 
  • Use of organizers and outlines 
  • Providing individual or small group test space  

I’ve found that with some preparation, most teachers are receptive to simplifying or rewording test questions so that my students with hearing loss can show what they really understand about a concept rather than getting questions wrong because they were confused by the phrasing of a question. Since we have integrated this practice of modifying test items all year long, teachers understand the need for final exam modifications as well.  
For example, some students struggle to extract the questions theyre expected to respond to when they’re embedded in lengthy text. In the example below, I read the test item aloud to my student, had him extrapolate the test questions—which I simplified and rewroteand then he was then able to accurately respond, demonstrating his understanding.  

Similarly, while many of our students with hearing loss are capable of using complex syntax to respond to open response items, they may still require word banks in order to use conjunctions and connective language correctly to respond to test items.

Students who are working on including structures such as cause and effect or persuasive language, may require language frames to support their open responses as in the image below.



While some students are perfectly comfortable with the teacher, myself, or another adult writing right on their test, others are more self-conscious and do not want extra attention. To resolve this issue, one high school English teacher gave me access to her Google Drive. This way, I can go in and modify the test for my student online. When the teacher hands out tests, my student gets her modified copy but it doesn’t look any different from anyone else’s at a quick glance so she does not feel uncomfortable. This teacher told me recently that she’s started giving my version of the test to several other students in the class after realizing it was her questioning format that was causing students to lose points, not their lack of understanding! Many students can benefit from modified test questions!  
While teachers may not initially want to modify tests due to the extra work, once they understand the purpose, they are generally receptive. Making it clear that we are assessing what a student knows about a topic and NOT whether or not they can answer a question embedded in complex syntax also helps. As we teach students more and more of those language structures, they can become increasingly independent and successful with testing.  

                         How do you work with teachers to modify assessments?  

Monday, January 14, 2019

What Is a “Listening Break”?


I was recently asked about listening breaks. What is a listening break? What does it look like? Most importantly, why do students with hearing loss need a listening break? It’s something we talk about as teachers of the deaf—something we advocate for—and in interpreting testing results, we often encourage listening breaks to prevent fatigue. But, what do these listening breaks actually look like in practice?
Students with hearing loss are working harder than their classmates with typical hearing to access, process and fill in missed words and phrases during periods of classroom instruction. Even our best students, who are auditory learners despite their hearing loss, are constantly filling in and struggling to keep up with the pace of lectures and discussions in a busy classroom due to the limitations of their hearing technology. Because sound must be processed through the hearing aid or cochlear implant before reaching the brain where it is interpreted, there is a very brief delay between when the auditory information is received and when it is processed. Additionally, microphones on hearing assistive technology (HAT) have a limited range. Even with the use of a HAT system, background noise and limited access to a speaker’s face further compound our students’ ability to access auditory information. Because they are working so hard just to access what is being said, it is more challenging for our students to then process and synthesize and make connections with previously known information. All this leads to listening fatigue: feeling tired from the seemingly simple act of listening.


Listening breaks can really look different depending on the age and needs of the student. For example, I had a third grader who was still learning about fatigue and how hearing loss impacts her learning. She and I made three listening break sticks (strips of heavy cardstock drenched in glitter, an idea I borrowed from a colleague) and she learned how to use them for breaks. During transitions or independent work times she’d hand one to her teacher and then had options such as looking at books in the reading area, coloring quietly, or taking a “walk around the block” (just a hallway stroll) with the classroom aide. The teacher was involved in the whole process and it wasn’t long before the student was pretty independent with her breaks, spacing them out throughout the day.

I currently have a high school student who has other needs in addition to his hearing loss. He fatigues quickly. His teachers are also very much a part of his plan which he helped to design. Similar to my younger student, during transitions or independent work time, when he needs a break, he can go to the bathroom or get a drink (his version of “walk around the block”) and that short walk is usually enough. Many of my junior high and high schools students have similar plans in place where teachers allow for these short walks. When this particular student becomes overwhelmed in class, his 1:1 aide or I take him to the library to work in our designated quiet room where he can take his time on work and we can discuss it without distracting the whole class. He also benefits from physical activity and we’ve arranged with the athletic trainer to use the weight room. Ten minutes or so of heavy weight work really helps him to refocus. He also has a daily study hall built into his schedule for extra support.


The key components of any listening break plan include:
- The student should be part of the process so they gain awareness of their own learning needs and how they’re impacted by listening fatigue. This also gives them a voice in terms of what works and what doesn’t work for a listening break.
-Teachers must be educated on the effects of listening fatigue and hearing loss on access and learning so that they support and reinforce the plan.
- There should be some formality to the breaks so that they are effective and structured for the student (focus on the true fatigue needs of the student vs. something where the student can take a “break” whenever they just don’t want to do the work).
- A system should be in place for the student to make up any missed work during a break (as with my high school student—he has study hall for the times he really needs a longer break).
- Visual schedules such as writing out the daily plan on the board will help students identify a good time to take a break, such as after the instructional section of the class or during independent work time so that they do not miss out on important information.


How do you help students and schools understand listening breaks?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

EdWeek Q&A

Happy New Year!

Have you checked out the online magazine for educators, EdWeek? Read my contribution HERE in the most recent publication!