Recently I was lucky enough to spend a few days in a school for deaf children, and this is what I learned…
On my first day I was amazed to discover that first thing on a Monday morning was whole school singing. That’s not a typo for signing, I mean SINGING! I couldn’t imagine what it would be like, and couldn’t wait to get into the hall to find out….. They had the words up on an IWB (Interactive Whiteboard for the non-teachers reading this) and the headteacher led the children in a singing and signing session.
The singing helped the children with their pronunciation – the headteacher emphasised the vowel sounds and endings – and the signing helped with understanding. She also used visual phonics to help the children understand which sound they should be making. Some of the songs were done more than once so that the children could practise particular sounds, and there was plenty of praise for those children who made an extra effort with their speech.
Before I arrived I had imagined that the school would be extremely quiet, but it is no more so (perhaps even less so) than a mainstream school. My biggest surprise was how much speech some of the children have. Not all of them are profoundly deaf – many of them wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants and can access quite a lot of speech. Some of them spoke so clearly that had I seen them in a different context I would never have know that they were deaf. However, for some of the others, communication in English is difficult, even impossible, and so this is why BSL (British Sign Language) and SSE (Sign Supported English) are also used in the school.