This is the second year that I have had a couple of students who are hard of hearing in my music classroom. How do you teach someone to sing or play instruments when they can’t hear the sound they are producing? This is the question that I was faced with last year. After some trial and error and a brand new book “Music for Children with Hearing Loss” by Lyn Schraer-Joiner, I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a few things.
First and foremost, the students that I have act just like any other student in my class and want to be treated as such. They do not like to be singled out or have any attention brought to them, so when I make modifications to the program for them I try to be subtle about my changes.
When the two classes come to see me for music, I am very aware of a few things:
1) I only speak when I am facing the students. I do not speak when I am facing down to play an instrument or when my body is turned to the blackboard.
2) I ensure that the students who are hard of hearing are beside a good model for singing songs. This can be a skilled student or myself.
3) When I am speaking one on one with the students who are hard of hearing I lean down to their level. I speak normally and do not overemphasize any words.
4) In all of my other classes, I do not repeat the answers that have been given by students during class discussions as I feel that it diminishes their voice. The exception to this rule is in my classes with my students who are hard of hearing.
5) I bring manipulatives beside my mouth so that the students can focus on my mouth and the manipulative at the same time.
6) Brand new learning for me this year was to place the soprano glockenspiel, xylophone or metallophone on a raised music stand or table as this will make it closer to the chest cavity, which will help the student hear the instrument more clearly.
7) When I do activities where the students have to match the feeling of the music on the piano, I arrange it so my students who are hard of hearing are closer to the piano as the notes get higher.
In a nutshell, after working with my students who are hard of hearing, their singing and instrument playing have really improved over the course of the year or so during which I have taught them. Singing and instrument playing is a skill that all can achieve given the right instructional practices.