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Time to Take Notes!

Okay, so I get that I tell my teacher why I
can’t take notes and then I ask for a notetaker. But what do I say to [peer]
when she asks why I’m not taking my own notes?”
My eighth-grade student
looks at me from across the table, his notecards, history text, and class handouts
spread out as we begin to prepare for an upcoming test. Like many students with
hearing loss, he is not able to take notes during class lectures despite the
fact that his teacher writes key words on the board, paces lectures and class
discussions appropriately, maximizes the use of his hearing technology, and
provides organized handouts to accompany her lectures. Our one-to-one sessions
provide a comfortable, reassuring place for him to practice what he can say. “I can’t listen, lip read, and write all at
the same time. When I look down at my paper to write, I miss what [teacher] is
saying. And then it’s all confusing and I have to ask her to repeat. That’s why
it will be helpful to have your notes. So, you know, I can listen and know what
everyone’s talking about,”
he rehearses.

order to help students fully access class lectures and discussions, especially
in middle and high school, peer notetakers are a valuable accommodation.
Because of the way hearing aids and cochlear implants process sound, students
with hearing loss require extra time to listen and make sense of what they
hear. Many students also rely on speechreading in addition to their hearing
technology, making it nearly impossible to write at the same time. My students
have had great success with peer notetakers when there are clear guidelines and
when everyone is on the same page. Below are a few tips for setting this up for
your students:

  •        Communicate
    with the teacher(s) and explain the rationale for peer notetaking.
    notes the student has attempted to take and simulations of hearing loss can be
    helpful when teachers are resistant. Some teachers initially feel that use of a
    peer notetaker lets the student with hearing loss, “off the hook,” eliminating
    any sense of responsibility for that student. It is our job to help teachers
    understand that peer notetakers allow our students to access instruction more
    completely rather than simply reducing the workload.

  •        Involve
    the student.
     Role-play with the
    student and support him or her in meeting with teachers to advocate for peer
    notetakers. Teachers are often more receptive when students are able to
    articulate their own needs. Conversations may include the difficulty involved
    in speechreading while trying to write, the pace of the conversation or
    lecture, and the likelihood of missing important details of not just content
    but also information such as safety and instructions in science labs when using
    chemicals and hazardous materials. 
  •     Support the student in advocating with the peer notetaker. Teachers are often able to identify a peer who would be a good notetaker. This student should be someone who is generally organized, has good attendance, takes clear notes, and is up for the responsibility of supporting the student with hearing loss by sharing notes. Some schools identify a second student as a back up in case the primary notetaker is absent or needs a break. One of my students chose to write a letter to her note taker outlining the specific information she wanted included. Another student chose to have a conversation with her peer with my facilitation. Think about including lecture notes, details of assignments, vocabulary terms, class procedures, rules, and instructions, and peer comments and questions. Many students are just learning how to take notes themselves and may require additional support or supplemental teacher notes.


  •       Decide
    how the student with hearing loss will get a copy of the notes.
     Some students take notes on a computer and
    email a copy to the student with hearing loss. Others choose to photocopy hand
    written notes. A popular option is to use our carbonless Note-Writer paper,
    which provides an instant copy of notes. ( order.) The student with hearing loss
    will be responsible for getting the notes from the peer notetaker and as the
    TOD, we can help facilitate this process.

  •        Identify
    an adult who can monitor the notetaking process.
    Adults should continue to
    check in with both students so that any challenges that arise can be addressed
    with adult facilitation. This way, if there is a problem the students can
    express their concerns without worrying about hurt feelings or creating

  •        Help the
    student with hearing loss understand their role in class.
    Having a peer
    notetaker does not give our students the green light to check out during class.
    Many of my students choose to copy key terms from the board as a way of staying
    involved. Students should still be expected to participate in discussions, ask
    and answer questions, and clarify as needed.

checking in regularly with the student, teacher(s), and notetaker, nuances of
the process can be addressed and modified as needed in order to create a smooth
system that benefits everyone involved.

What other strategies
have you used with peer note takers?

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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