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A Parents American Sign Language Course

Masters Paper
Jonathan Shive
Spring 2015
Georgia State University
Applied Linguistics/ESL

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

Background
For those involved with Deafness and or those involved in Deaf education, it is
widely known that 90% of all children born Deaf have hearing parents. In the United
States 2 to 3 children in 1,000 are born with some type of hearing loss (Vohr, 2003).
According to Meyers and Bartee (1995), 90% of Deaf children who have hearing parents
have no language nor do they have a system of communication in their home other than
made up home signs or crude gestures. The authors further note that only 10% of those
parents will be willing to learn some form of sign language, whether that is American
Sign Language or some other mode of signing communication. What remains is a large
number of Deaf children, 12 years or older and subsequently adults, who have no signed
communication access to their parents and family, this number equates to roughly 30
million individual Americans (Vohr, 2003). A sad situation to be sure!
As an American Sign Language interpreter and one who has been in the public
educational system, I have seen many of these children in classrooms. I have been an
interpreter for 26 years and one-third of that time has been in the schools interpreting for
students. I have seen numerous occasions where parents cannot effectively communicate
with their children and must depend on me, the schools interpreter to relay basic and
important information. It is heart breaking when, at a high school graduation, a parent has
to, through the interpreter, tell their own child how proud they are. Additionally, I have
seen scenes of a parent trying in vain to speak to their Deaf child who has not been
allowed to use sign language. The child was not an effective speech reader and
communication was not achieved. I have also seen many students labeled as failures and
must be sent to the State School for the Deaf, where they all use sign language, and the

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

students excel and succeed. The parents are not completely responsible for this, they do
not know better, yet. The major responsibility of this lies with the medical and
educational professionals who have first contact with parents of newly diagnosed
children. After receiving such a diagnosis about ones child, a parent naturally seeks a
medical or clinical solution to make their child normal. Here is where the conflict begins;
the differing views of the Deaf World. Within the category of individuals with hearing
loss, there are those who use sign language and consider themselves culturally Deaf
individuals. In this paper, the word deaf is capitalized; representing the cultural norm of a
Deaf person that uses American Sign Language, who self-identifies as a member of that
community. The other category of individuals with hearing loss is those who rely on
speech-reading and what hearing they have remaining to understand speech and to listen.
They are known as oralists, who espouse the philosophy of no signing at all and depend
on lipreading solely (Baker-Shenk & Cokley 1980). It is interesting that roughly 30-40%
of Englishs sound system and phonemes are visible on the lips (Damico, Mller, & Ball,
2013).
There are also two schools of thought about how to view these groups of
individuals. Baker-Shenk & Cokley (1980) identify the first as the oral/clinical model.
This view sees people with hearing loss as broken, defective and in need of care and
fixing. They need hearing aids, surgery, experimentation, testing, and years of speech and
auditory therapy to make them able to function in a primarily hearing society. Those with
milder hearing losses and the use of residual hearing can function very well. However,
they are still viewed as having an impairment. This view is based on deficit thinking and
the idea that there is something deficient within Deaf people. This model supports the

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

need for Deaf people to be more like hearing individuals, namely that they should only
use a spoken language.
In contrast to the medical mode is the cultural model of Deafness. Baker-Shenk &
Cokley (1980) go on to say that members of the Deaf community regard themselves as
full human beings, not deficient and broken. We just cant hear. This perspective is one
in which their impairment is membership within a rich culture with access to a unique
language. Historically, Deaf people have been disregarded, seen as mentally deficient and
ignorant. Their language has been said to not be a real language, and their culture has
been marginalized. Aristotle disregarded all deaf people. Because they cannot speak or
hear, he viewed them as in-human, unable to reason and comprehend (Cannon, 1981).
Alexander Graham Bell, supported the idea of outlawing Deaf peoples right to marry or
reproduce. Bell wrote in his infamous paper, Memoirs Upon the Formation of the Deaf
Variety of the Human Race, that there was growing in America a defective deaf race.
Furthermore, he felt that by intermarriage and establishing schools for the Deaf, society
was creating a monster (Wilcox, 1989).
Further, during the Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf, in
1880, the Milan Resolution passed, banning the use of any sign language forever in the
classrooms of the world. Interestingly enough, of all the international delegates who
attended the congress, only six Deaf educators were in attendance. These six found out
about the congress by accident when a hearing, fluent signing educator told them. Deaf
educators were not invited. Forced to follow the resolution, Deaf teachers lost their
teaching jobs, and the oral model/method flourished. This method forbid the use of sign
language and required Deaf individuals to depend solely on residual hearing and speech

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

reading for communication. However, Deaf-signing communities all over the world held
their ground and kept their ways and respective languages alive. Finally, in the US in the
1960s ASL was recognized as a natural language. Since then other national signed
languages have been recognized in the same light e.g. French Sign Language, FSQ,
Mexican Sign Language, LSM and British Sign Language, BSL. That recognition needs
to be communicated to parents along with the notion that a natural language is available
and possible for their children. Their children can communicate with ease: just provide
them a language they can understand and access, a visual one. It is well known that
language and culture are closely linked and this is evident in the Deaf community
(Simpson, 2011). Deaf people and their hearing supporters feel that if hearing parents
would learn to use ASL, their children would have beginning access to a language which
would allow them to cognitively grow, culturally identify with a culture and learn as their
hearing counterparts do. For these reasons and the benefit of Atlanta children who have a
hearing loss and their parents, I would like to establish an ASL class for parents of Deaf
children, and for parents who have recently received the news that their child has a
hearing loss.
As I mentioned before, I have worked with Deaf students in the school systems
before and have seen how they interact with their parents. The journey in the to Deaf
world began for me in college when I met some students at East Carolina University.
ECU had about 30 Deaf students and a fledgling interpreter-training program. A friend of
a friend of mine introduced me to two Deaf girls in at a Bible study and I saw the
Language for the first time. I was fascinated with the language and had to learn. One
thing lead to another and this has changed the trajectory of my life. Some of the new Deaf

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

friends I met did not have close communication or relationships with their families. The
main reason is that their families did learn to use ASL. For the families that I have
encountered that all communicate using ASL, I commend them for making a wise choice.
I have also seen the students whose parents decided not to learn sign language nor allow
their children to do the same and frustration and absence of connection was blatant. I
later became a teacher of American Sign Language where I taught a variety of students,
including many parents that have Deaf children. The parents were either coming back to
learn and play catch up or were just beginning on the right track by starting early. Instead
of a general ASL 101 course, I envision a course for parents that target their needs:
linguistically, culturally and emotionally.

Setting
In this educational setting, the course will be focused on parents of newly diagnosed
deaf or hard of hearing children age 0-9. Most, if not all, of the parents will have no
previous signing ability. In cases where parents already have signing ability, I would
assess them using the Sign Language Proficiency Interview (See Appendix 1). This class
level will be from No-Functional Skill to Novice-Plus. If learners are above this level I
would make recommendations for their next steps in language learning. The assumption
can be made that most parents will have English as their primary language and they are
literate in English. Yet, for those parents who do not speak English, this will not be an
issue. The class will be taught completely in ASL, meaning the instructor will not be
using English or speaking. The initial part of the class will make heavy use of visuals and
gesturing to clarify understanding.

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

The class will be held at the Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired, a state
advocacy agency providing services to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The course
will be 10 weeks, meeting on Saturdays for 3 hours. The offices have a small meeting
room with a conference table and a small dry erase board. The room has an LCD
projector that I can use to connect to my laptop for video/classroom materials. This
courses textbook does not have an accompanying DVD or media. However, I have
searched YouTube and have found other instructors who have created and now share their
own sample grammar instruction, activities, and plans. I will also create my own video
source materials, for vocabulary development, review, and viewing of narratives. With
the use of my own technology, I will also make CDs the students can take home for
practice on receptive language work. I will include fingerspelling and the use of numbers
in ASL, two critical skills. For expressive language work, I will use the iPad I own and
we will have in class recordings of narratives or basic sentence structure practice. These
will be recorded and burned on to a CD for students to take home and review. The
program used to view the recordings needs to be QuickTime or some other compatible
program. So, if students do not have home access to a computer, they may take it to any
public library and use it there. For review and feedback of their work, I want students to
get comfortable with seeing themselves and begin to see that they look like when signing.

Conceptual Underpinnings
The course is a basic introductory course in ASL. The goal of the class is to provide
the basic building blocks of language, so the parents can begin to communicate in ASL

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

with their children. Additionally, that the parents would establish relationships within the
Deaf community and with individuals who can become advanced language and cultural
models for them and their children. Even more important is that the parents will be family
language models for their own children. This poses several syllabus design challenges
and second language acquisition issues. To date, I have not seen examples of an approach
that targets this population or its specific needs. The parents skills will hopefully
continue to develop as their children grow up and begin school with its continual
linguistic and literacy advancements. I would want the parents and childrens
communication to foster a strong family unit, where communication is a priority and
language is valued. Because children acquire language, as opposed to second language
L2 learning, the parents need to be steps ahead of their childrens language development.
Having Deaf peer for the parents from the community would benefit the parents greatly.
As Vygotsky (1978), emphasized, having a more capable other leads to better
development in language learning. The parents language skills need to be advanced to
where it maintains the more capable other status linguistically. It should be noted, that as
second language learners, the parents would not continue in the more capable other
status. Their children will hopefully gain the proficiency of an L1 user and surpass that of
their L2 skill set. The next question is how to accomplish the feat of getting the parent to
the status of a more capable other linguistically? From my readings in second language
acquisition research, I see that interaction is a critical element of the language classroom.
As important as interactions and real communication are, establishing the classroom in a
local context in relations to teaching approaches is also critical. Class instructions should
be content and context dependent.

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

As mentioned before SLA has influenced my thinking and approach to my


teaching. I knew interaction was an element in language learning, yet, now I realize it is
the crux of language learning. The definition of language, at its heart, is the ability to
communicate. Interaction is a social need in which we strive to establish and foster
relationships. Language for children is acquired through family, relationships and their
interactions within the community. This is how language is passed down from generation
to generation. It is a right of all humans to have and use language. I want these parents to
be able to pass this right to language along to their children and have both, parent and
child, become independent language learners. For this to be accomplished, I plan on my
class being highly communicative. Because the students will probably be well spoken
and literate in English, some amount of focus on form will be utilized. The parents, as
future language models, I want them to develop a basic knowledge of ASL language
forms, and to establish a strong foundation with the basics. I hope to achieve this through
the use of Browns (2007) principle of communicative competence. The use of interaction
as a major component of the class will fuel this competence. Classroom tasks will be set
up in a safe environment, to foster a willingness to communicate, thus students will be
more willing to use negotiating for meaning strategies. This gives the students a chance to
work with their interlanguage and work out communication in a discovery process. Peer
interaction and modeling are a powerful learning strategy and lead to greater language
learning. This collaborative dialogue will be the basis of the tasks used in the classroom.
The use of video recordings and technology can be taken advantage of for
modeling and self-monitoring. The latter has been shown to increase language awareness
and development. As well, the use of peer relationships is an important component of the

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

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course. Aside from language peers, having others that are going through the same life
experience is beneficial. These parents need support from others.
Furthermore, I want to foster connections and relationships within the Deaf
community. Initially I would present this as a learning opportunity through interaction
with native signers. However, in a social constructivist view point, more than language
would hopefully develop. The Deaf community is a small group, yet their social ties are
strong. Language use and pride in ASL are intrinsically connected to the Deaf culture.
Immersion and participation in Deaf activities would be an essential requirement in the
course. Bringing in members of the Deaf community to be language models would occur
often. As well, I would try to bring in young Deaf children or find video media for the
parents to get similar language models. Providing these models will supply meaningful
purposes for interaction, which lead to better long-term language retention. Again, as
Vygotsky, explains that with respect to language learning, the ZPD is that stage where
language ability is constructed through negotiation with others in a social context. (1962,
1978)
Finally, accuracy would be the initial focus of students expressive abilities.
Because of the physical nature and new demands on fine motor skills, accuracy must
come first, while muscle memory is developing. In my years of teaching, I have
anecdotally noted that because of the physicality of the language, accuracy needs to be a
priority over fluency. Students need to learn how to maneuver their fingers, hand, arms,
body, face, mouth and eyebrows. This can be an overwhelming list of parts to coordinate.
Fluency, once the motor skills are beginning to register, is focused on. Speed tends to
develop later along with fluency. Fluency, as well, is an important goal. Yet, speed and

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

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clarity should not be sacrificed. Integrating interactive tasks in the daily lesson provide
chances to develop these expressive and receptive skills.
These are the foundational constructs I have developed so far. They are still under
development. As I try and teach my students learning is a process and that they need
to become life long learners, so I am trying to practice what I preach. In previous
classes I have taught, I have found the use of student assessment/feedback of the courses
beneficial. I use an in-house, evaluation form. This on going assessment of the courses I
have taught is a huge benefit to monitoring my progress and the progress on m students. I
will apply this to this course as well. My in-house form allows me to ask more poignant
questions of the students and get back honest feedback, which provides me with insight
on how to adjust my teaching.

Goals-Objectives
The overall objective of this course is to advance learners to a level of proficiency
where they can lay a foundation for their childs communication and language needs.
Mastery of simple ASL sentence structure coupled with expressive and receptive skills
will be the goal. These skills will focus on home vocabulary categories: home life, family,
food and daily activities. Furthermore, authentic communication between parent and
child will be fostered. Because of the childs need for language input, learners will be
establishing the critical beginnings of language acquisition and development. With
technology today, children are being diagnosed with hearing losses at younger ages, even
birth. Even so, some children are not identified as Deaf or hard of hearing until age twothree. Having no functional language or access to spoken language stimuli, these children

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

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are behind in language development stages, both in signed or spoken language. The
quicker parents can begin to take home what they are learning, the quicker their childs
language will develop. This is also related to the age of onset of the hearing loss and if
the child is pre-lingual at the time of the loss.
Gaining in-roads and connections with the Deaf community is the other major
objective learners are expected to achieve. This has several purposes, namely nurturing
personal relationships with Deaf, native ASL signers, as well as linguistic purposes. With
this relationship, learners language and interaction will continue to develop after the
class has ended. The Deaf culture values and cherishes their younger members, and
especially their language needs. They want to build relationships with families to foster a
strong language foundation. Learners emerging autonomy should also be evident after
taking this course. As learners try and apply what they are learning: their own language
should be growing. They should start becoming a language model for their child, and
they should be getting a feeling that they can engage and utilize the language. Finding
opportunities to risk and actually use the language in authentic way and in settings is also
a crucial goal. Learners need to be open and aware of these learning opportunities to
challenge themselves and their language use.

Syllabus Design
From Long and Crookes (1992), as stated in Browns work on syllabus design, this
course will have a hybrid syllabus design (2007, p.79). In organizing the course, I will
pull from the other two types of ELT syllabus design, analytic and synthetic. The use of a
textbook in the class will draw from the synthetic design. The class will utilize ABC: A

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Basic Course in ASL (Humphries, Padden, & O'Rourke, 1994), as the text. Part of the
publishers curriculum is to have a focus on form. The determination of how much to
focus on form and make a prominent feature of the class is based on student variable.
Students age, literacy level in their L1 and education suggest the some grammar
instruction can be provided. This will be determined by a preliminary needs analysis of
the students. A questionnaire will be given out related to learning styles and preferences.
From that analysis, I will take into consideration how to design or modify portions of the
course. I still want it to fit the goals and objective I have in mind, but also meet the needs
they have as well. Furthermore, based on instructional variables of learners need for
language learning and the skills to be learned, focus on grammar may be appropriate. The
video text we will use it the Bravo ASL!: Bravo Family series (Cassell, 1996). Units 1-4
will be utilized for vocabulary development during class lessons and language model
home interaction.
The content of this course will be functional language use in the home. Due to the
receptive and expressive requirement of learning; meaningful and authentic
communication will take place. Next, I draw on Long and Crookes (1992) analytic
syllabus design. Drawing on newer theory and research in the field, the classroom will be
highly communicative, allowing for language input, use and development. This follows
SLA research and current theory in allowing and facilitating language learning.
As well, an awareness of their childs language development and the fact that they,
the parents will be their childs language models will be developed. The second language
focus will be on survival signs/grammar for parents to interact with Deaf adults.
Interactions with native ASL signers who are adults will benefit the parents greatly. This

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interaction with Deaf adult will lead to more comprehensible input, thus interaction and
improved output. This is for the whole family, parents and child. Immersion into a culture
or community is a widely supported strategy and the learning of ASL is no different.
A final thought about syllabus design, the trajectory in which the class goes need
to be determined and initiated. In my design, I have the goal in mind and I will plan
accordingly. However, with a variety of learners, their styles of learning and ever
changing needs, I will need to be flexible about how to steer the course. In my other
classes, around the first quarter of the term, I try to do a check-in for on going
assessment related to the course and how students are progressing. I have students answer
four questions.
1. What do you like about the class?
2. What is still fuzzy for you?
3. How can I help you?
4. What do you feel you need to learn now?
Depending on the students response, I will evaluate where we are heading as a class and
make any adjustments I feel necessary. Again, after the midpoint, I will do a larger
evaluation and ask a fifth questions. What do you feel you need to learn to better
communicate with your child? I think this question will help parents take a look at their
own progress, and coupled that with the progress they are having with their child, can
work with me to determine what is next.

Activity Types

Running Head: A PARENTS ASL COURSE

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My philosophy and approach to language teaching can be easily summed up; it


must lead to and allow for communicative practice. Language needs to be used,
experimented and played with, for learning to occur. I agree with Krashen (1985), in that
the more comprehensible input given to the learner, the greater their proficiency will
become. Comprehensible input can be defined as the language the learner can understand
but cannot yet express, without a language model or help. For this reason, I want to be a
great language model for my students and let them see me using the target language as
much as possible. As mentions earlier, the class will be conducted primarily in ASL. So
providing comprehensible input will be accomplished. However, I feel that the learners
need opportunities to create comprehensible output as well. So for all of my classes, we
will be using the target language and practicing all the time. A typical lesson for the class
will be laid out in this basic order: introduce the topic/theme with implicit exposure to the
grammar feature. Next, provide a good description of the grammar feature or concept,
provide chances for receptive discrimination, opportunities for controlled, then guided
practice with feedback. Finally, I will end with some type of communicative practice or
activity with a review and wrap up.

Pair/Small Group Work


For most interaction activities that will occur in classes, I will use a dyad or small group
formation. These allow students more interaction and in a smaller, safer group size. Dyad
work will consist of inquiry-based interactions, role-play and narrative activities and
opportunities for spontaneous use of language. Language practice needs to be centered on

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activities that have a clear and meaningful purpose. This grabs and maintains learners
attention and has real world application for the language use.

Family/Language Model Interaction


I would also like the students to establish some kind of connection with other
parents that have Deaf children. For the parents and their Deaf children, I would like to
have interaction with Deaf children from the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. This can
serve several needs: providing support for families, establish relationships for the parents,
establish relationships and friends for the learners Deaf children. Furthermore, it can lead
to fostered relationships that are important with language models for the learners and
their children.

Activity-Based Interactions
Inquiry-based interactions are great ways to get students communicating. Based
on the textbook unit we are working on, I will develop lists of questions or short surveys
students have the vocabulary for, then pairs will ask each other the questions, writing
down their partners answers. At other times, I will have the students practice question
formations and have them create their own questions they can ask each other. One
example of this is to teach vocabulary about a continuum of opinions from; my favorite
to I hate it. Another opinion continuum I use is: I strongly disagree, I disagree, I dont
care, Im neutral, I care, I agree, I strongly agree.

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Role Plays/Skits
Another activity type I use is role-play. Using authentic communication in the
classroom in important to students. The uses of role-play give the students chances to
safely practice their output and interaction skills. Because we are also using the Bravo
series, we will have many examples of role-plays for input. In the beginning, I would
have pairs copy the video segments and provide feedback. However, gradually I will have
students do their own modifications of the role-play scenarios. This gives them ownership
of the material and interaction.

Telling Narratives
I will also integrate the use of student narratives into class time. Even at
beginning levels, students can relay basic information about themselves. For these
activities, I have students come to the front of the room and do the narrative presentation
to the whole class. Students will begin by telling personal information about themselves:
their name, if they are male/female, hearing or Deaf, a mom or a dad and so on.
Gradually, I expect learners to be able to talk about themselves and their families. These
short narratives will also give me the opportunity to provide some specific feedback on
language production and intelligibility.

Class Outings
One final activity I would like to see happen would be an out of class activity, a
Family Night Out With The Kids. The main goal for this is to have a social time for the
whole family, where the whole class and the families can come together. Members of the

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Deaf community will be invited to attend and enjoy as well. This will serve as a chance
for real world application; introduction practice, meeting other parents children and just
a fun time to communicate.

Teacher's Roles
Within the L2 learning classroom, a teacher is required to be involved on many
levels. For this class I plan to maneuver between several roles for effective learning to
occur. From Murphy and Byrds (2001) continuum of teachers roles, I view myself
somewhere between a facilitator and a classroom guide. Facilitation of learning in a
communicative environment is key. In so doing, I will be a language model, providing
learning opportunities through meaningful interaction. Giving comprehensible input for
students in crucial for language development. For activities and lessons, playing an
elicitor role allows student centered activities to succeed, where students are given
control and I can steer them. Facilitating with teacher fronted activities and plans, I can
direct and lay out the course I feel students need to take in order to achieve
communication. A huge part of this role is also to provide clear feedback. Whether
implicit or explicit, immediate or delayed assessment, feedback is part of the interaction
of the input-output process students need to process their growing interlanguages
framework. Giving feedback allows the learners to navigate the process of corrections
and reformulation of their output.
I also see myself as a classroom guide. Language learning is a process of
discovery and students need a hand in figuring out how to proceed. Teachers ought to
clearly set up opportunities for learners to put into practice the skills they are learning.

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Along the way, I will be there as one who will encourage and motivate. This fosters the
learners willingness to step out and try to communicate. Vygotsky (1962) discusses
zones of proximal development and how learners need a 1+ guide to lead them into these
zones of discovery. Supplying a safe classroom setting, with an understood rule of mutual
respect, equates to empowerment, where students can risk practicing with the language.
As a guide, I will lead students into the challenge of problem solving and language
hypothesis testing. Putting together the pieces students are gaining requires modeling of
not only the language, but of how to place and where to put the linguistic pieces. I need to
provide for and model critical thinking skills to develop so students can attempt to
communicate and manage their interlanguage. This requires the process of scaffolding,
where the way is laid out and structured towards the discovery process. This whole
process is an interplay of the listed roles. Students also have their own unique roles to
play

Learners' Roles
For any learning to occur, it obviously requires learners to figure out and access
who they are as learners. I hope that my roles as a teacher will be evident in my actions
and how I conduct my teaching. Once that is established, I need to delineate my
expectations of the class. In all my classes I have taught, the first day I state my
expectations of my students. I then have an activity where, collaboratively, we as a
learning community set up and discuss rules we want for the class as well as learners
roles. I am generally impressed with the students understanding and need for this
activity. Furthermore, the environment they choose to create is one in which I usually

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agree with. However, I will lead the class to include my hopes and expectations as well.
Rules tend to be focused on the students affective needs. Mutual respect, safety, freedom
to try and fail, and the need for support almost always make the list. During the activity I
also ensure my specific expectation of students roles are clearly explained and included.
I challenge the class to be open-minded concerning each other and cultural issues of the
learners and of the Deaf community. I also encourage open-mindedness towards learning.
I tell students about my philosophy that we are all in this together, but that I will also be
there to push them. In my approach, I usually do not directly answer students questions.
If I can, I focus the question back on them, prodding and leading them to their own
answers. I lean toward social constructivism and Vygotsys (1962, 1978) methods of
scaffolding. This exemplifies my goal of students become problem solvers. In entering
into problem solving, students must take risks and that is a great achievement. It aids
them in being willing to try and piece together what they need. Students have to be
language users and develop autonomy in their communication and use. Language has to
be experimented with, furthermore, trial and error is part of the process. Acquisition
research has shown that learners are the primary agent responsible for SLA to occur. This
is created through social mediation and interaction in communication. In establishing
these learner roles, my students will be free to try and feel safe enough to fail and try
again. This process will develop critical thinking skills and valuable tools for language
learning.

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Affective Concerns
Second Language Acquisition research has encouraged teachers to looking the
needs of their students. Learners affective and emotions worlds should come into
consideration when planning and carrying out teaching. The research shows that language
learners need to have a safe and supportive environment, where they are free to try to
communicate and put in to practice what they are learning. Providing this gives students
intrinsic motivations that they require for effective learning to occur. This safe
environment also gives the support they need to be willing to communicate. This is a
huge affective concern for student learning.
An additional unique concern for these students is the emotional impact of having
a child with a disability. Parents almost always feel guilt about having a child that is
handicapped. As a teacher, I need to be sensitive to that and provide encouragement to
these parents. More than just language support, raising awareness about Deafness and its
ramification on the child, family and the parents individually needs to occur. Part of the
class is to introduce parents to Deaf adults and other parents that have Deaf children.
Establishing these ties is a great support to parents in helping them adapt to this new
situation. Realizing there is a Deaf community and even a culture is encouraging to
parents that there is more than just a disability. There is a lively and vibrant culture, rich
with norms, traditions and its own values. Realizing a child has access to that can give
parents assurance that their child is not just disabled.
Finally, I would provide information and the Americans with Disabilities Act and
how it will impact and empower their decision making and understanding the rights the
child has as they grow up. This law has advance the rights if Deaf individuals greatly.

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Provisions of sign language interpreters, access to communication, and


telecommunications have granted the Deaf community access never seen before.

Culture
As seen throughout this course, a large focus is on establishing relationships with
members of the Deaf culture. During the course, I will be introducing information about
the American Deaf culture. The Bravo series has excellent content about the daily ins and
outs of a Deaf family and insight into the culture. Communication norms, social values
and etiquette will be addressed. Culture is a complex and fascinating topic, interaction
with Deaf adults and children will help shed light on this.
Other cultural concerns are those related to the class members, individually and
collectively. At the start of all my courses, I go through a rule setting activity, where as a
class we discuss the need for rules. We create a list of rules and I try to get them to see
how that translates into respect for others, and honoring individuals differences and
values. Regardless of racial, cultural, ethnic, religious, socio-economic backgrounds or
even sexual orientation, I demand and try to foster this type of acceptance and tolerance
from my students. More importantly, this leads to the awareness of the diversity of the
Deaf community. Deafness occurs in any and all of these demographics categories.
Therefore, learners will come from and meet a wide range of Deaf individuals. I also
make sure that the values I have as a teacher are integrated in the list we create. Having
these rules also address some concerns students have about risk taking and the need for a
supportive classroom.

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As part of the resource, I will provide students with contact information for
involvement with the Deaf community. E-peachy.com is a local Georgia website that
provides for many needs of the Deaf community. It acts as a list-serv, newsletter, and
communication hub about social and community activities. This will hopefully be a
doorway for the parents to reach out and make connection with the community.

Instructional Materials
For this course, I will utilize two texts to anchor the foundation of instruction: the
textbook ABC: A Basic Course in American Sign Language. I intend on going up through
chapter 8 in the text. Learners will need to purchase this book. This text discusses the
language, its origins, relations to linguistics, and cultural information as well. We will
also use the video text Bravo ASL!: Bravo Family (Cassell, 1996). We will go over units
1-4. Both are commercially published works but the textbook focuses on basic ASL
sentence structure, vocabulary and usage. The second text the students will not have to
purchase. I will utilize it as an instructional text and language resource for the course. The
Bravo series is tailored to family, home and daily routines. Furthermore, it draws
attention to life in Deaf family, communication hints, and cultural norms. This video
series will be used for comprehensible input, vocabulary and receptive practice. As well I
will use the general information learned as starting points for communicative tasks.
I will also supplement the text with activities and tasks designed to provide the
students with chances to put into practice what they are learning. Activities as described
in the Activity Types section above will be utilizes. As well, I will ask parents to
brainstorm and come up with functional vocabulary list they feel they need in their

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24

individual homes. The whole class will create and review this together and hopefully, will
trigger more ideas for vocabulary from other students.
I also plan to provide the student with list of resources and media they can purchase
for their language learning with their children. Moreover, I have gathered a list of internet
resources the learners can use at home, including video dictionaries and a clearinghouse
website for ASL narratives. Additionally, I will record simple child vocabulary videos
that parents can view with their children and begin to communicate together.

Assessment
Mendelsohn (1992) as stated in Brown, says learning can be difficult without a
combination of appropriate feedback from the teacher and classmates (2007, p. 59). I will
have two forms of assessment given to students, informal and formal. Informal feedback
will be given in real time, at times providing direct, explicit correction. However, I also
use scaffolding techniques to lead students in answering their own questions and to
develop independent, critical thinking and problem solving strategies. This spontaneous
feedback is important to learners; however, the deliver of it is critical. Students need to be
encouraged to try. My response and attitude in these times can determine how the learner
accepts the feedback. Informal peer feedback will also be used, with peers giving limited,
positive feedback only.
For formal assessments, I will assign several narratives for students to record. The
topics will range for a self-introduction, a description of their family and an explanation
of their daily morning routine. We will pre-plan and pre-write these narratives, record
them in class, and I will assess them using a detailed diagnostic rubric. The recordings

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will be done live in class. Each student will have a partner, one who will set up the iPad
video recording app, and give basic feedback on clarity, comfort of presenter, and
fluency. I will create a formal assessment rubric for the student to gain feedback on the
recordings. The criteria I will use in the rubric will be related sign production clarity,
basic ASL sentence structure, appropriate non-manual grammatical markers and facial
expression. It will be weighted by percentages. Once the rubric is completed, I will return
it with my comments, and allow students to review them and ask any questions they may
have. I also provide an opportunity to meet individually with students. However, before I
do this, I require them to go home, view their recording and look at my feedback first.
This gives and forces them to actually look at their work and begin to self-monitor and
self regulate.

Lesson Particulars
Earlier I briefly described how my lessons usually play out: introduce the topic or
vocabulary, provide chances for receptive input practice, opportunities for controlled,
then guided practice with feedback and finally some type of communicative practice or
activity and review. Here I will describe what my lesson typically looks like. For this
lesson, I will do an opinion continuum activity. These are basically sharing activities,
working on giving opinions and commenting on them. The topic of the continuum is
food. Initially I will introduce vocabulary related to types of food. After reviewing the
vocabulary and practicing, I will introduce the following phrases: my favorite, I love it, I
like it, it is so-so, I sort-of like it, its ok, I dont like, I hate it, its disgusting. To check for
clarity of the production of the signs, I will point to the vocabulary words and call on

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26

student to demonstrate the sign or phrase. Next, I will demonstrate 10 of my opinions


about foods they identify for me. Particularly important is the use of facial expression.
The degree of expression can change the meaning of the sign chosen. Therefore, the
sentence I love it. I really love it. and I LOVE it! are inflected using the nonmanual features of the eye and mouth and the intensity of the movement with in the sign.
I will emphasize this in my example sentences.
Once they have a handle on the new words/signs and phrases, I will move on to
some controlled practice. On the board, I will have a dialogue:
Student A- Do you like _______?
Student B- Respond- to whether they like the type of food, giving their opinion and
a comment.
Student A- Respond accordingly.
Student B- Respond and end conversation.
I will demonstrate the dialogue, taking on both roles. After a few examples, I will
one at a time, choose individual students act as Student B and I play the role of Student
A. I will go around the room asking students if they like a certain food. During this time,
I will be monitoring the students, providing explicit feedback and comment to students
responses.
Moving on to more guided practice, I will have students pair up into dyads and
practice the dialogue, taking turns in the different roles. After a about 8-10 minutes, I will
ask them to now jot down, on a card, five questions they feel comfortable asking. I will
have been floating around the room, giving feedback and being available to answer
questions. Next, we move into a communicative application of the lesson. I have students

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stand up and find a different partner, bring their card and spread out in the room. They are
to ask each other their five questions, noting the partners response. We will have several
rounds of these questions, giving students opportunities to work with several partners.
Once the students are finished and are back in their seats, I will ask who had which
favorite food. The students will have to tally up the number of people that like that food. I
will then have them report back, signing the highest answer and give us a tally of who
likes what type of food are their favorite. Once everyone has had a turn, I answer any
questions and go on to the next activity. Finally, as a whole class wrap up, I will list some
of the foods I think are disgusting and ask who agrees with me. At this point, I will draw
the students into discussing their opinions and sharing spontaneously. I will try to make it
light hearted and a good review.
I think the structure I create gives many opportunities for comprehensible input and
chances to see the language in use. I also try to give plenty of opportunities for student to
use the language and practice expressive skills. I feel input is very important for language
development, however, output in necessary as well. Nevertheless, I feel the most
important thing is that the students are communicating and engaging in meaningful
activities that they can apply to their language use.

Caveats, Final Thoughts


This course has many challenges built into it. Most important is that there is a need
for communication in homes with Deaf children. The over arching goal is to have parents
begin their own language development with a solid foundation. Coupled with the first
steps and resources to continue their language development and then they have the

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responsibility of providing language to their child. Connected to providing this right to


language another responsibility is the introduction of the child to members of the Deaf
community and even other Deaf or signing peers. Providing language input to their child
begins an important process of language development. Choosing these options for their
childs communication needs is critical for language and cognitive development. All
children have the right to language, and for Deaf children, the choice of providing a
visual language they can readily access and utilize is one that will benefit the childs
future growth linguistically, socially and culturally. Speech is also an option for children.
However, for the child, the process of learning to comprehend even the idea of speech,
much less being able to speak, with no hearing to monitor production, takes years to
develop. This will occur during the childs developmental critical stages and with years to
develop, the child will be delayed in language. However, the use of ASL has immediate
success in giving language through a visual mode. The child can immediately see and
begin language development without having to struggle with comprehension. There is no
need for years of therapy. ASL is a visual language and children do not have to be taught
to see, as they will need to be taught to read language on the lips. This is not to say that
speech and ASL cannot both be a combined option. Current research is delving into this
issue. The bi-cultural and bi-lingual method has shown promise in this area (LaSasso &
Lollis, 2003). The child is immediately given ASL as their L1, and once language and
cognitive abilities have begun, supplemental learning begins with the spoken language.
Thus the visual, can be used to explain the concept and teach the auditory/spoken
language.

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This all leads to the childs right to language and communication. For too long ASL
has been view as an inferior, merely gestural form of communication. The fact that ASL
is now seen as a legitimate, natural language, gives credibility to the Deaf communities
push to provide language to Deaf children. In America, 85.5% of Deaf children have no
access to language, much less ASL (Wilcox, 1989). Parents need to be informed and be
given the details they need to make wise decisions for their families. Deaf advocates have
been working, paving the way for children to have language access.
Siegels (2005) website states the following; The Deaf Child's Bill of Rights is
specific state law that recognizes the unique communication and language
needs of deaf and hard of hearing children. The first state to enact a DCBR
was South Dakota, but many more have followed, including Colorado, New
Mexico, California, and Georgia. While the DCBR is an important first step
in having the state formally acknowledge the unique needs of our children,
it does not automatically resolve all problems and immediately change
program options. The DCBR does, however, recognize the important needs
of our children and should be used in IEPs (Individual Education Programs)
and other discussions with school districts. In some cases they have been
used successfully in due process hearings. (p. 1)
Having a Deaf child does come with its unique challenges, moreover, the
challenge of their language development needs must not be over looked. This course will
give parents the initial steps, resources and support they need to provide an open and
communicative home to their Deaf child.

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References
Baker-Shenk, C., & Cokley, D. (1980). American sign language: A teacher resource.
Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Brown, H. (2007). Teaching by principle: An interactive approach to language pedagogy.
White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.
Cannon, J. (1981). Deaf heritage: a narrative history of deaf america. Silver Springs,
MD: National Association of the Deaf.
Cassell, J. (1996). Bravo ASL!:Bravo family. Eden Prairie, MN: Sign Enhancers, Inc.
Damico, J., Mller, N., & Ball, M. (Eds.). (2013). The Handbook of Language and
Speech Disorders. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Graves, K. (1996). A framework for the course development process. In K. Graves
(ed.), Teachers as Course Developers. Cambridge University Press (pp. 12-38).
Humphries, T, Padden, C, & O'Rourke, T.(1994). ABC: A basic course in american sign
language, University Park, IL: T J Publishers.
Liskin-Gasparro, J. (Ed.) (1982). Foreign language & proficiency assessment. Princeton,
NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Krashen, S. (1985), The Input hypothesis: Issues and implications, Longman
LaSasso, C., & Lollis, J. (2003). Survey of Residential and Day Schools for Deaf
Students in the United States That Identify Themselves as Bilingual-Bicultural
Programs. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 8(1).
Meyers, J. & Bartee, J. (1995). Improvements in the signing skills of hearing parents of
deaf children. American Annals of the Deaf, 137 (3), 257-260.

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Mitchell, R. & Karchmer, M. (2004), Chasing the mythical ten percent: Parental hearing
status of deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States. Sign Language
Studies.
Murphy, J, & Byrd, P. (2001). Understandings the courses we teach: Local perspectives
on english language teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michagn.
Newell, W, Caccamise, F, Boardman, K., & Holcomb, B. R. (1983). Adaptation of the
Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) for assessing sign communicative
competence. Sign Language Studies, 41, 311-352.
Ross, E. & Mitchell, A. (2006). How many deaf people are there in the united
states?:Estimates from the survey of income and program participation, Journal
of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 11: 112-119.
Siegel, L. (2005). Communication considerations a to z. Retrieved from
http://www.handsandvoices.org/comcon/articles/dcbr.htm
Simpson, J. (Ed.). (2011). The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics. New York,
NY: Routledge.
Vohr, B. (2003). Overview: Infants and children with hearing loss. Mental Retardation
and Mental Disabilities Research, 9, 6264-6264.
Vygotsky, L. (1962). Thought and Language. Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Wilcox, S. (Ed.). (1989). American deaf culture: an anthology. Burtonsville, MD:
Linstok Press.

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Appendices

Appendix 1
The Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI) Rating Scale is a standard scale
for rating sign language communication skills that is based on highly skilled,
knowledgeable native-like signers. Since each SLPI interviewees performance is
compared to this standard scale, not other interviewees, the SLPI is a criterion
referenced test. Also, since the upper anchor for the SLPI Rating Scale is based
on skilled native-like signers, the SLPI Rating Scale may be applied to all natural
sign languages. For further discussion of this see SLPI PAPER #3,
What Does the SLPI Assess?
As discussed in Newell, Caccamise, Boardman, and Holcomb (1983) and SLPI
PAPER #4, SLPI-SCPI-SLPI History, the SLPI has been adapted from the
Language/Oral Proficiency Interview (L/OPI), an assessment tool that is designed
to assess spoken language skills in second languages. Since the L/OPI was
developed by the US federal government to assess current and potential
government employees spoken language communication skills for foreign
languages, the original L/OPI rating scale, the US Government Defense Language
Institute (DLI) L/OPI Rating Scale, was more sensitive at higher spoken language
communication skill levels than lower skill levels.
Subsequent to the development and application of the L/OPI to foreign services
assessment needs, interest grew for applying this assessment technique within
academic settings. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language
(ACTFL) secured two U. S. Department of Education grants and, in collaboration
with Educational Testing Service (ETS) of Princeton, New Jersey, developed an
L/OPI scale for use in academic settings. This new scale was labeled the
ACTFL/ETS L/OPI Rating Scale. Since foreign language instruction generally
results in skills at the lower spoken communication language skill levels, the
ACTFL/ETS L/OPI Rating Scale was constructed to be more sensitive at these
lower spoken language communication skill levels and less sensitive at the higher
skill levels than the DLI L/OPI Rating Scale (Liskin-Gasparro, 1982).
Given that the SLPI was projected to be used with both people who are native
signers and with people who are learning a sign language as a second language,
it was determined that the SLPI Rating Scale would need to be sensitive to the
full range of possible sign language skills from very low, beginning skills through
native-like sign language communication skills. Therefore, the SLPI Rating Scale,
as shown on the next page, includes eleven rating skills levels that cover a wide
range of sign language skills from No Functional Skills (low beginning sign
language skills) at the low end of the scale up to Superior Plus (native-like skills)
at the top end of the scale. Each rating level has both a functional sign language
communication descriptor and linguistic form descriptors. The functional
descriptors identify the highest levels at which interviewees are able to use sign
language for communication and the form descriptors identify interviewees sign
language vocabulary, production, fluency, grammar, and comprehension skills.

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Ratings

Descriptors

Superior Plus

Able to have a fully shared and natural conversation, with in-depth


elaboration for both social and work topics. All aspects of signing are
native-like.
Able to have a fully shared conversation, with in-depth elaboration
for both social and work topics. Very broad sign language vocabulary,
near native-like production and fluency, excellent use of sign language
grammatical features, and excellent comprehension for normal signing rate.
Exhibits some superior level skills, but not all and not consistently.
Able to have a generally shared conversation with good,
spontaneous elaboration for both social and work topics. Broad sign
language vocabulary knowledge and clear, accurate production of signs and
fingerspelling at a normal/near-normal rate; occasional misproductions do
not detract from conversational flow. Good use of many sign language
grammatical features and comprehension good for normal signing rate.
Exhibits some advanced level skills, but not all and not consistently.
Able to discuss with some confidence routine social and work topics
within a conversational format with some elaboration; generally 3to-5 sentences. Good knowledge and control of everyday/basic sign
language vocabulary with some sign vocabulary errors. Fairly clear signing
at a moderate signing rate with some sign misproductions. Fair use of some
sign language grammatical features and fairly good comprehension for a
moderate-to-normal signing rate; a few repetitions and rephrasing of
questions may be needed.
Exhibits some intermediate level skills, but not all and not consistently.
Able to discuss basic social and work topics with responses
generally 1-to-3 sentences in length. Some knowledge of basic sign
language vocabulary with many sign vocabulary and/or sign production
errors. Slow-to-moderate signing rate. Basic use of a few sign language
grammatical features. Fair comprehension for signing produced at a slow-tomoderate rate with some repetition and rephrasing.
Exhibits some survival level skills, but not all and not consistently.
Able to provide single sign and some short phrase/sentence
responses to basic questions signed at a slow-to-moderate rate
with frequent repetition and rephrasing. Vocabulary primarily related to
everyday work and/or social areas such as basic work- related signs, family
members, basic objects, colors, numbers, names of weekdays, and time.
Production and fluency characterized by many sign production errors and by
a slow rate with frequent inappropriate pauses/hesitations.

Superior

Advanced Plus
Advanced

Intermediate Plus

Intermediate

Survival Plus
Survival

Novice Plus
Novice

No Functional
Skill

aAdapted

May be) Able to provide short single sign and primarily


fingerspelled responses to some basic questions signed at a slow
rate with extensive repetition and rephrasing.

from US Foreign Service Institute AND ACTFL LPI Rating Scales by William Newell and
Frank Caccamise
bThe SLPI was referred to as the Sign Communication Proficiency Interview (SCPI) from 1983 to May
2006.
cFor all SLPI rating descriptors, first statement (in bold type) always a statement of ASL

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communicative functioning, with all remaining statements (regular type) descriptors of ASL form
(vocabulary, production, fluency, grammar, and comprehension).
June 2006 (revised edition)

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