Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wrapping Up!

I have a FIELD TRIP!” my elementary student excitedly announced as she ran into our room. “And it’s a walking field trip! We're gonna walk there! And they have animals!” I asked her when this field trip was happening, thinking about the multiple schedule changes that happen at the end of the school year, and wanting to know how this would impact my time. “Oh, I don’t know. I think this week,” she responded. I racked my brain to try to figure out where they could possibly walk to see animals from this particular school. She wasn’t able to tell me any more so we moved on. Later, I asked her teacher about it. Not surprisingly, my student had missed some information. The field trip was to a farm. The students would be walking around the farm but taking a bus to get there. In June… Several weeks away. The teacher was surprised—they had been discussing this trip in detail for several days, tying it into the science unit.

For students with hearing loss, the fun end-of-the-year activities can be confusing, surprising or even stressful if they don’t get all the correct information. By this point in the school year, most teachers are implementing appropriate supports for academics but forget that our students need the same accommodations when discussing upcoming schedule changes and activities. Here are some things to consider for end of the year events:

Elementary School:
Field Day is common in many schools. It’s a day of chaos, new games, noise and competition—a nightmare situation for a student who doesn’t hear well! I try to get as much information as I can ahead of time and prepare my students. Will there be teams or individual events? Will there be a rotation pattern through activities or free-for-all? What games will there be and what are the rules? Will there be water events and if so, how will my student participate (in terms of wearing or removing  and storing amplification)? Who will be the go-to adult if my student needs a break? Older elementary students can write out questions and do a Field Day interview with the PE teacher or other designated adult. Predictability helps my students participate more fully in this day. And really, wouldn’t ALL students benefit from such preparation?!

Field Trips happen all year, but I find that more are planned for the spring. It’s helpful when teachers write the trip on the classroom calendar so my students can see exactly when it will be. The same visual supports used for academic instruction are beneficial when discussing field trips, and more informative than just verbally describing what will take place.

Junior High / High School:
Graduations happen both at middle school and high schools. If my students are graduating, I make sure they get all instructions in writing well before the event occurs (what to wear, what time to arrive and where, deadlines for paperwork, etc.) Whether my students are graduating or just attending, most schools have been receptive to printing out copies of speeches ahead of time so that my student can follow along. Some have been willing to provide preferential seating for the event and with advanced planning, the FM transmitter can be used as well. This way, my students can enjoy speeches and announcements at these important events—and celebrate along with the rest of the school community!

Semi-Formal dances and proms are also happening now. If my students want to go, I make sure they get directions in writing once again. Sometimes tickets can be purchased at the door but often must be bought ahead of time. There may be a dress code that is explicit or one that is just “common knowledge” (such as underclass girls wearing short dresses and only seniors wearing long). I get as much of this social information as I can and ensure that my students are prepared!

Field trips and picnics also happen for older students. Again, getting dates and requirements in writing is necessary so that they don’t miss the opportunity to purchase tickets or participate.

Finals may not be as much fun as they other events but they happen anyway! I make sure my students have the schedule for finals as well as study guides and deadlines for classes that have papers or projects in place of exams. Many students benefit from help organizing notes in alignment with study guides as well as extra emphasis on the study strategies we’ve worked on all year.

The end of the school year doesn’t have to be chaotic! With a little extra effort, we can help our students stay on top of deadlines and finish strong!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Modifying Board Games

With only a few months left of school, spring fever has definitely hit! And when students are less motivated, what better way to renew their energy than with a game? Unfortunately, I’ve never found a game that meets my exact needs for any student. Luckily, every game can be modified!

There are several games such as Hearing Aid Bingo which is both an app and a physical game and allows students to work on the names of the parts of their amplification such as tone hook, tubing, etc. Adding language frames, as in the examples below, allows me to simplify or make the game more challenging, depending on the needs of my student. I can also have students complete a diagram as they get each piece for extra practice. 

For instance, I may write a frame on the board like, Do you have the part of the hearing aid that__(function)_____? The student then has the relative clause model and can fill in with the function of the part while also working on asking questions.  A more complex frame may be, Do you have the part of the transmitter that _(function)___ before / after the sound travels through the_(transmitter part)___? This frame includes a relative and a temporal clause and requires the student to think about how the sound travels as well as the function of the part that they need. Additionally, students work on auditory skills while listening to their playing partner use the same type of language.

Another way to modify games is to include the students! Rule the School has scenarios that ask students to think about particular situations in which listening may be challenging, and state how they could handle such a challenge. I often pick out the cards that apply to my students but also have them create their own cards. I now have a bank of cards created by several students who don’t necessarily know each other, but who are eager to see what challenges other kids have. This shared experience also inspires students who may be uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss their own access difficulties. They become more motivated knowing that their card will be read by other students with hearing loss and that they may be helping that other person.

And as always, including peers with typical hearing on occasion is valuable for everyone. The peers learn about the challenges of hearing loss without directly focusing on the personal experiences of my students, which creates more understanding and awareness.

Who’s ready to play?!?