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Signs of Literacy: Case Studies of Deaf Children Becoming Bilingual

Signs of Literacy: Becoming Bilingual Teachers Through Star School Training

Signs of Literacy: Case Studies of Deaf Children Becoming Bilingual

Jenny discussing a story in ASL

The intent of this research is to document and understand the acquisition of American Sign Language and English literacy by a diverse set of deaf and hard of hearing children who attended literacy-rich preschool environments that were maximally accessible to them through the use of a natural sign language. Three sets of data are currently being analyzed for this longitudinal study including videotapes, artifacts, and field notes collected between 1993 and 1996 in six preschool classrooms in a day school for deaf and hard of hearing children; a previously existing set of videotapes and field notes collected in the home of a Deaf child of Deaf parents who is also in the classroom study; and a follow-up study of six children from the original data set.

The central focus of the analysis is how ASL and English literacy are acquired by individual children who differ in theoretically important ways; how the parents', teachers', and children's use of ASL is linked to and supports emerging English literacy for these children; how this linguistic and cultural knowledge contributes to learning during interaction with adults and peers; and how early childhood classroom and home experiences might contribute to later academic achievement.

The goals are:

  1. to describe the ASL and English literacy acquisition of six deaf and hard of hearing children in preschool classrooms where ASL and English are the languages of instruction;

  2. to describe the pedagogy, including the philosophy, teaching strategies, and classroom literacy environments, of nine preschool teachers, as well as the early literacy practices in one Deaf family;

  3. to document the ASL, English literacy and academic achievement of the six target students from the time the classroom data collection ended in 1996 through spring 2002 and to understand how home and classroom environments as well as individual histories might influence the course of each child's developing biliteracy.

Who works on this project:

Carol J. Erting, Cynthia Neese Bailes, Carlene Thumann-Prezioso, Charles Reilly, Lynne C. Erting, and Dan V. Mathis

See also:

Signs of Literacy: Becoming Bilingual Teachers Through Star School Training

The Star Schools Project, under the direction of Dr. Stephen M. Nover at the New Mexico School for the Deaf, is one effort to define pedagogy and practices for the application of bilingual/bicultural theories and practices with deaf and hard-of-hearing students, with an emphasis on development and learning of both first- and second-languages. It is an innovative model designed to promote change within teachers and schools by engaging participants in the application of theories and knowledge in general bilingual education to ASL/English education of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. This model was designed to include the components of exemplary professional development. Five schools have participated in this project to date, and each of these participant-schools has helped to further shape both the curricula and the training itself. An additional five schools began participating in the fall of 2001. One of the five schools was the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, presenting the Clerc Center and the Signs of Literacy Research Team with the opportunity to investigate the thinking and teaching practices of the KDES participants and how these change over the two-year duration of the Star School training.

KDES's involvement in the Star School Program presents an opportunity to learn about whether and how teachers engaged in a professional development model designed to immerse them in learning and critical reflection on bilingual/bicultural pedagogy change their beliefs and practices over time, both collectively and individually. Key components of this professional development model include mentoring, study groups in the form of weekly seminars, and opportunities to reflect on, apply, and evaluate the appropriateness of theories and practices for deaf and hard-of-hearing children over a period of two years.

The Signs of Literacy Team is investigating the following questions:

  1. What kinds of changes in beliefs, teaching practices, and classroom interactions of Star School teachers and mentors occur over the two-year project period?

  2. How do the documented changes relate to the Star School training goals?

Teachers and their mentors are being studied as they learn (individually and collaboratively), reflect on, and apply bilingual education theories and instructional strategies through the Star Schools professional development model. The in-service training is being documented and described as it takes place at this particular school, with these particular mentors and teachers. Changes in teacher thinking and classroom practice are being documented as well as how these changes relate to the training. Specifically, the central focus of the proposed analysis is on (1) how the teachers' and mentors' understanding of ASL and English biliteracy acquisition and learning changes over the course of their Star Schools Program involvement, (2) which components of the professional development model offered by the Star Schools Program training appear to be related to these changes, and (3) how this professional development model is utilized by the school and participants over this particular period of time. The results of this study will contribute to a better understanding of bilingual/bicultural pedagogy and practices and to a better understanding of a model for teacher reflection and change.

Who works on this project:

Carol J. Erting, Cynthia Neese Bailes, Kristen Harmon, Patricia Hulsebosch, and Judith Johnson

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