Point of Reference


You’re pointing items on a diagram or a PowerPoint slide, perhaps using a laser pointer.

We all know the importance of these visual aids and indicating your place on the visual. However, Deaf/HH students may miss your reference since their primary focus is on the interpreter/captionist conveying your message. 

Remember, there is a processing time between when you say something and when it is conveyed to the deaf students. By the time the students’ eyes leave the interpreter, you’re probably no longer pointing to your place on the visual.

A greater challenge exists with hard-of-hearing/oral students who may not utilize access services.  These students can often miss your references to the visuals.


NOTE: The handout provides you with an in-class evaluation form you can use to obtain feedback from students on whether or not your strategies are successful.

You want to ensure that students understand both your comments and your illustrations. Both are critical to understanding the concept.

The key is not to speak and point at the same time.

  • Build pauses into your delivery –  This allows the students' attention to switch between you (or the interpreter/captionist) and the visual material.

  • If using a PowerPoint slide, pause as each new line appears. Delay discussion for 5 seconds after each new line is displayed. Or, present the entire contents of the slide  at once, allow students time to read, and then proceed with the explanation.

  • Observe the faces of your students after displaying a new line; when they have read the line, then discuss the point.

  • When displaying a complex diagram, ask students to take a minute to study the image before you discuss it. Use a pointer to indicate the element to be discussed, and again pause for 5 seconds. Then continue your lecture.

  • If you use a laser pointer, hold the pointer on the object long enough so that Deaf/HH students can look up and locate the reference.

  • In a laboratory, when telling students where equipment is located, be specific. “Use the test tube in the second drawer on the right side of the sink,” or “Use the beakers located above the sink.”

  • For a laboratory or studio setting, distribute a map of the room indicating storage locations of equipment.

Related Video: 
What strategies would you like teachers to use when changing the focus of attention (e.g. pointing to visuals, changing subjects, etc.?) - Tabitha