Acoustic Highlighting

Acoustic Highlighter

UDL 3.2 UDL 5.3

Acoustic Highlighting is a listening comprehension practice in which a teacher places emphasis on specific words or phrases in order to accentuate information and make it more auditorily available for students. Much like a highlighter marker is used to draw attention to certain parts of a text, Acoustic Highlighting makes words more salient by altering how keywords are presented in comparison to the rest of the audible message (e.g., words or phrases can be accented, sung, stated at a slower pace). This strategy is primarily used after a student has missed key information in an auditory message and as a means to provide the student with the message again with additional scaffolded support (e.g., “It is now time to clean up.”). While Acoustic Highlighting can be implemented to support listening comprehension at any grade level, it can also be used to specifically to support individualized speech and language targets as well as challenges that multi-step directions may present for students.

Implementation Tips

Choosing Highlighting Cues
Pair auditory cues such as, “Listen” or “Pay attention,” with Acoustic Highlighting to help engage students especially when hearing an auditory message for the second time, and helps bring awareness to information that was previously missed (e.g., “Listen for ‘he’ and ‘she’ in my sentence.”).
Determining Usage
Coordinate the key targets within a message and a student’s auditory objectives (e.g., learning sentence structure, tenses, prepositional phrases) to help determine when to use this strategy in the classroom. If the listening environment presents challenges (e.g., noisy), highlight only one or two keywords in a sentence.
Supporting Comprehension
Reduce or reword the auditory message if Acoustic Highlighting does not appear to help a student. Also, vary how words or phrases are highlighted to make them stand out and increase the effectiveness of the strategy (e.g., change the speed of speech, emphasize using intonation, sing, whisper).
Using Repetition To Deepen Understanding
Encourage a student with hearing loss to repeat an auditory message in which Acoustic Highlighting was used in order to ensure that the message was accurately received. The student’s verbal repetition provides another opportunity to process the information and can be used to assess comprehension.
Praising With Direct Feedback
Offer praise with direct feedback when students are able to complete a task in which Acoustic Highlighting has been applied to offer encouragement and motivation for student efforts (e.g., “Kevin, nice job putting the sticker under the calendar!”).
Embedding Acoustic Highlighting In Daily Instruction
Embed Acoustic Highlighting into directions and routines throughout the school day in order to increase awareness of keywords and expectations when asking students to complete tasks. Also, use this strategy to support a student’s ability to communicate properly (e.g., S: “I eated an apple.” / T: “Oh, you ate an apple?”).
Collaborating With Teaching Staff
Collaborate with specialty teachers (e.g., art, music, science) and additional staff members (e.g., paraprofessionals, lunch monitors) that work directly with a student with hearing loss and explain how Acoustic Highlighting can be used to support communication and build consistency for the student.


Providing Support For Classroom Directions
To prepare a class for a transition, a teacher explains what students are expected to do once assignments are completed (e.g., “Please put your paper on my desk, then find a seat in the library.”). While observing student behaviors, the teacher watches as a student hands in the paper and stands around. The teacher provides an auditory cue (e.g., “Listen”), then repeats the message using Acoustic Highlighting, “Sit in the library.” After the student finds a seat in the library, the teacher repeats the message with praise to honor the student’s efforts (e.g., “Johnny, thank you for handing in your paper and sitting in the library.").
Teaching Language Targets
While reviewing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a new student entering the classroom, the teacher notices there is a learning target listed to support understanding of sentence structures with a prepositional phrase. The teacher collaborates with the classroom paraprofessional and explains how Acoustic Highlighting can be used to support this student throughout the school day. Later during an art activity when the student seems to have missed some directions, the paraprofessional reiterates the message (e.g., “Now that you have hung up your painting, clean your brushes and put them under the sink.”). The student repeats, “clean and put them under the sink” for confirmation.
Encouraging Generalization of Speech Skills
While collaborating with a Speech Therapist, a teacher is informed that a student is working on generalizing /s/ productions. The teacher decides that Acoustic Highlighting will be used to support the student with recognizing the /s/ sound, especially during 1:1 and small group instruction (e.g., while reading directions aloud, Acoustic Highlighting is provided on /s/ primarily when it is found at the beginning or end of a word). When it is the student’s turn to read aloud the teacher selects a sentence that includes /s/ for the student to practice. After, the teacher provides feedback either using Acoustic Highlighting to help the student correctly produce /s/, or positive feedback if /s/ was accurately produced.

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