Deafness and Hard of Hearing Resources

In this unit, we teach students that someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may use a variety of techniques to communicate successfully, depending on the amount of their hearing loss and their personal preference.

The themes we focus on in this unit are:

  • Hearing loss is only one of the traits that contribute to making a person the individual that he or she is.
  • Individuals can experience varying degrees of hearing loss.
  • Technology is playing an increasingly important role in enabling people with hearing loss to communicate and perform everyday tasks more easily and independently.
  • People have a variety of communication choices, including lipreading, fingerspelling and (ASL) American Sign Language. ASL interpreters may be a helpful link between those who are deaf and the hearing world

Suggested reading

El Deafo by Cece Bell, an autobiographical middle grade graphic novel 

This book is instantly available for free downloading at this link on Hoopla:
Or we suggest reviewing our extensive guide to finding suggested reading titles online, for free or at very low cost, here

El Deafo cover image Image of character from El Deafo that reads I will Amaze everyone

Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.


  1. How does the author show some of her challenges after she loses her hearing?  Do you think it is easier to use a graphic novel to describe this?  
  2. What do you think about the challenges she had learning to lip read?  What were the cues that she used to help her figure out what others were saying? What are some of the ways you could make it easier for someone who reads lips?
  3. What were some of the ways that Cece’s friends helped her? How did Cece help others?
  4. What were some of the things others did that were NOT helpful, from her point of view?  When did she feel left out?
  5. What were some of the adaptations and technology that Cece used?  What gave her “superpowers”?
  6. What is the difference between “being different” versus “being alone”?
  7. How did the character she created, “El Deafo,” help Cece learn to stand up for herself?
  8. Why do you think Cece did not want to learn sign language?
  9. How did Cece feel about being deaf early in the book?  How did she feel about others knowing she was deaf? How did that change?

You can hear the Inside Story of El Deafo from Cece Bell herself!  She discusses a new chapter every Monday at 10AM EST (or watch the recorded videos on Youtube):

*Note: views expressed by author are her own 


Offline activity

Make your own graphic novel – or even just one page.  Share something about your life, and your friends and family.

*note – these links will take you to two outside webpages, and Popculture classroom

Image of graphic novel template - links to

For more info about making your own comics:


Web-based resource: Learn fingerspelling


For a good close up of the hand shape and nothing else:

*note – these links will take you an outside webpage

Image of ASL letter "A" with alphabet underneath

And for a little bit of practice figuring out words being spelled:

Image of ASL letter L with speed controls underneath

Fingerspelling Offline activity:

*note – these links will take you to outside webpage – resource is free but create login first

Image of fingerspelling practice worksheet