About: Strategies and Tips to Support the Development of Literacy

General Considerations to Support Literacy Development

Each student brings a unique grasp of spoken English, American Sign Language (ASL), or both to the reading process. It is important to understand a child's language and communication strengths and weaknesses and how they apply to the reading process. In this way, appropriate strategies can be integrated throughout the child's educational program to promote the development of literacy. No matter which overall literacy development program is used, the strategies and tips discussed here can support the literacy development of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

First, consider all ways to visually enhance the environment of any classroom to support literacy development not only for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also for the benefit of all students. Have information displayed visually within the classroom for easy access and to support learning.

For example:

  • Post schedules, classroom routines, assignments, and vocabulary on the blackboard, overhead projector, or electronic whiteboards.
  • Use captioned media and enable the closed captioning feature that is built into most media devices and the Internet. Look for the closed captioning symbol [cc].

Reading Aloud (in ASL or English)

Students of all ages, whether they are deaf or hard of hearing, enjoy and can benefit from read-aloud time. Read-alouds may occur in ASL, via an interpreter, and, for students who have “auditory access,” through listening. To promote successful read-aloud activities, the following considerations may be beneficial:

  • Use a large print book. Project the book on an overhead or display text on an electronic whiteboard or a projection device.
  • Arrange seating in a circle or semi-circle.
  • Prop books on an easel during reading.
  • For younger children, use props to provide context to a story.
  • Dramatize/act out parts of the story to support comprehension.

For students using an interpreter, the interpreter can sign the story while the teacher reads the story aloud. Some considerations for interpreted stories include:

  • Use appropriate pausing and allow the students to take in the book visually so they can see the English text and illustrations on the pages.
  • Highlight key vocabulary or phrases within the story visually on the blackboard, overhead, or laptop connected to a projector or television.
  • Give the student a copy of the book for reference during the read-aloud.
  • For read-aloud time with student participation, have the interpreter confirm where the group is within the text to assure the student who is deaf or hard of hearing is in the appropriate place.

For students who can listen to stories using a hearing aid or cochlear implant, a traditional read-aloud approach in which the teacher or other students read the book aloud in English may be appropriate. Some strategies for story listening include:

• For those students who are experienced listeners, have them follow along in the book while they listen to the words via audiobooks. It is best to choose books that are already familiar to the student.

• Use a card reader. This equipment allows a student to listen independently to words and sentences and to view associated text. For more information on purchasing a card reader, see: CardMaster Card Readers.  

Where does Phonics Fit In?

Developing skills in phonics can be challenging for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. They may not be able to hear the individual phonemes of speech. At the same time, knowledge and use of phonics can be beneficial for supporting the reading process. With the necessary supports, phonics may be considered one component of a reading program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

One such support to provide phonics to deaf students is called See-the-Sound Visual Phonics. For students who cannot hear phonemes, it uses a combination of tactile, kinesthetic, visual, and auditory feedback to assist in developing phonemic awareness, speech production, and reading skills. Visual Phonics is a system of 45 hand signs and written symbols that help make the connection between written and spoken language less confusing.

Visual Phonics is being incorporated into a number of programs around the country and is seen by those who use it as extremely easy to use and effective when combined with a comprehensive reading program. While it typically represents just one small part of a comprehensive reading and language development program, those who use it feel it provides an excellent way to help children who are deaf "see" and internalize English phonemes and understand how they map onto English letters and onto words. People utilizing this system must obtain training from a certified trainer.

A second program to support development of phonemic awareness is Phono-Graphix. This program is intended to support phonemic development and reading and includes an instructional manual and materials. The program can be used as part of a reading and/or speech development program. It addresses skills to support children in "breaking the reading code." It teaches children that letters are pictures of sounds, sound pictures can be one or more letters, there is variation in the code, and there is overlap in the code.

Cued Speech (sometimes referred to as Cued Language) is a methodology that supports phonemic awareness and development of literacy skills. Cued Speech is a system of distinct cues incorporating a variety of hand shapes and hand placements in combination with mouth movements and/or speech. The purpose of the system is to differentiate the phonemes of a spoken consonant-vowel language. (E.g. English, French, Spanish, etc.). For more information about Cued Speech, see the National Cued Speech Association.

Other strategies that may be considered to reinforce phonemic development are:

Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program (LiPS), which focuses on development of phonics using visual/kinesthetic strategies.

Touchphonics, which provides 193 colored-coded magnetic tiles representing all of the English graphemes that can be manipulated by teachers and students to work on phonics and word structures.

Fundations-Wilson Language Basics for K-3, a phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling program based on the Wilson Reading System principles that supports development of reading and spelling in young children. This program was developed for the general education classroom, but provides a visual component that may be successful with deaf or hard of hearing students as well.

Additional Resources Related to Literacy

A reading program designed specifically for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, the program provides literacy tools to guide students in making connections between ASL and English. The components of the program include adapted Dolch words, the bridging process and reading comprehension, phonemic awareness, literature-based instruction, and ASL and spontaneous written English.

The Fifteen Principles were developed at the Clerc Center to share effective practices for how to read aloud to deaf and hard of hearing children, based on research on how Deaf parents read to their Deaf children. These principles were developed to give parents and teachers skills and strategies for reading aloud in ASL. The resource is provided in print and ASL.

These books can be used with students who are reading significantly below grade level. The subject matter for Hi-Lo books is geared toward high school students’ interests while making them accessible to students reading at beginning levels. A resource for locating Hi-Lo books can be found at Saddleback Educational Publishing.

These nine evidence-based practices in reading and writing were identified at the Clerc Center as being integral to creating a comprehensive approach to literacy learning. Provided is on-line information about these practices and associated links on this topic.

This web-based program has thousands of downloadable books that range from emerging reading levels to fifth grade. It includes printable/projectable books in addition to lesson plans, instructional materials, and evaluation tools. Reading A-Z has multilevel books that provide three different reading levels of the same book title. With this program, students can choose books based on their interests and reading levels.

The Shared Reading Project (SRP) is a Clerc Center program for parents and caregivers to teach families how to read to their young children in ASL. SRP matches participating families with Deaf tutors. The Shared Reading Project: Keys to Success Training is a three-day program for individuals who are considering setting up a SRP site. 

This is a tool that can be used with students to develop telling, retelling, writing, and comprehending stories by learning the structure of a story. StoryGrammar Marker uses visually appealing icons to represent elements in a story in the form of a concrete bookmark or graphic organizer.

This program helps students comprehend and write nonfiction/informational material, as well as narratives. ThemeMaker focuses on expository text structures such as description, listing, sequencing, cause and effect, problem and solution, compare and contrast, and persuasion.

Last revised October 12, 2014

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