Deaf-friendly arts activities
Many games and activities used in arts groups, clubs or classes are not accessible for deaf children and young people as they often rely on sound. It's important when planning activities to think about how to make them accessible and inclusive. Use games that include eye contact or visual skills, and that do not solely rely on speech or sound.
Read our tips on how you can adapt existing drama games and ideas for deaf-friendly activities that include deaf children and young people, while introducing different ways to communicate to their hearing peers.
You can play Simon Says using a visual hand wave rather than a verbal Simon Says cue.
You can tell a story using body language and facial expression. Give an example and keep it simple. Each child then has a turn, adding parts of the story and passes it onto the next person.
Ask the group to line up in order of birth date (date and month only – not year) without using any verbal communication.
Once they're in a line, check:
- if they are in the right order
- how they felt during the activity
- what methods they used to communicate - emphasise that there are lots of ways to communicate, including counting on fingers, making gestures, writing things down or using a mobile phone, for example.
Lip-speaking is a game just like Chinese whispers, but without the whisper. It's a great way to introduce lip-reading to hearing peers of deaf students and show the importance of gesture.
Don't forget to give the instructions to the game before everyone gets into position.
- Start by demonstrating lip-speaking (no sound) the word ‘colourful’. Ask the children what you said. It looks the same as ‘I love you’ and ‘elephant juice’.
- Get the children to lip speak with no voice or whisper – they can practice with their name.
- Ask them to get into a line and the head of the line must pass on the message with no facial expression or gesture: ‘I love X Factor’. They can have 2 or 3 gos.
- When the message reaches the other end of the line - what was it? Is it right
- Next, tell them to get back into line. This time, they can use facial expression and gestures! The message is 'I don't like football'.
- Pass the message down the line, lip speaking it and using body language and gesture - did they get it right this time?
For large groups, split into two lines and get the groups to race each other.
After each task:
- check to see if the message has changed by the time it has reached the end of the line
- ask how they felt while completing the task.
For younger children:
Lip-speak phrases and ask either the whole group or teams to then agree or write down what you said. For example:
- Good morning/good afternoon/good evening
- How are you?
- Games are fun!
- Crocodile shoes/elephant juice/spaghetti hoops, etc
- Break time
Phrases should be appropriate to the age and ability of the group. Add in facial expressions and body language to make it clearer on the second attempt.
Games using fingerspelling can be a great way to introduce fingerspelling as a way of supporting communication. While also getting a potentially mainly hearing group of children or young people thinking about communication and raise awareness of communication.
You can order our British Sign Language (BSL) fingerspelling alphabet posters or postcards for free to help with this activity.
- Give each child a ‘sign name’ that can be used, rather than having to spell out their entire name each time they want someone’s attention or to refer to someone.
- A sign name can be related to what the person’s name sounds like, for example Rosie Jones could be ‘rose’. Or it could be a physical characteristic such as ‘curly hair’, a hobby or interest such as ‘cricket’ or ‘painting’ or a favourite animal such as ‘tiger’.
- Agree on a sign name for each child in the group.
- Get the whole group to sign along and to try to remember sign names.
For younger children
Introduce the fingerspelling alphabet.
- Ask if any of the group have used it before. You can use the fingerspelling poster available from the National Deaf Children's Society.
- Explain that it is used for spelling out names of people, places and for words that do not have a sign. It can also help with communication if you fingerspell the first letter of words.
- Lots of children get confused about which hand they should use. Show them the hand they write with is like their pen and their other hand is like the paper which they write on.
- Demonstrate the alphabet and encourage the group to sign along at the same time, checking that they have got it right.
- Ask the children to have a go and then see if there are any volunteers who want to fingerspell their name.