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Researching Deaf Children’s Literacy Prof Terezinha Nunes Deborah Evans Danny Bell Addy Gardner Dr Diana Burman University of Oxford Winner of the 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "Researching Deaf Children’s Literacy Prof Terezinha Nunes Deborah Evans Danny Bell Addy Gardner Dr Diana Burman University of Oxford Winner of the 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 Researching Deaf Children’s Literacy Prof Terezinha Nunes Deborah Evans Danny Bell Addy Gardner Dr Diana Burman University of Oxford Winner of the 2006 Michael Young Research Prize ESRC Research Methods Festival St Catherine’s College, Oxford Thursday 3 rd July 2008

2 Deafness One in 1,000 babies born in the UK each year is deaf Only 2% of deaf school leavers are able to read at their appropriate age level 98% leave school functionally illiterate WHY?

3 Literacy Learning Writing is the written form of the spoken word Congenitally deaf children have never accurately heard words spoken Therefore they are unable to think in words in their head Therefore deaf children find reading and writing very challenging


5 National Curriculum No writing assessments exist Writing Assessment for measuring deaf BSL users Level 1. early attempts at English literacy. Pupils’ writing communicates meaning through simple words and phrases. In their reading of their writing, pupils begin to show awareness of how full stops are used. Letters are usually clearly shaped and correctly orientated.

6 The Problem Criteria used to measure writing progress in hearing children are inadequate for many deaf children. Assessments for writing samples of hearing children start at a level in advance of writing samples of many deaf children

7 Aims To develop a teaching programme for deaf primary school children to improve their literacy To devise literacy assessments 1. To monitor their progress in literacy 2. To provide a framework for teachers

8 Grammatical and morphological differences between BSL and English There is not always a one to one correspondence between a word and a sign (e.g. ‘up until now’). Sentence structures vary (e.g. boy play where?). BSL expresses interrogative and negative through non-manual features. BSL does not use tenses to denote time. Plurality in BSL is denoted by quantity; the noun remains the same. BSL does not contain many function or content words – to/at; is/was; nor the definite or indefinite article – the/a.

9 Fingerspelling Fingerspelling is where each alphabetic letter is represented by a hand and finger configuration It has been developed by hearing educators in an attempt to bridge sign- language with written language It has to be taught to deaf children as a pre-curser to literacy

10 is important for literacy learning, but so are Morphemes these are units of meaning rather than units of sound Some spellings appear irregular from their letter sounds, but are regular in their units of meaning magician = magic + ian Phonological awareness

11 Morphemes in English Morphemes have a fixed spelling Morphemes are related to grammar  ‘er’ is used to make person words from verbs (read-reader)  ‘ian’ is used to make person words from nouns (magic- magician)  Analyzing words into morphemes helps children break long words into smaller units, accessible to visual coding - unbreakable = unbreakable Visual coding is used more by deaf than hearing children to remember spellings of words

12 Question 1 Are deaf children using morphemes?

13 Spelling assessment: Pretest example

14 Hypothesis If taught, deaf children could learn to use morphemes to spell English words, to decode English words in reading, and to help them plan writing because of the important connections between morphemes and English grammar.

15 The Teaching Programme targeted morphemes from 11 English classifications: 1. Plurals ‘s’ ‘windows’ 2.Regular past tense ‘-ed’ ‘jumped’ 3. 3 rd person singular ‘Now Sophie walks’ 4. Person words ‘-er’ ‘teacher’ 5. Person words‘-ist’ ‘artist’

16 Targeted morphemes (contd.) 6. Person words ‘-ian’ ‘magician’ 7. Suffixes ‘-ful’ ‘painful’ 8. ‘-less’ ‘painless’ 9. ‘-ment’ ‘government’ 10. ‘-ion’ ‘competition’ 11. ‘-ness’ ‘tiredness’

17 1. Singular and Plural BSL = 1 dog; 4 dog English = 1 dog; 4 dogs

18 ? 6 buns1 bun

19 ? 1 flower3 flowers

20 mats tie spoons spoon

21 Tense to denote time - 2. Regular past tense 3. Third person singular English =I walk now I walked yesterday BSL= I walk now I walk yesterday

22 Last week she danced.

23 Now she d………...dances.

24 Now granny cooks.

25 Last night granny c………...cooked.

26 Third Person Singular and Regular Past Tense Bingo Game

27 Regular past tense: Story Book


29 Irregular Verbs

30 Reported speech

31 Name the person who…… 4. ‘-er’ 5. ‘-ist’ 6. ‘-ian’

32 A person who reads is a er ist ian reader

33 art ist er ist ian A person who makes art is an

34 magician er ist ian A person who makes magic is a

35 artist O florist X magician O teacher X electrician O

36 artist Oflorist X magician Oteacher X electrician O

37 Grace..……. school.likes

38 On Tuesday Grace …………. in her science book. She likes science and she’s a good ………………. writes scientist/writer.

39 This is Sir Isaac Newton. He was a scientist and a mathematician.

40 He liked science…..

41 …..and he liked mathematics.

42 Suffixes that change word meanings in predictable ways: 7. ‘-ful’ 8. ‘-less’

43 He had a cut. He was in pain. The cut was pain___. painful.

44 Then the cut got better. He had no pain. The cut was pain____. painless.

45 She ran fast; She arrived breathless. The puppy was playful. © Diana Burman & Addy Gardner The magician was wonderful. The cut was painful. Broken glass can be harmful. Tom made lots of mistakes; he was careless.

46 Suffixes 9. ‘-ment’ 10. ‘-ion’ 11. ‘-ness’

47 We must look after our environment We vote for people to govern We measure rooms The grey paving stones The teacher said, “Punctuate this sentence” The cat ate to his satisfaction with the correct punctuation. to find out the exact measurement. he went to sleep satisfied. those people form our government. made a grey pavement. by reducing pollution.

48 Assessments Spelling Reading Writing

49 1. These are w……….......

50 3. Yesterday this man j………… over the babies.

51 Post-test results of Spelling with Suffixes controlling for age, IQ and pre- test scores (n=132)

52 Evidence of increased use of morphemes in spelling Effect size: 0.49


54 Post-test Sample (Score 14; Max 14)

55 Post-test results of Reading Comprehension controlling for age, IQ and pre-test scores

56 Writing Assessment Initially 35 children were invited to write about the same 4-picture sequence story at pre-test and post-test.

57 Scoring Six experienced teachers of the deaf ranked the deaf children’s writing productions into 5 bands. These represented knowledge of written English - Band ‘E’ (the weakest) to Band ‘A’ (the strongest).

58 Band ‘E’ examples (8 boys; 2 girls)

59 Band E ( Children may not understand that writing is a form of communication based on an oral/aural communication system) Demonstrate an ability to: Place words the correct way up in order to copy-write Write some alphabetic letters in sequence to resemble words Memorise some fingerspelling configurations and their corresponding written letter Produced letter sequences for isolated words, which may/may not be relevant

60 Band ‘D’ examples (4 boys; 3 girls)

61 Band ‘C’ examples (5 boys; 1 girl)

62 Band D & Band C Appear to understand that writing is a communication system Produce some letter sequences to form relevant words, with some obscure spellings Write words in BSL order, with emerging English syntax Band C Place words in a more coherent order with greater awareness of English syntax

63 Band ‘B’ examples (3 boys; 2 girls)

64 Band ‘A’ examples (1 boy; 3 girls)

65 Band B and Band A Band B Transcribe BSL into English Follow through characterisation with an action (e.g. ‘he pack a clohes for to go to hoilday’ / ‘he finish he carried bag’) Band A Produce sufficient English syntax for coherent communication


67 The correlations between the six teachers scores were high and significant (between r = 0.57 and r = 0.94, p<0.001; n = 32). These Bands of writing profiles therefore provide a reliable instrument that can be used by teachers of the deaf for both assessment and progression in teaching. Reliability

68 A further study involved supported by The Nuffield Foundation involved: 257 deaf children Spread across the UK

69 Dissemination Michael Young Prize 2006 BBC Woman’s Hour 1. Raised awareness of the link between deaf ness and literacy 2. Many private individuals and professionals in the UK contacted me seeking further details of the research

70 Dissemination Michael Young Prize 2006 National Conferences 1. Teachers of the Deaf 2. Parents of deaf children 3. Professionals

71 Dissemination Michael Young Prize 2006 National Conferences Edinburgh Troon

72 National Conferences (contd.) ManchesterCoventry

73 National Conferences (contd.) Nottingham Reading

74 National Conferences (contd.) Oxford London

75 Dissemination Michael Young Prize 2006 International Conferences

76 Pittsburgh, USA. American and Canadian Teachers of the Deaf Annual Conference

77 International Conferences Hobart, Tasmania. Annual Conference for Teachers of the Deaf from Australia and New Zealand

78 Family–School Partnership to promote Deaf Children’s Literacy Supported by National Deaf Children’s Society

79 Teaching materials and assessments are available at

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