Kevin Stein has a wonderful post full of ideas on how & why to use the skill of lip-reading in classes of students who have normal hearing : (Please) Read my Lips. If you are thinking of experimenting with the strategy, I’d like to point out a few things to remember. Lip reading is something I have a lot of experience with!
Are we really lip-reading?
The term “lip-reading” is actually a misnomer. What people who can lip-read actually do is message-read because unfortunately, eyes can’t take the place of ears. Sounds such as /x/ /k/ /g/ cannot be seen on the lips at all, while other sounds, such as /n/ /t/ /d/ are indistinguishable from one another. Therefore, teachers should always have their students try their hand at lip reading full sentences, not individual words. The sentences supply contextual clues to identifying those missing sounds.
Stein immediately noticed the connection between general context and understanding: “Some of the students were spot-on. Especially when they were talking to a friend and had some kind of context about how their partner usually spent a weekend”. When everyone knows what the topic of discussion is, rates of successful lip-reading comprehension rise.
If the sunlight from the window is shining strongly on the speaker’s face, you can forget about lip-reading. If the classroom lights are too dim, it won’t work either. You need to see the lips clearly. If you are a teacher with a large moustache, you might not want to try this strategy – the moustache obscures the movement of the lips.
I haven’t tried it but I don’t believe you can utilize these ideas in classes of 40 students sitting in rows. Not everyone will be at a good enough angle to see the lips clearly. Those almost directly “under” the teacher (think first row, center) will have a distorted view, as will those sitting in the back corners.
I believe Stein’s ideas can be a great way to focus students’ attention and hope these tips will be helpful in implementing his strategies!