Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn: Teaching Listening Skills to Students with Visual Impairments.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Author:||Swenson, Anna M.|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X|
|Issue:||Date: March, 2012 Source Volume: 106 Source Issue: 3|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn: Teaching Listening Skills to Students with Visual Impairments (Nonfiction work)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Barclay, Lizbeth A.|
Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn: Teaching Listening Skills to
Students with Visual Impairments. Lizbeth A. Barclay (Ed.). New York:
AFB Press, 2012, 547 pp., $59.95.
Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn, edited by Lizbeth Barclay, is an outstanding resource that advocates deliberate, systematic instruction in listening skills for all students who are blind or visually impaired. In this book, listening is interpreted in its broadest possible sense, highlighting its importance for language and concept development, literacy learning, social skills, technology use, and orientation and mobility. The authors emphasize that unlike hearing, which is passive in nature, "listening is a skill that needs to be taught throughout a student's school career." To my knowledge, no other single publication incorporates so much useful information about teaching listening skills to students with visual impairments. The book's comprehensive approach to the topic of listening should attract a wide variety of readers, among them teachers of students with visual impairments, parents, early childhood teachers, orientation and mobility specialists, technology specialists, and speech-and-language therapists.
The 11 contributors to Learning to Listen/ Listening to Learn have produced a book that is clearly written, consistent in style, and well-referenced. A number of the authors are highly experienced teachers of students with visual impairments or orientation and mobility specialists; others are associated with the California School for the Blind or university programs, and two have expertise in the areas of learning disabilities and speech and language, respectively. The high caliber of the contributors and their extensive backgrounds in the field of educating students with visual impairments add immeasurably to the value of this book.
Due to the book's length and multiplicity of topics, most readers are unlikely to read it from cover to cover. However, the organization of Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn makes it easy for educators, therapists, and families to locate sections of specific interest. The book is divided into two major parts. Part 1, The Development of Listening Skills, features successive chapters discussing listening instruction for four different age groups or grade levels, beginning with infants and toddlers and ending with middle and high school students. The last chapter in this part explores listening skills for orientation and mobility. Part 2, entitled Unique Needs, focuses on listening instruction for students with additional disabilities (including moderate to severe intellectual disabilities), hearing impairments, and language and learning disabilities, with a final chapter on students who are English language learners. Reflecting the fact that approximately 60 percent of children who are blind or visually impaired have additional disabilities, this second part of the book is equal in length to the first part and contains valuable background information about each area of need.
In addition to its two major parts, Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn offers an extensive Listening Skills Continuum in two formats: first as a detailed list of skills that includes age levels and sources and then as a checklist designed for use with individual students on multiple assessment dates. Behaviors and skills that parallel those on the Listening Skills Continuum appear as short bulleted lists at the beginning of chapter sections throughout the book, linking content with the continuum.
As a practitioner, my first priority in recommending a book to colleagues is often its practical application to everyday teaching. Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn contains a wealth of guidelines, strategies, and activities, both in the main body of the text and displayed in numerous sidebars and tables. A sampling of topics includes "Activities and Guidelines for the Development of Early Listening Skills" in infants; "Instructional Strategies for Audio-Assisted Reading" for elementary-aged students; "Activities for Practicing Listening in Social Situations" for secondary students; "Guidelines for Incorporating Prompts" for students with additional disabilities; and "Red Flags for Auditory Processing and Phonological Disorders" for students with a suspected learning disability. One particularly useful appendix following the chapter on students with additional disabilities suggests alternative functional goals related to listening skills that align with a standards-based core curriculum. Frequent vignettes demonstrate how suggested strategies might be effective with individual students. The tone in the vignettes, and throughout the entire book, reflects deep sensitivity toward children and the unique way in which they learn. Nowhere is this more evident than in the chapter on students with additional disabilities, where subtle behaviors guide student-teacher interactions, and the adult allows the child "to act, rather than be acted upon." As previously mentioned, Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn is a comprehensive resource that explores many areas thoroughly. For busy teachers who may not have time to consult multiple sources, the in-depth presentation of each topic--including background information, research summaries, and practical strategies-means that the information necessary to identify a need, write a goal or objective, and implement instruction is all in one place. Extensive reference lists at the end of each chapter enable readers to explore specific topics further, if desired.
CURRENT RESEARCH AND BEST PRACTICES
The content of Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn reflects current research and developments in the fields of general and special education, as well as best practices in teaching students who are blind or visually impaired. For example, readers will encounter references to the Common Core State Standards, the National Early Literacy Panel, the Alphabetic Braille and Contracted Braille Study, and the Response to Intervention model for identifying students with learning disabilities. Technology receives significant attention in many chapters, beginning with the use of technological tools such as touch screen tablets to develop listening and recreational skills in preschoolers. By the time children are in first or second grade, it is recommended that they have access to personal digital assistants (electronic notetakers) for information processing and reinforcement of early literacy skills. Technology becomes ever more important as students mature, and later chapters in Part 1 provide detailed information on the types of assistive technology, the use of audio materials, and the role of electronic aids in mobility. Although the chapter on students with additional disabilities includes an excellent section on using technology to create meaningful recreational listening experiences, electronic augmentative communication devices are mentioned only briefly. Readers might have benefited from more discussion of these
tools, especially strategies for teaching auditory scanning skills when a student is unable to see the pictures, words, or letters on a device.
Despite the inclusion of listening skills in the compensatory skills area of the expanded core curriculum, instruction in listening for students who are visually impaired has often been neglected or haphazard, at best. With the publication of Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn, teachers and specialists now have a well-researched, practical guide to developing this critical learning modality. I have already asked my program to purchase the book and am pleased to have the opportunity to recommend it to the wider professional community serving students who are blind or visually impaired.
Anna M. Swenson, M.Ed., braille literacy consultant, Fairfax County Public Schools, 7423 Camp Alger Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22042; e-mail:
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|