In August, the doors to Melodie Courtney’s new Spoken English classroom opened to six elementary students ready to advance on in their bilingual education journey. As technology has evolved and the resources available for deaf and hard of hearing children have increased, the communication needs and preferences of students with hearing loss have also changed. ASD is committed to meeting the needs of all students, as well as providing full access to language – regardless of a student’s preferred communication approach. The Spoken English classroom supports ASD’s strategic goal to expand the spoken English component of the ASL/English Bilingual Approach.
Within the Spoken English classroom, students use a phonics-driven curriculum in their quest to read and write. Ms. Courtney assists her students in building their vocabulary by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters, commonly known as “sounding words out.” Music plays a significant role, as well. Lessons on rhyme, rhythm, and cadence are incorporated into Circle Time, and dedicated music lessons are held twice per week. Ms. Courtney explained that involving music into her lesson planning creates a fun way for students to hone their listening skills. The students even begin every day with a morning song!
All six students within the Spoken English classroom have bilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in both ears). Five students are implanted with cochlear implants while one student wears hearing aids. The hearing assistive technology found in every classroom and common area at ASD is particularly helpful for students in the Spoken English class. The classroom’s digital system, the Phonak Roger system, automatically syncs the teacher’s wireless microphone and Smartboard technology with a receiver connected to each student’s hearing device, allowing them to receive spoken information clearly without background noise. For added clarity, the classroom is equipped with a sound field tower, which amplifies sound from the classroom media, including both the teacher’s microphone and Smarboard, while reducing background noise. Ms. Courtney explained that the students also utilize equipment that connects to their individual laptops and iPads, which allows for auditory information to be received directly from those devices to their hearing aids or cochlear implants.
ASD’s team of audiologists and speech language pathologists provide many students, including those in the Spoken English classroom, with a variety of individualized services, including aural habilitation and speech therapy. This team works closely with Ms. Courtney to reinforce her classroom lessons and subject-specific vocabulary. Though the school year has just begun, parents are already pleased with their children’s progress, and are working to continue Ms. Courtney’s curriculum at home.
Outside of their classroom, many of the students in the Spoken English class have assimilated beautifully within ASD’s bilingual campus, easily conversing in both American Sign Language and spoken English. Outside of their primary classroom, they communicate with their friends using both languages, depending on the communication preferences of those around them.
ASD has always been committed to preparing our students for success in a hearing world. The Spoken English classroom supports our ASL/English Bilingual Approach by strengthening our students’ spoken English skills while providing opportunities to gain fluency in American Sign Language – a truly bilingual model!