How to Adapt a Lesson Plan for the Hearing Impaired

by Virginia Gilbert
Adapting a lesson plan for hearing-impaired persons focuses on visual, tactile and kinesthetic learning

Adapting a lesson plan for hearing-impaired persons focuses on visual, tactile and kinesthetic learning

Whether you are teaching mainstreamed preschoolers or hard-of-hearing older adults, adapting a lesson plan for hearing-impaired persons focuses on visual, tactile and kinesthetic learning. That is, teaching through sight, touch and movement, and de-emphasizing speech and hearing. Many hearing people are also visual or kinesthetic learners. These suggestions are for mixed audiences of hearing and hearing-impaired persons.

Show, don’t just tell

Show, don’t just tell. Examine each bit of information or skill you want to teach for ways to present it through pictures, flashcards, diagrams, maps, charts, or hands-on demonstrations--as both a complement to and a substitute for explanatory speech. For example, use magnetic letters to teach spelling; include famous and influential photos or artwork in history lessons; dredge up old-fashioned sentence diagramming for grammar lessons.

Devise methods of student sharing that go beyond the typical teacher-led class discussion, especially encouraging students to share their written work. For instance, teacher Trent Lorcher suggests (in a lesson plan on that you give each student a term to define and illustrate with a picture. Then have students assemble the terms and pictures on a poster that is passed from student to student. A class project publishing a monthly student newsletter or literary magazine is another method of sharing and highlighting visual learning.

Vary student participation and role playing by including miming and charade games.

Write instructions and criteria for assignments on handouts and give them to all students. Don’t rely on oral instructions alone.

Use videos, especially videos with captions. Nearly all DVDs and TV shows now have a “closed caption” feature. (Technically, “closed” referred to early captioning systems that required special equipment. Nearly all current video equipment can handle captions if they are included by the video producer.)

Use high-tech: * Presentation software, such as Power Point * Live video feeds (such as those used in rock concerts) with captioning software * Computerized “smart boards” that you can draw diagrams on * Speech amplifiers and receivers * Videotaping students and letting them see themselves performing the task being taught. And low-tech: * Whiteboards and markers or chalkboards * Flip charts * Bulletin boards and posters * Flashcards

Take full advantage of keyboard communication--from word processing to e-mailing, instant messaging and social networking on the Internet--that has transformed the opportunities for hearing and hearing-impaired people to communicate.

Go well beyond flashing general titles on slides for the audience or class to look at while you talk. Instead, include meaningful phrases or whole sentences for each point, so that if some of your spoken words are not understood, you will still get your message across. Add pictures and diagrams to the text.

Illustrate your points as you talk or lead discussions, by drawing diagrams on a whiteboard or blackboard. Diagrams with arrows, flow charts and Venn diagrams can be especially useful for illustrating cause and effect, sequence, connections between ideas or relationships between people.

Share the spotlight with the interpreter, if one is present. Treat him or her as a colleague who has something to offer the entire class or audience, not just the hearing-impaired.

Acknowledge sign language as a legitimate language and include speakers of that language in the class or audience the way you would someone bilingual in, say, Spanish. Teach a sign from ASL or other widely used sign language when introducing a new topic or term. Use the ASL Browser as your dictionary or ask a Deaf student who uses sign language to teach a particular sign to the class. Teach finger spelling with the ABC song.


  • Hearing-impaired persons who are part of the Deaf culture consider their condition to be a distinct culture with its own language, not a disability. Students bilingual in Deaf and hearing cultures can be a great resource for enriching the experiences of all students in the class.

About the Author

Virginia Gilbert reported and edited education, business and science news at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 27 years, beginning in 1976. She also taught journalism at Washington University, 2000-2004. She is now engaged in urban ministry. Gilbert holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and an Master of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary.

Photo Credits

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