7 Ways to Support Deaf Students in Your Classroom

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Classroom Application
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As educators, we are responsible for creating inclusive learning environments that cater to the diverse needs of all students. International Week of the Deaf takes place from September 24–28 and is the perfect opportunity to highlight the significance of accommodating deaf and hard-of-hearing students in K-12 classrooms. Through the thoughtful use of technology and management strategies, you can ensure that deaf students receive the support needed to thrive academically and socially.

Consider incorporating these strategies into your classroom to support not only deaf students, but as an added learning tool for everyone in your classroom:

1. Utilize captions when possible.

In today’s technology-driven classrooms, online learning platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Chrome offer valuable accessibility features, including live captions. Enable captions during video presentations or when sharing audio content to ensure hard-of-hearing students have full access to all content provided in virtual lessons. Encouraging all students to turn on live captions empowers them to engage with educational content more effectively. Navigate to Settings, then select Accessibility to find options for turning on captions for video and audio.

2. Take advantage of Flip’s built-in assistive technologies.

Flip (reviewed here) has several built-in supports for deaf students. The tool automatically generates closed captions for all videos and includes a built-in lens to help your students learn American Sign Language (ASL)—an excellent way for all students to support hard-of-hearing peers. You can also discuss with your students how to add text that highlights important information shared in their video posts. View this interesting Wakelet collection created by a deaf British educator that includes several ways to use Flip to support hard-of-hearing learners.

3. Include visual aids to enhance understanding.

Visual information is crucial for deaf students; incorporating pictures, graphics, and visuals in presentations whenever possible improves comprehension significantly. These sites offer free, quality images:

  • Unsplash (reviewed here) – This resource offers high-quality images for almost any need. Unsplash for Education includes curated collections specifically tailored to the needs of educators, with topics such as history, math and science, and nature. Each downloadable image provides information for proper attribution.
  • Pixabay (reviewed here) – Pixabay offers free access to over four million images in various formats without registration. Although attribution to Pixabay’s images isn’t required, we always recommend including it with each image.
  • The Noun Project (reviewed here) – Icons are an excellent option for providing visuals for students. The Noun Project shares over five million free icons for download, many of which are editable, allowing you to change the shape, background color, and direction of the icon. This resource requires a free registration to download icons. 
  • Nappy (reviewed here) – Cultural diversity and representation are essential components of visual displays. Nappy provides stunning free images featuring Black and Brown people. Use the search feature to find images related to any topic. Be sure to review Nappy before sharing: it includes a category entitled NSFW (not suitable for work), which features pregnancy photos. 

4. Be thoughtful with classroom seating arrangements.

Arrange seating so students can see your face when speaking. Hard-of-hearing students benefit from U-shaped classrooms since they can easily see many faces. The U shape also promotes inclusivity.

5. Minimize distractions and background noise.

Reduce background noise and distractions to allow students to focus on the speaker. Simple steps like closing windows to block outside noise significantly improve students’ ability to hear conversations.

6. Provide written study guides and notes.

Providing written material in advance allows students to follow along with oral presentations and lets deaf students access all lesson content, even if they miss some information during the presentation. 

7. Add closed captions to slide presentations.

Include slide shows during lessons when possible to offer more opportunities for deaf students to stay on track with your presentation. Turn on closed captions in Google Slides by following these instructions or in PowerPoint by following the instructions here. Adding closed captions to your live presentations allows all students to follow along with your oral presentation by reading the text as it appears. 

All students deserve a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive classroom. International Week of the Deaf serves as a timely reminder of the importance of accommodating the unique needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Incorporating practical strategies such as using captions, embracing assistive technology, providing visual aids, and minimizing distractions offers an opportunity to create an environment where deaf students can thrive academically and socially.

What suggestions do you have to celebrate the International Week of the Deaf and to promote inclusivity in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below as we learn together.

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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