The National Curriculum is aimed at enhancing the language development of children through an integrated curriculum. Teachers differentiate lessons and activities to meet the learning needs of the class. There is now more emphasis on art and DT in the curriculum and linking this with the topic being taught is very important. Learning is not only confined to the classroom or taught through separate lessons. For children and especially deaf children they need to be immersed in new language, with lots of repetition, to give them the best chance of using and retaining it.
Deaf children face a large number of challenges every day not only in the class room.
The challenges include:
- Classroom acoustics
- Language delays
- Experience delays
- Lip reading /residual hearing
- Inadequate knowledge and awareness
- Social concerns
- Curriculum – pace and complex language
- Lack of resources
Project based learning
Project based learning is a way of enhancing the topic even further. As a school we set home learning challenges at the beginning of each term and the children are encouraged to develop a project in which they are interested.
For example, if the topic was Explorers, children might select a famous person like Sir Edmond Hillary and make a mountain including facts about Sir Edmond Hillary on the side.
By physically taking the time to plan and make the project along with the constant repetition of key facts this helps children learn and retain language. The value of shared experiences and time with parents enhances learning and links with school. Children learn in many different ways, some children may remember facts through just hearing them or reading them. Others need to physically make or role play to help them remember. Project based learning allows children to select a method and media that they enjoy.
Projects could involve constructing a model with interesting facts, an information book, poster, using role play or video to rein act an event in history. These projects help children cement new vocabulary and absorb the topic in fun engaging ways.
Projects around space, planets or Neil Armstrong for example could be presented in several different ways. These could include models, written facts, news reports or role plays just to name a few.
The time involved in making a project helps to make it easier to remember language as it is constantly repeated during the process of making the project. These projects can take several days or weeks. The time spent together helps to bring families together researching, planning and making. These are the experiences that children remember for years to come.
Many hearing deaf children are supported through external services and having links with these services is very important. At Laycock school we have speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapist in school. The teachers plan weekly with the speech therapists and have a joint therapy session in the class. The Speech therapists are aware of the class topic and therapy sessions are built on the needs of the children and the class. It is helpful for the therapists to know the topic and language the children are learning in class and this can support activities they may send home. Children who need the additional support work with each of these services in school but may have exercises or activities to work on at home. A programme of exercises set by the occupational therapist might be supported through project based learning. For instance, developing fine motor skills will be supported through making salt dough, cutting card or paper.
A lot of language was reinforced making these including eyes, teeth, sharp, mouth, bones, footprints, spikes, spikey, meat eater, carnivore, tyrannosaurus, mixing, cutting, glueing, pressing, and baking. This is a language that hearing children pick up incidentally but deaf children often miss and need further exposure. Project based learning enables these gaps in language to be bridged.
During the coronavirus lock down some of our children completed some lovely work at home with their families.
Making playdough, writing poems and stories.
Example of other projects
Some children have additional needs which could be visual or physical. A child may use a laptop or tablet and need communication software such as clicker 6 to help them with their communication. New vocabulary can be added to these devices and project based learning can give them the opportunity to reinforce this language.
Links with external services
Hearing impaired children often have links to other external services such as speech therapy, audiology and AV therapy to name a few. It is often very helpful for these services to know the topic and language that the children are working on so that they can include it in their assessment and therapy sessions. This also helps to reinforce language and gives children the chance to talk about shared experiences. It is much easier for children to discuss a project they are working on or talk about a picture of them working on it with their parents.