Reading In The Classroom With Deaf Students

According to the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University it is vitally important to read "out loud" with deaf students. Deaf read-alouds, however, do not need to involve voice unless the student can hear with the help of a hearing aid. Rather the read-aloud model is transliterated to a signed modality. An adult may sign a story to model the interaction between the written and signed word, and to help increase fluency and word recognition. In order for this to take place the signing adult should try to keep both the sign and the written word visible at all times. Signers should also vary the placement of the signs, sometimes signing right on the page, on the child, and also in the normal position. This helps keep their attention and make the connection between the written word and its sign more explicit. This way, a student is mapping the sign cue onto the visual cue of the word on the page just the way a hearing child maps the sound of a word to the symbols that spell the word.

Unless you already know how to sign, it will be very difficult to incorporate deaf friendly read-alouds into your own classroom, but reading extension activities to help facillitate comprehension are very easily incorporated by teachers who do not know how to sign. Strategies include choosing texts the student is interested in, roleplaying the story, model making connections to yourself and the world, and set clear expectations that the student WILL learn to read. All these strategies seem like just good teaching and would be found in any hearing classroom as well. It is important to note, however, that the power of our expectations can determine whether a student feels empowered to engage in literacy activities, or feels like an outsider looking in. Use of roleplays, personal connections and extended predictions and visualizations encourage student engagement and comprehension during read-alouds which builds their investment in learning to read on their own.

It is interesting to see how good reading strategies for read-alouds translate even when stories aren't being read "out loud." The same principles of attention, investment, personal connection and kinesthetic/visual learning through roleplaying still apply.

Posted by Rachael Gabriel