Calling on Students


You notice that Deaf/HH students rarely participate in the question/answer portion of class, and there is confusion.

Let’s look at the possible cause. When a student asks a question; Deaf/HH students often do not know who asked the question, nor are they able to easily follow the flow of communication. This is particularly difficult when other students jump in with questions or comments.

Even if an interpreter/captionist signals the source of a question or comment, there is a lag time of about 5 - 10 seconds as they they finish signing the statement. Therefore, students relying on the interpreter/captionist do not know who is speaking until after the speaker starts. 

As a result, hearing students may be ready and begin participating earlier than their Deaf/HH peers with questions and/or opinions. Deaf/HH students certainly have the same questions, opinions, or ideas, but need extra time to receive the information and then respond.


NOTE: You can give this handout to students that explains the need for everyone to follow class discussion, and explains a device you will use to ensure that happens.

There are strategies you can employ to ensure Deaf/HH students have equal opportunities to participate in class with their hearing peers.

  • When you pose a question, pause at least 5-10 seconds before calling on a student. You may not be used to the silence, but be patient and it will become a habit for you and your class; it will become easier.

  • When you open a topic for discussion, control communication by calling on students (by name if possible) and pointing at them. Repeat student statements and wait for the interpreter to finish signing it before responding or calling on another student.

  • Establish a rule that students may not raise their hands until the interpreter/captionist is finished translating.

  • Some faculty members don’t let students raise their hand in class; instead they wait for the interpreter/captionist to catch up, and then call on someone, trying to rotate through all the students.

  • Ask if others would like to add thoughts after a student has responded.

  • Some faculty members use students’ names on note cards and then pick a name, placing checks on cards to ensure that everyone has been called on. This accomplishes two goals— first, every student will be called on at some point, and second, the process of looking through the cards creates helpful pauses.

    An added benefit is that hearing students who are shy or need a few extra seconds to respond will benefit by greater inclusion in class discussions. Also, since all students expect to be called on at some point, they would be more attentive.

  • Some faculty use a method called “write, pair and harvest” when soliciting answers. First, allow students to write their individual answers. Second, pair students up, allowing them to validate their individual answers. Finally, harvest answers by having students share their responses.

Related Video: 
What strategies would you like teachers to use when calling on students for participation? - Kyle
Related Video: 
Carol Marchetti, RIT faculty member