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Make Sure Lessons Not Falling On Deaf Ears

School Urged To Make Sure Lessons Not Falling On Deaf Ears

It’s all very well having literacy and numeracy initiatives, but they’re a waste of time unless the students can hear what is going on.

One school that has made sure its lessons aren’t falling on “deaf ears” is Porirua’s Windley School in the heartland of Cannon’s Creek. Every classroom has now been fitted out with a sound system that amplifies the teacher’s voice, and the achievement results are impressive.

And delegates attending the New Zealand Principals’ Federation Conference in Wellington this week have the opportunity to see the system first hand with two visits to the school included in the line-up.

Principal Columba Boyack says hearing tests of its junior students revealed that 57% percent of children out of a sample size of 137 suffered from some form of hearing impairment. As a result this was having a detrimental effect on their ability to learn, including how to read.

“If you can’t hear what the teacher is saying it is difficult to learn to read properly. The message is that in order for children to learn to read they need to know which sounds relate to which letters. This system allows the students to hear the teacher as though he or she were standing right next to them.

“The other thing is that we now know the reading area of the brain is the same area that controls hearing so they go hand in hand. So if you can’t hear properly you won’t be able to read properly.”

He says the school has closely tracked the learning of students since introducing the sound systems and has found marked improvements. This included skills such as detecting rhymes and identifying syllables, counting the sound in words, comparing word lengths, and knowledge of vowel sounds.

“The big findings of the analysis, which was based on the children who had hearing problems, was that it showed all the building blocks needed to learn to read had marked improvement in the first year of introducing the system. The improvements were well beyond incidental learning - they definitely didn’t happen by chance.”

Columba Boyack says improvements have also been seen in terms of students doing what they were meant to be doing.

“We know that when the sound system was first introduced, that there has been a marked increase in on-task behaviour, in other words the children were doing what they were meant to be doing.”

Another spin-off is that teachers are not straining their voices and there has been a decrease in laryngitis and voice fatigue, he says.

[ends]

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