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Five Ways to be Successful at the Ro-gakko

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 11 months ago

Five Ways to be Successful at the Ro-gakko!

Teaching at schools for the hearing impaired

James Zacchini


Every student at the ro-gakko is hearing impaired to a different degree. This makes creating a lesson which will benefit all students quite difficult. Some students have total hearing loss, others you would not realise were students at a school for the deaf if you met them on the street. Then of course there is a range of students in between. Here are a few ideas I hope will help:


1. Visually oriented lessons are the most successful. Anything you teach will be enhanced if you have visual stimuli to go along with it. For example, if teaching vocabulary, flash cards with the word in English on one side and a picture on the other are very useful. They can be used for drills and for games. After students have been drilled long enough, you can play a game where you place the cards picture side up on a table. Then you say the word and the students race to find it. The person with the most cards at the end is of course the winner. But also be careful here. Some students have sharp hearing and can pick up on your English better than others, so be careful not to let one student dominate the game. Confidence is as important as ability for your students, especially at the ro-gakko. A variation on this game is to hold up the cards individually yourself. This allows you more control in groups of varying ability as you can call on the person and award the cards for correct answers.


If teaching grammar or any other topic, it's always a good idea to support your lesson with pictures of the relevant situation. This will give students visual clues which will combine well with their reading and listening skills.


2. Learn to communicate yourself. As with learning Japanese before or soon after we arrive in Japan, it is a good idea to learn some sign language. This shows that you are willing to communicate on more than one level, and even your slightest effort will be appreciated and rewarded. Before your first visit ask for some materials on basic sign. These will usually include the signs for hiragana/katakana (unlike written Japanese, there is no distinction between the two in Japanese sign) and a few situational phrases like "watashi wa". This will allow you to introduce yourself to the students in sign and they will greatly appreciate this. Now I'm not saying you have to study sign to the degree where you can communicate fluently (Japanese sign is combined with spoken Japanese, so if you understand one or both your job will be made easier), but even the slightest effort on your part will encourage the students no end.


3. Role reversal: become the student. Some of my most enjoyable lessons were when the students became teachers themselves. They would teach me Japanese signs for English words which we had covered, and for Japanese words, phrases, or situations I was familiar with. They taught me how to sign compliments (so I could tell them when they did well), simple questions, country names, family members, girlfriend, boyfriend, friend-friend, and a host of other things that maybe they shouldn't have taught me. It's all about communication. Any effort you make to communicate to them in their medium will be doubly rewarded in their attempts to learn yours.


4. Lean on your JTE. One of the greatest things about the ro-gakko set up is the class size. These are usually quite small (2-6 students) and will contain sometimes two or three teachers. Move slowly in your lessons, and always rely on your JTE to help explain difficult or even simple points. These are classes where you really don't want to leave someone behind. If you discourage them early, they may be lost to you and to the English language forever more.


5. Never look discouraged or frustrated! In many classroom situations, teachers strategically use looks of disappointment or frustration (sometimes feigned, but sadly, often not!) as a tool to motivate their students. After all, students like most people would rather have you be angry at them than disappointed. This should never be done at the ro-gakko. You may be able to communicate your emotion in such a situation, but you cannot control its impact or outcome. In a normal situation we can use our English and Japanese skills to build up a person after they've fallen down. This is much harder to accomplish in a school for the hearing impaired. So even if you are frustrated never register your disappointment. Always try to encourage and support your students.


Finally, remember this, many of your students may be impaired to such a degree that they never truly learn the Japanese language even after years and years of study. So don't be surprised that they struggle with even rudimentary English. English should be treated as a tool for communication here. It can communicate to your students the existence of a larger world.


Never forget that you are that world's primary ambassador. Good luck!

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