Helping to support sign language learning for deaf children in early childhood environments

Having deaf or hearing impaired children in a classroom environment with hearing children can be a great opportunity for the whole group to learn off of each other and develop social relationships with peers regardless of hearing ability. Here are some ways that early childhood educators can make the environment conducive to learning and development for all the children. 

Teach all lessons in both verbal and sign language

It's important to treat your classroom as a bilingual environment where all communication is in both sign language and spoken language. It is important for hearing impaired children to be exposed to a wide range of language at an early age so that they can develop the neural pathways for language at the most 'malleable' periods of development. You may find that the hearing-able children also start to use sign language in communication and develop a sign vocabulary from your demonstrations, which will allow them to communicate more openly with deaf peers. 

Encourage face-to-face communication

As people who are lip reading or using sign language need a line of sight to communicate it's important to set an early expectation that all communication in the classroom (between peers and teacher-student interactions) are face-to-face so that everyone has a chance of communication. By normalising this style of communication you can create the best possible environment for learning for everyone in the class. Children with reduced hearing can miss out on 'incidental' and overheard language, which can affect the depth and breadth of vocabulary that they are exposed to if there is not an effort to communicate in this way. 

Promote ability in the classroom

While children with hearing loss may have some more challenges in learning certain skills, it's important to create a supportive environment that encourages all children to perform at the best of their ability. You should be continually challenging the kids to perform to the best of their ability in any tasks. It can be great to regularly get in sign language experts who can provide advice on correct sign formation so that the kids can be easily understood. They can also help to build your vocabulary by teaching you and the kids some extra 'wow' words to help describe activities and experiences in the classroom. 

Having some children with hearing impairments in your class can help challenge you to bring your early childhood education to a new level of excellence. Running a classroom with multiple languages (including sign) can help to improve the children's acceptance of diversity and help all children in the class to develop optimum language skills. For more information, contact local professionals like Hopskotch Kindergarten.

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Learning about different cultures

No matter what your age and experience, you can always learn about the different cultures that make up our world. Kids are often surprisingly thoughtful and open to learning about the different cultures and ways that people live around the world if they get the right background. This blog has tips on the best way to teach children of all ages about different cultures so that they can truly appreciate the diversity of modern Australian society. It should be a great resource for teachers, parents, and educators who want to introduce some more culturally diverse topics into their learning programmes.

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