Research has shown that noise cancelling ear muffs improve the development of on-task focus and work production during independent work. This is because ear muffs have several benefits. For the wearer, they mute background noise and conversation that contribute to student distraction. They also provide deep pressure sensory input that calms students. In addition, they act as a self-reinforcing signal indicating that it is time for quiet seat work. When students see others wearing the ear muffs they take it as a signal to not disturb the wearer. Ear muffs are especially beneficial to students with learning disabilities and/or attention issues (See links below).
This grant is based on previous grants written for Glenshire Elementary School, Truckee Elementary School and Kings Beach Elementary School. Students who had access to the ear muffs and who had been having successful independent work periods, no longer have access to this support once they arrive at Alder Creek Middle School. It would be extremely valuable for increased student learning to have ear muffs available to all students once they arrive in middle school. In addition, since the middle-schooler is especially sensitive to fitting in and not being singled out, the grant is being written to provide equal access across classrooms and grade levels. This permits students to envision access to ear muffs as an established norm within the Alder Creek culture, and not as something that would establish differences in the students utilizing this support.
Both research, and feedback from all of the elementary school sites provide extremely positive evidence for the benefits of the use of noise-cancelling headphones during individual task work. This grant would offer continued access to noise reduction support within the classroom for students throughout their middle school years. During this important developmental phase, students will be able to identify supports that are available that can reinforce both the maximal access to learning, and independent work skills. All middle schoolers will also be able to acquire a positive association with tools that can help them maximize their individual learning work periods and styles. Additionally, students with learning disabilities and attention deficits will have access to supports that are critical to their learning, without believing that their individual needs are significantly different than their peers.
The fifth grade teachers at all of the elementary schools have reported huge success and increased use of the ear muffs from students within all of their classrooms. Teachers have reported an increase in student attention to task, work production, and work completion. Teachers have also reported a decrease in student distraction levels and overall classroom noise levels. The use of earmuffs by several students at once tends to create a quieter classroom environment by bringing down the overall volume of the classroom. This has a positive effect on all students in the classroom, not just those wearing the earmuffs.
Providing earmuffs would also address teacher concerns regarding specific students’ difficulties with attention and work production (such as those students with Attention Deficit Disorder, or others who may be easily distracted by a noisy working environment). In addition, the use of noise cancelling headphones was so beneficial to the special education students at the elementary schools, that the use of them was written into their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) as accommodations for testing.
Several links also provide research that demonstrates increased learning by students when they use ear muffs in the classroom. Research has also been given for the beneficial use with English Language Learners.
Noise cancelling ear muffs would be distributed to all classrooms (including specialty teachers, and special education teachers). Each teacher would receive 10 sets per classroom. These would be available to each class in a place accessible to all the students in the room. When desired, students could use the ear muffs to reduce noise and distraction and enable them to focus on quiet seat work. If needed, the teacher could also suggest that a student trial of the ear muffs.
Multiple pairs of ear muffs in each classroom are advantageous because the original pilot study at GES revealed that when only one pair of earmuffs was available, students were hesitant to use them for fear of being singled out or appearing strange to their classmates. This would be especially true with the typical middle school student. Once classroom sets were available in the elementary school classrooms, suddenly they became a highly desired tool to use in the classroom, especially by those students who most needed them. In many cases this happened spontaneously without teacher intervention. But even in those cases where the teacher needed to suggest that a distracted student trial the earmuffs, there was no resistance because the earmuffs were an acceptable part of the classroom culture. In fact, the earmuffs became so coveted that teachers reported there were never enough earmuffs to go around for the students who either needed or wanted them. Students at ACMS are very familiar with the classroom access that they had when in elementary school, and have asked if the ear muffs were available at our site.
The access to use of noise cancelling headphones for students would be for the entire school population. All classrooms, including both general and special education settings would be provided with 10 sets per classroom across all three grade levels.
Classroom teachers only have a budget for general classroom supplies.