The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Monday, October 5, 2009]

Literacy Research in Deaf Education

Summary and thoughts:

Luckner, J., Sebald, A., Cooney, J., Young, J., & Muir, S. (2005/2006). An examination of the evidence-based literacy research in deaf education. American Annals of the Deaf, 150, 443-456.

"People who struggle to read and write are much more likely than literate people to drop out of school, go to prison, or struggle to find and keep meaningful, satisfying work." Yikes!

This article was a meta-analysis of the research over the past 25 years or so that studied deaf literacy learning.

There are some deaf and hard of hearing students who read at grade level. Some become successful writers. But most have a hard time learning literacy. Here are some problems that people often say are the reasons deaf students struggle with literacy:

1. Less access to the phonological code. This relates to the Goldin-Meadow and Mayberry (2001) article. ASL has its own vocabulary, which does not relate to English phonology. Auditory/oral deaf children do not hear well enough to access English phonology.

2. Limited language fluency. Many deaf children are not fluent in a spoken or signed language when they begin school. Reading and writing depend on a language foundation (spoken or signed). Many deaf children have to learn to read and write while learning their first language at the same time.

3. Not enough literacy experiences in early childhood. Deaf children do not have books read to them as often as hearing children. Parents do not feel comfortable signing, have a limited sign vocabulary, or have trouble finding a way to position the child and the book and still make eye contact.

4. Delayed vocabulary acquisition. Vocabulary is a major key to reading comprehension.

5. Problems with lower-level skills. Many deaf students struggle with word recognition, syntax, and vocabulary comprehension. Because of this, they do not develop the independent reading strategies that they need, such as self-questions, activating prior knowledge, etc. They need to a foundation of lower-level skills before they can learn higher-level literacy skills.

So what can we do?

1. Explicit vocabulary instruction and practice with short passages. Tell them the definition of a word, show them a sentence using the word, and use computer programs to practice the vocabulary words.

2. High-interest literature. This study used "adapted classics," meaning classic books like Treasure Island that have been changed in grammar and vocabulary to fit different (lower) reading levels.

3. Instruction in ASL grammar and how to translate ASL into written English. Exactly what it looks like. Teach ASL grammar just as hearing students learn English grammar. Practice translating ASL into written English.

4. Teacher discussion of stories. The teacher discusses the story and teaches students to summarize, question, clarify, and predict.

5. Instruction in reading comprehension strategies. For example, teach story grammar (characters, plot, etc.) and locating details in the text.

6. Interaction. Communicate and play games using English. Real interactions are better than analyzing grammar. You can use email, chat rooms, and the internet.

7. Reading to young students. Evening group storybook reading had a positive effect on independent reading and interest in books.

8. Use of captions. Watching videos with captioning improved comprehension of visual information.

9. Intensified instruction. The teachers were given plenty of materials and space to teach just a few students each.

10. Use of word processing. Let students use Word (or another program) so that they can use spell checker.

12. Use of simple stories and word recognition practice with young readers. Exactly what is says.

13. Use of the general education curriculum. Teach them what the hearing children are learning.

14. Direct teaching of sight words and teaching of morphological rules. Again, this is exactly what it says. And morphological basically means word endings, like going, takes, walked.

Now go get them!


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