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Sound and Fury
Deaf Culture
Cochlear Implants
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Lesson Plans
Deaf and Diverse The Science of Sound

Girl with Cochlear Implant
The sense of hearing is generated by the ear, the brain and nervous system. It is a critical element of the development of speech production. Students will explore the sense of hearing and the importance of other cues that aid in comprehension and speech. Students will understand the sequence of events that occur when we speak and listen. Grade Level: 9–12

Subject Matter:
  • Science- human biology, sound waves
  • Social Studies-cultural awareness
  • Writing- reflective, informational

    Learning Standards:
    • Writes reflective compositions (e.g., uses personal experience as a basis for reflection on some aspect of life, draws abstract comparisons between specific incidents and abstract concepts, maintains a balance between describing incidents and relating them to more general abstract ideas that illustrate personal beliefs, moves from specific examples to generalizations about life)

    • Writes compositions that are focused for different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)

    • Knows the general structure and functions of cells in organisms: Understands the structure and functions of nervous systems in multicellular animals (e.g., nervous systems are formed from specialized cells that conduct signals rapidly through the long cell extensions that make up nerves; nerve cells communicate with each other by secreting specific excitatory and inhibitory molecules)

      Source: Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning

    Learning Objectives

    • Students will understand the cycle of how we listen and hear ourselves speak
    • Students will gain some knowledge about sound waves
    • Students will understand elements of the role that the nervous system plays in enabling humans to hear
    • Students will describe and explain some of the structures and functions of the human body
    • Students will understand that deaf people rely on other cues besides lipreading for comprehension

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    Procedures for Teachers:

      Student Prerequisites:

    • Students should have a basic understanding of the physical functions of the ear

      • Target Word list — "pet, pit, met, map, man, bet, bit, bat"
      • Headphones for each pair of students (sets that cover the entire ear)
      • Set of five small film canisters for each student
      • Rice, popcorn kernels, lentils, paper clips, dried peas — enough for five pieces per canister
      • Poster paper
      • Crayons or colored markers
      • Oatmeal canisters and candles for each group of four students


        1. Divide students into pairs. Using the list of target words, students should draw a quick sketch of each target word on a separate piece of paper.
        • While one student wears the headphones (listener), the other student (speaker) must read each word from the word list. The listener must try to repeat what the speaker said (no picture cues).
        • Then, the speaker should repeat each target word aloud while the listener points to the image of the word read by the speaker.
        • Next, the listener should remove the headphones. The speaker will now put each target word in a sentence, saying the sentence aloud, but omitting the target word. The listener should try to identify the target word.
        • Last, the listener should put the headphones back on and read the word list aloud to experience the sensation of talking, but not hearing the sound of her/his words through her/his ears.
        • Discuss with the class the difficulties of (lip) speechreading. Did the picture clues help to identify the target words? Did using the word in a sentence aid comprehension? How does it feel to not hear yourself talk?

        2. Students may choose to wear the headphones for a longer period, perhaps for the rest of the class session, or that night at home. Students will then write a composition on their personal experience during their trial "deaf" period. Describe the awareness of other senses, any uncomfortable feelings, frustrations, means of communication.

        3. Pass out five film canisters and five canister items (popcorn kernels, lentils, paper clips, dried peas and grains of rice) to each student.
        • Have each student place the popcorn into one film canister, the lentils into another, the paper clips into the third, the dried peas into the fourth, the rice into the fifth, and close the lids.
        • Divide the students into pairs and have them listen to one another's shaking canisters. Working as a team, pairs will shake their canisters and try to match the canisters that sound the same. This exercise will demonstrate Auditory Discrimination. We need to distinguish sound in order to identify it, and repeat it when speaking. Speech production is more than moving the lips and tongue; it is a process that involves the brain, the ear, the nervous system and the vocal organs.

        4. Work with the students to share their knowledge of the steps involved in communicating with others — speaking and listening. Guide the students to include the following steps:
        • Before speaking, we must think about what we want to communicate and mentally organize our thoughts.
        • The brain sends instruction to the nerves, and muscles in the lungs, vocal cords, tongue and lips (vocal organs).
        • Sounds waves travel from the speaker's mouth to the listener's ear, which activates the listener's hearing mechanism (the ear).
        • Sound waves travel through the listener's outer, middle, and inner ear, sending impulses to the acoustic nerve in the brain.
        • The brain analyzes sound and recognizes words, phrases and sentences
        • The cycle continues from the speaker to the listener.

        5. Refer to the diagram of the ear on this Web site. Trace the path of the speaker's sound waves. Discuss the path of hearing. If you are working with younger children, you may adjust the content as necessary.
        • Sound waves enter the outer ear through the external auditory canal, or pinna.
        • The waves or vibrations are funneled into the canal until they reach the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.
        • When the sound waves strike the tympanic membrane, it vibrates and transmits these waves to three tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear, which amplify the sound waves. The names of these bones are malleus (hammer), the incus, (anvil) and the stapes, (stirrup). They are named for the objects they resemble.
        • The stapes sends the waves through the oval window to the inner ear, where the cochlea is located.
        • The cochlea is filled with fluid. The cochlea contains the organ of Corti, which is made up of tiny hair cells. These cells are specialized sensory hearing cells, covered with fine hairs that project into the fluid of the inner ear.
        • The vibrations (sound waves) in the fluid move the hairs. This stimulation of the hairs causes internal changes in the sensory cells, which lead to the sound waves' being converted into electrical nerve impulses.
        • The impulses travel to the brain through the vestibular and cochlear nerves, and the brain interprets the impulses as sound.

        6. Ask the students to prepare a poster that shows the cycle of hearing. Where does it go? How is it heard? Include the speaker's role in the cycle. Students should be prepared to present their poster to the class.

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    • Prepare an oatmeal canister by making a penny-size hole in the lid. Working in groups, one student holds the canister on its side, hole near the top, about 4 inches from the candle. Carefully light the candle. One student lightly taps the bottom of the canister, sending sound waves to the candle. Watch the flame. The sound waves will make the flame go out. Discuss results.

    Social Studies:
    Research the history of deaf education in America. Investigate the civil rights of the deaf, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    • Study American Sign Language and its history

    • Study the brain and its functions; locate the areas of specialization for hearing and speaking abilities in the cerebral cortex.

    Organizers for Students:
      1. Target Word list — "pet, pit, met, map, man, bet, bit, bat"

      2. List the ways in which humans communicate? Be prepared to share your ideas with the class.

      3. SOUND AND FURY Flash animation of how a cochlear implant works.

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    This lesson plan was developed by Angela Guiffreda, a teacher of the deaf at P.S. 204 in Brooklyn, New York.
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