Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Making Sure We Are Teaching

            Every teacher of the deaf has probably been asked a million times what exactly it is that we do. After responding, the comment, “Oh, so you’re like a tutor?” is not uncommon. I’ve found myself explaining the difference between teaching, progress monitoring and tutoring on so many occasions and I’m sure that I am not alone!
            Instruction or teaching involves explicitly explaining and helping students practice the skills necessary to successfully complete a task. This should be the primary component of our job as the teacher of the deaf. For many of our students with hearing loss, lack of incidental knowledge, gaps in schema or skill set, or difficulty with language and syntax prevent them from performing to their full potential in the classroom. It is my responsibility to not only teach skills necessary to complete current assignments, but additionally, to recognize and fill in gaps while ALSO anticipating and teaching upcoming skills. It can be overwhelming at times! Having a clear understanding of the hierarchy of skills required for any given task is critical to effectively teach students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
            In contrast, progress monitoring involves analyzing student work samples and noting errors or patterns of errors. It includes classroom observations and noting behaviors and potential barriers. Progress monitoring is also checking off the box when a student is able to successfully complete a task or demonstrates independent use of a skill that has been directly taught. At times, progress monitoring can be mistaken for instruction. For example, when progress notes indicate skills a student lacks but does not specifically state how those needs are being addressed. Progress monitoring alone will not lead to effective progress; direct instruction is necessary.
            Tutoring is also often mistaken for the specialized instruction we do as teachers of the deaf. Tutoring generally involves reviewing or previewing content related to class, drills such as flash cards or matching games, or similar study-type tasks. While some general overview is necessary, we must also make sure that this does not take up the bulk of our sessions and that we continue to focus on the instructional component.
            For example, many high school students have vocabulary as a component of the English class curriculum. One of my students has a weekly Latin and Greek root word list with quizzes each Friday. My instruction focuses on helping her learn the roots and using that knowledge to determine the meaning of new words. 
The vocabulary word, CIRCUMNAVIGATE, is on the opposite side of the card. This student benefits from including relevant examples as well as the provided definition when learning new terms.

The tutoring component I leave to her academic support team which could involve playing a matching game to help the student learn the words and definitions in order to pass the weekly quiz. The progress monitoring portion is my tracking which words she gets correct and which ones she misses on the quizzes and looking for potential patterns in her errors.

Latin and Greek roots at the bottom as well as color coding are strategies that help my student. 

            Similarly, students are expected to annotate texts in most junior high and high school classes. This is a skill that requires direct instruction. I model my thought process while reading aloud with students, and together we decide what to write in the margins of the text. 

Progress monitoring is part of my process as I periodically check my students’ books to see how they are annotating and adapt my instruction to meet specific needs. For example, I may focus on how to help my students ask questions or make predictions within the text or, I might teach them strategies for annotating for a specific purpose such as related to a formal paper.

            While instruction, progress monitoring and to some degree, tutoring, are all components of our job, teachers of the deaf specialize in the instruction for students with hearing loss. Being reflective about our own teaching and process can help to ensure that the bulk of our sessions are spent on this most important component- instruction.