Motivating Language Use

Key words: Instructional Strategies, Language, K-12

Submitted by: Yaser Dhaher

Topic: How to increase language use in the classroom

Task: To motivate deaf and hard of hearing students to use language in the classroom by altering its social and physical environment.


Schirmer, B.R. (1994). Langauge and literacy development in children who are deaf. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Duchan, D.F. (1995). Supporting language learning in everyday life. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group, Inc.

Flaherty, C. (1993). Gaining group cooperation through role playing. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 9, 32-44.

Forest, M., & Pearpoint, J. (1992). Families, friends, and circles. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Gallagher, T. & Craig, H. (1984). Pragmatic assessment: Analysis of a highly frequent repeated utterance. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 49, 386-377.


One of the challenges that teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children face is how to increase the language proficiency of their students. Throughout the following discussion, references to language include written and spoken English as well as effective communicational skills in either English or ASL.

It is well documented that, in general, deaf and hard of hearing students are lagging behind in language skills when compared with their hearing peers. One of the reasons behind this deficiency is the fact that deaf and hard of hearing children lack the interest and the motivation to use language. Another reason is the low expectations that teachers and adults have, of deaf and hard of hearing children in all subject areas including language and communications.

The issue on hand is so deep and broad, I could not possibly cover it within the scope of this paper. I will though, focus on two areas that I think are important and accessible to all teachers. These areas are, the social context and the physical context in the classroom.

In the following discussion the underlying assumption is that teachers are striving to ignite the child's burning desire to achieve his/her goals use of language.

Social Context: In a classroom that supports language use through social interaction, students should be working together in solving assigned problems, which enables them to learn in an interactive, non competitive way. The assignment should provide children with a variety of roles. These roles are rotated for different activities and different days. Some of the roles suggested by Flaherty are: leader, observer, summarizer, reporter, encourager, clarifier, checker, challenger, time keeper, questioner, and predictor.

Teachers should assume an active role to promote successful use of language in social interaction. Hence, the development of social interaction that would support language use requires teachers to work with children to help them appreciate one another (Forest & Pearpoint, 1992). Meanwhile, teachers need to observe students and identify the behaviors that interfere with successful social interaction. These behaviors should be worked on by the teacher with the child to eliminate them or by substituting them with positive behaviors (Gallagher & Craig, 1986).

Physical Context: Teachers may use the physical environment in the classroom to promote language use. The use of manipulatives, pictures and objects is one way to facilitate language use. Another way is through the use of the physical space in the classroom. The space could be divided into theme areas that would serve as interest areas where the child's movement goals could be designed to coordinate with communication goals.

Some of the suggested possibilities for theme areas are: a small toy area with manipulable objects; a puzzle area with puzzles of different levels of difficulty; an art table with paints, colors, paper, easels; a kitchen with appliances, dishes, pots and pans.

A writing center is an idea that works well with the thematic construction of the classroom space. It is especially appropriate in preschools and kindergarten. In a writing center, a special table with paper in an array of sizes and colors, pens, markers, is designated for writing.

The classroom should be a print rich environment. This could be achieved by creating charts of classroom rules and routines using prints in a bulletin board and labeling objects in the classroom. Another contributing factor of a print rich environment, is a comfortable, obvious, and inviting library center.


It is important to realize that people use language to achieve different goals, and the same applies to deaf and hard of hearing children. Hence as teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children we have to increase the opportunities in which use of language by our students enables them to achieve their goals. The traditional teacher centered classrooms do not provide the opportunities for a meaningful interactional environment, in which children can achieve authentic goals.


1. How well can the techniques mentioned above and the traditional teaching methods be used interchangeably?

2. Does it cost more to run a classroom using the above techniques than running it using a traditional teacher centered style?

Uploaded by: Melissa Close/ Kent State University/Deaf Education Major