Five language activities for children with hearing loss of any age at any language level

If you are looking for fun, no-fail language activities, you’ve come to the right place.  These five activities can be used to practice vocabulary and elicit a variety of language structures for students with hearing loss at any age.

  1. Experience stories – Take pictures during a nature walk, field trip or science experiment.  Use the pictures to make a book and have the child dictate the language used in the experience.  Children love to see themselves and their friends in the pictures and will want to share the book with others, getting multiple opportunities to practice the target language structures and vocabulary.   Check out this blog post for examples of experience stories.
  2. Role plays – Use role plays to retell stories using targeted language. Choose simple books with characters that have dialogue with other characters.  Good ones for younger kids are The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Little Red Hen and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Add some props to make the activity more fun!  Older kids may like books from the Frog and Toad series or chapters from Pippi Longstocking and Charlotte’s Web.
  3. Games – Teacher- and commercial-made games are a great way to practice syntax and pragmatic language. Practice turn-taking, asking and answering questions, vocabulary and more with games such as Candyland and Memory.  Adapt a commercial-made game by replacing the cards with your targeted language.  To review question forms and vocabulary using Candyland with older students, have each student roll a die and answer a question written on a card (e.g., have a student ask Jane if she knows the definition of a gas and what it is).  If the student answers correctly, she can move that amount of spaces on the board.
  4. Pretend Experiences – Setting up experiences for students to pretend can help with listening and language when the actual experience occurs. Create a restaurant and practice ordering from the menu, role playing each part (e.g., server, customer, chef).  With older students, practice ordering pizza.  You’ll give students the opportunity to practice vocabulary, syntax and pragmatic language while listening in a quieter setting.  The real fun can happen if you make the pretend experience a real one.
  5. Art – Cutting, gluing, painting and drawing can be taken up a notch when you use it as a language activity. Have children ask each other for their art materials and say what they will do with it.  By the end, they will have a beautiful art project while practicing vocabulary and language along the way.

Whether you teach younger or older kids with hearing loss or they use simple or complex language, these fun and easy activities will guarantee successful language lessons.  Try one tomorrow.  I’m sure your students will be asking to do them again!

Jennifer Manley served as a classroom teacher for students ages 3 to 12 at CID – Central Institute for the Deaf. She currently works in professional development giving presentations on auditory development and is co-author of CID SPICE for Life, an auditory learning curriculum and author of the 2nd edition of CID SPICE.

7 replies
  1. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these suggestions! I love the idea of using a game. I have found games to be incredibly helpful in my own language-learning experiences, and one especially useful part of those experiences has been the challenge of explaining the rules of the game. Even without modifying the game (or modifying it much), in addition to giving students practice with various expressive language structures, this activity also gives them an opportunity to develop their communicative competence; the person explaining the game has to monitor their audience’s understanding of the rules and repair communication breakdowns in order for the game to be successfully played. Depending on the ages and language levels of the students (as well as the complexity of the game), that role could be rotated among students, or assigned to individual students as an extension activity. I also am really drawn to this activity because it feels like it could be a great fit for older students. I work with high school students, and I think that (again with thoughtful selection of the specific game/s to be modified) this strategy could connect to their interests and maturity levels really nicely while also addressing students’ language levels.

  2. Yara
    Yara says:

    These are all great ideas! I have a few students who could benefit greatly from this, as it will keep their focus for sure. All I was able to think of to keep them engaged while having fun before reading this article was creating a specialized board game.

  3. Giannina
    Giannina says:

    Maria, I never thought to use call and response activities with my students. Some of my students would benefit from this and would love it! I was surfing the web and found this

    She has really great ideas. One idea was Character Education. This is part of the curriculum at my school. This is a great way to praise and motivate students for a job well done.

  4. Nurul Akmar
    Nurul Akmar says:

    I love the ideas listed in this post. I am trying to get my students to role-play Three Little Pigs using popsicle sticks with pictures of the characters and props. I would like to ask for ideas for language activities pertaining to specific concepts such as the ones in Science and Social Studies. My students struggle with that a lot but I am not sure how I can help them experience these concepts more concretely.

  5. Maria
    Maria says:

    Those are great book choices in the Role Plays activity! I’d like to add to the suggestions. The Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant provides lots of opportunities for early elementary kids to explore their feelings through role play. Fits well with Sentence Pattern III (NP + cop. + adjective) goals. Another great author for language plays activities is Bill Martin Jr. (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom etc.). These books are good for choral readings, recitations and call and response activities.

  6. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Awesome ideas! I’ve seen games such as go fish adapted so that the cards have target words with pictures, focusing on certain letter-sound combinations. It’s a great way to have children practice both individual sounds and blending of words in an engaging way!

  7. Julia
    Julia says:

    Great ideas for families to practice the language & vocabulary that children are developing or learning in school or therapy. Guess Who, Guess Where, and Twenty Questions are great games for repetitive language, too.


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