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Greetings from FIRST YEARS!
by Kathryn Wilson, M.A., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT (
FIRST YEARS Program Director

With this newsletter, we welcome the long-awaited arrival of spring.  In this edition, you will find new ideas on the use of language experience books and other creative literacy-related tools such as The Tar Heel Reader and Story-in-a Can,  plus additional resources from FIRST YEARS Reference Library. To complete this spring edition, Susan Eriksen (class of 2009) shares the story of her mentorship experience and journey in listening and spoken language teaching.

I look forward to seeing many of you this summer in Orlando for the AG Bell Convention! Two FIRST YEARS faculty will be presenting at the convention:

- Don Goldberg, presenting with Peter Weberm, Rachel Bibler and Holly Yeo, on Friday, June 25 from 1:00 - 4:30 p.m. Topic: Bilateral Cochlear Implants: CI Team Perspectives
- Lyn Robertson, presenting with Carol Flexer and Denise Wray, on Saturday, June 26, at 10:00-11:00 a.m. Topic: Essential Practices for Listening, Speaking, and Literacy.
Now Accepting Applications
Admissions for a new fall class are now open and we invite you to spread the word.  Prospective students can find more information on our website –

Focus on Literacy
Karen EricksonDr. Karen Erickson, director of the UNC Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and author of the unit on "emergent literacy" in our survey course, has collaborated on a new project, The Tar Heel Reader ( The Tar Heel Reader is a "collection of free, easy-to-read books" for "beginning readers of all ages." In addition, it provides a feature allowing users to "publish" a book to use for teaching and/or therapy – or just for fun!

According to Dr. Lyn Robertson, who facilitates our literacy course, this publishing capability is a "perfect way" to generate a typed, published version of a language experience book from a handwritten original. As she describes: "Books written and illustrated by hand are really wonderful; electronic books with their tidy print and pictures are also wonderful.  Part of the value of the handmade books is that children can see exactly where the book comes from, and part of the value of the electronic book is that the child can see that what can be handwritten can also be typed."

The book below, published with the Tar Heel Reader, illustrates the uses of language experience books.

Check it outFIRST YEARS: Language Experience Books

If you are interested in trying out the Tar Heel Reader, the instructions for creating, editing and publishing books are below.  In the literacy course this semester, our students will be exploring this resource more fully.

Check it outFIRST YEARS: Instructions for Using Tar Heel Reader

Lyn RobertsonDr. Lyn Robertson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, has been involved with FIRST YEARS since its inception.  She has served as both author and facilitator for our final certificate course, Literacy Development in Young Children with Hearing Loss.  Lyn has recently (2009) published Literacy and Deafness: Listening and Spoken Language, available from Plural Publishing.

Christine BartonIn a recent edition of "Circle Time" from The Listening Room™,  FIRST YEARS student Chris Barton (class of 2011) demonstrates how to combine singing with storytelling, adding a speech acoustics dimension to the fun. The "trick" is to sing, rather than read, a repeated phrase appearing in the story. This becomes the sung or chanted "refrain."  For instance, in the case of Henny Penny: "The sky is falling, the sky is falling, I must go tell the King!"*  Or, The Gingerbread Boy has the repetitive line: "I am the gingerbread boy I am and I can run, I can, I can!"

Materials provided below combine reading-by-singing with the concept of  "Story in a Can" to tell the story of  The Gingerbread Boy. The can contains cut-outs and other articles relating to the story that "pop out" as the story is progresses.

The video by Chris, with accompanying written instructions and cutout figures, describes how to create a story-in-a-can – and gives a few pointers for the storytelling.

AnimationBarton, C. (2008). Story in a can: The Gingerbread Boy
Directions and cutout figures, to be printed onto cardstock paper.

The story itself, as told (sung) by Chris.
Sound fileBarton, C. (2008). The Gingerbread Boy

Finally, a new reading milestones chart, developed by Kathryn Wilson and Megan Katz (MS, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT), is added to our collection.
Check it outFIRST YEARS: Literacy Development: Ages & Stages
*The story-in-a-Can for Henny Penny is this month's feature for The Listening Room™ Circle Time. Once you register (it's free), you can find it here.

From FIRST YEARS Reference Library
There are now well over 100 teaching documents in the FIRST YEARS online library. Some have been designed locally to provide handy reference documents to supplement course content; others have come from colleagues, who have permitted FIRST YEARS to use them in our courses and to share them with a broader professional audience, via our website.

The developmental milestone documents, included below, are examples of both home-grown and "adopted" resources.  As in our courses, we stress here that these milestone charts provide general guidelines, not absolutes. And, importantly, that: 

Children with hearing impairment, regardless of the child's age at diagnosis or degree of hearing loss, should follow the same developmental path as typically-developing children with normal hearing.
Thus, the milestone sequence is KEY when planning intervention strategies. 
Check it out FIRST YEARS:
– Developmental Milestones, Birth to 8 Years
– Speech Sound Development Chart
– Developmental Ages for Sound Mastery
– Developmental Ages for the Suppression of Phonological Processes **
– Music and Language Milestones (new
– Activities to Support the Development of Music Milestones (new
– Literacy Development: Ages & Stages (new
** Phonological processes/deviations: Predictable pronunciation "errors" (which are not errors at all!) that children make when they are learning to talk like adults, e.g. saying "wabbit" for "rabbit." These are actually patterns of simplification used by young children that limit the child's ability to produce adult-like speech.
An Insider's View: The FIRST YEARS Mentorship Experience, part 2
In our last issue, we heard from Kim Hamren (M.Ed, CED, LSLS Cert. AVT), a FIRST YEARS mentor at Listen and Talk. In this issue, we continue the "Insider's View" from the other side, from a student who completed the mentored practicum with Kim, Susan Ericksen (class of 2009).

Mentoring – A Guide on the Yellow Brick Road
By Susan Ericksen,  MS Aural Rehab. (

Sitting anxiously on a plane headed for Seattle, I recalled being told that most FIRST YEARS students are a bit apprehensive about the mentorship experience.  As I mentally raised my hand to join that group, I began to understand that my feelings stemmed from more than mere nervousness over being in a new environment. 

Following the first year of courses in this program, my philosophy of teaching had begun to change.  The idea that listening is the best way for deaf and hard of hearing children to learn had became real to me.  However, it was only a change in my mind.  Intellectually I knew that an auditory verbal approach was the best way for deaf and hard of hearing children to learn.  Seeing video clips of children working with parents and therapists had added to my understanding. But what I lacked was the first-hand experience to know that this approach would work for my students.  This trip was important to discover if I had just been taking some interesting classes or if I was truly headed in the right direction with my teaching.

At Listen and Talk, I encountered groups of small children acting like – well, groups of small children.  But there was a difference: They played and talked with one another on a level not evident in my own classroom.  They tried to include everyone in their games and were concerned if classmates were upset.  They shared stories from home, answered questions, and wrote about all of their experiences. When one little girl with bilateral implants politely asked her teacher for clarification on an assignment, I realized that these children were not playing catch up with language skills.  Many of them had surpassed the developmental levels of their hearing peers.  Here, I found the confirmation that I needed. This first part of the mentorship experience was vital for me to grasp the reality of what could be accomplished with my own students. All the teachers, therapists and students at Listen and Talk were extremely willing to share their knowledge and ideas.

Back in my own classroom, I began to use many of the techniques I had seen used. My students responded favorably but there were no overnight transformations into courteous children asking me if I wanted more Goldfish® at snack time.  I began having doubts that what seemed so plausible in theory and so visible at Listen and Talk would actually work for my students.  Maybe I was not the right person to implement it for them. Perhaps the demographic profile of my students was too different. Midway through making various changes, I almost gave up.  I had a conversation with my educational assistant suggesting we needed to consider going back to our old system. 

And then my mentor, Kim Hamren, came for her visit to our site and the need for this second part of the mentorship experience became evident.  Every day she provided me with written observations and comments.  She was quick to point out and praise the things that were done well in addition to making suggestions for improvement.  I was able to take those suggestions and implement them the very next day and get immediate feedback. Because I was attempting to make so many changes in the classroom, it was important to have someone who could point out even subtle things I may have been missing in my attempt to provide a true auditory verbal environment.

With Kim's help, I have been able to set a clearer focus on my students.  Daily listening and equipment checks now include monitoring of responses throughout the day with strategies for action if change is noted.  I have changed the design of both therapy time and classroom time so that students are now doing most of the talking, enabling them to have more conversations with both adults and their peers. They also have plenty of microphone time, whether they are leading a song or talking about new shoes, and they share their own writing every day. I rely more on recognizing developmental levels and using sound formant information to adjust goals for each student as he/she moves through different stages of auditory development. My classroom assistant is also used more effectively in providing good examples for the students. And finally, when Kim actually visited my classroom, I was able to focus on eliminating specific behaviors that were either giving the students too much visual information without having to rely on listening or that were otherwise disruptive to a good listening environment. Even the quality of my voice has changed!

Throughout my mentorship experience, I have come to respect Kim as a teacher, trust her opinion as a colleague, and value her friendship.  Working with a mentor involves more than simply getting advice or having an example to follow.  While the process may be different for each person, it is always a journey to discover your own personal best.  Along the journey, you  "nod knowingly when Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy she had the power within her to get  where she wanted to go all along" (Kartje, 1996, p.124).

Susan Ericksen Susan Ericksen,  MS Aural (Re)Habilitation (
Van Buren Intermediate School District
– Kartje, J.V. (1996). O Mentor! My Mentor! Peabody Journal of Education, 71(1):114-125.
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© 2010, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill FIRST YEARS Certificate in Auditory Learning for Young Children with Hearing Loss. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes. 
Publication date: March, 2010