Auditory Preferential Seating

In Auditory Preferential Seating, a student sits in a place in the classroom that increases access to auditory information and reduces distractions related to sound (e.g., closer to a teacher, next to a quiet student, away from ambient noises). This preferred seat supports the student in the ability to be closer to audible sound (e.g., ability to lip-read and visibly see the speaker) or slightly distances a student from audible noise to support hearing sensitivities. To determine a preferred seat, a teacher identifies auditory distractions that are present in the classroom (e.g., heating or AC units, open windows, nearby hallway) in order to determine how particular seating choices could impact a student's ability to hear and process information throughout the school day. A student can be directed by the teacher to move to a seat in a chosen area to support hearing abilities, and over time the student can independently choose a preferred seat while learning to self-monitor auditory needs with teacher check-ins when needed.

Implementation Tips

Reviewing Auditory Skills
Collaborate with a student's educational team (e.g., Teacher of the Deaf, Educational Audiologist) when applying Auditory Preferential Seating for a student with hearing loss. Review the student's auditory abilities and skills, such as, if the student accesses sound differently from ear-to-ear.
Identifying Auditory Distractions
Identify auditory distractions in the classroom environment (e.g., heating and A/C units, open windows, projection machine fan) prior to determining Auditory Preferential Seating. Make sure that the student is seated away from these distractors and when possible alter noisy devices (e.g., turn off during lessons).
Highlighting the Benefits of a Preferential Seat
Create a list with the student’s input that highlights the benefits of sitting in areas that allow for best listening and participation (e.g., a few initial ideas are provided and then the student self-generates some additional ideas). Explain that Preferential Seating is a privilege in the classroom and not a punishment.
Supporting Student Tracking Abilities
Seat a student with hearing loss about one-third from the front of the classroom, on an outer edge of the group during lessons to support the student in physically tracking and following the speaker (e.g., movements and hand gestures, lip-reading) and to reduce the amount of sound surrounding the student.
Building Self-Advocacy Skills
Encourage a student using Preferential Seating to self-identify when the auditory environment is interfering with hearing abilities (e.g., “The classroom is too noisy.” / “I need to sit closer to the speaker.”). When the student is able to identify these needs independently, allow them to choose their own preferred seat.
Supporting Reflective Learning
Promote understanding for Preferential Seating by asking the student to reflect on seating choices throughout the school day. Ask reflective questions to support the student’s self-awareness (e.g., “Was your seat choice successful?” / “Did your seat choice lead to distraction?" / "Was your auditory access limited?”).
Planning Seating Options
Provide a student an assigned seat when presenting content information (e.g., lecture, read aloud) to ensure the student receives auditory information with support. Also, provide opportunities for the student to independently choose seats when Preferential Seating is not required (e.g., circle time, centers).


Preferential Seating During Direct Instructional Time
While a class transitions from their desks to the rug, a teacher notices that the a student with hearing loss is still cleaning up desk materials while rug spots begin to fill up. To prevent the student with hearing loss having to sit at the back of the group, the teacher designates a seat in the third row, two seats from the middle, on the outer edge of the rug to support the student with better auditory access to an upcoming read aloud. The teacher explains, “This seat will help you easily hear the text being read and it’s also further away from the AC unit, which can be distracting.”).
Preferential Seating With Background Noise/Distractions
While observing students as they work independently at their desks, a teacher notices a student becoming distracted by a neighboring student (e.g., chatty, always fidgeting with materials). To support the student and minimize background noise and distractions while working independently, the teacher reassigns the student with a preferential seat next to another student that demonstrates a more quiet and attentive demeanor. This seat is also on the opposite side of the room, away from where other students often take movement breaks, which helps to reduce additional auditory and visual distractions.
Building Independence with Preferential Seating Choices
After assigning Auditory Preferential Seating for a student with hearing loss over time, a teacher encourages the student to self-manage preferred seating choices. First, the teacher explains this new responsibility to the student (e.g., “You will have to evaluate what will be the best possible seat for you. This might mean having to ask a peer to switch or adjust their seat. If you need support, you can always ask for help from an adult.”). Throughout the school day the teacher checks-in with the student to help monitor, assess, and reflect on the student’s seat selections (e.g., “Was your seat choice successful? Why or why not?”).

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