Upcoming Conferences

February 21, 2007 at 8:09 pm (Deaf Literacy)

Teaching for Success:
Literacy, Diversity and Technology

Fifth Meeting of the English Think Tank
June 14-15, 2007,
Gallaudet University

Who Should Submit a Presentation Proposal or a Poster Session Proposal
Anyone whose work affects deaf or hard-of-hearing students in middle school programs up to and through the college level is encouraged to submit a presentation proposal or a poster session proposal related to English literacy. Co-presenters as well as teams are welcome.
Topics That Are Encouraged
Topics for the conference include but are not limited to information on research or innovative classroom practices for the following areas:

  • diversity
  • learning technologies
  • preparing students for the global workforce
  • ASL-enriched courses   
  • English across the curriculum
  • Interdisciplinary courses
  • Writing Enhanced Courses
  • reading, writing, grammar, literature, and/or vocabulary
  • classroom assessment
  • program assessment

The deadline for submitting proposals is March 2, 2007.

For more information, visit


Any questions, please contact Jane Nickerson at jane.nickerson@gallaudet.edu or


Call for Presentations

CueSign Conference 2007

National Institute of Technology

July, 12-15, 2007

A four-day conference at the National Institute of Technology in
Rochester, NY from July 12 to 15, 2007, covering a range of issues pertaining to deafness, multi-lingualism via cued and/or signed languages, bilingual education, and cultural identity. Audience is expected to be largely parents, educators, and professionals. Lunch will be provided to presenters.

CueSign is run by a group of people who believe the most empowered and literate Deaf child is dual-lingual vis-a-vis both cued English and American Sign Language, and that Deaf children have a civil right to access the cultures accompanying both languages. 

Submit electronically to Daniel Koo by Feb 28, 2007.  






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The Literacy Development Self Survey

February 18, 2007 at 3:58 pm (Deaf Literacy)

From time to time, a student will ask me, “Why am I so bad at English?”  Always heartbreaking, because it’s usually a smart, motivated person who really wants to succeed in getting a college degree.  But years of struggling with reading and writing have battered their self-esteem.

It’s not an easy question to answer, so last semester I came up with a questionnaire to help students understand how complex language acquisition is.  Here’s what it included:

Age of onset? Level of decibel loss?  Parents hearing or deaf?  Parents used voice, signed English, Cued English, or ASL?  How well could you communicate with your parents as a child?  Do you remember your parents reading to you a) rarely, b) sometimes, c) often?  How many books were in your parents’ house when you were growing up:  10-20, 20-30, 30-40, too many to count?  What level of education do your parents have?  Did you grow up in a house or an apartment?  Did you go to a mainstream or deaf school?  If mainstream, what kind of support services did you have?  Could you understand your teachers?  Were your schools: easy, moderately challenging,  or very challenging?  Did you have a close relationship with any teachers?  Do you enjoy reading?  How much do you read on a daily basis, outside of class work? 

After going through these questions in class, we compared answers.  Students were surprised by how much variation there was.  But, we noticed that few people remembered their parents reading to them regularly, most thought their schools were too easy, and no one read much outside of class.   They realized that while there’s no one right or wrong approach to deaf literacy, certain factors are very important. 

After doing the questionnaire, we read a short article about language acquisition in infants and toddlers, and how deafness impacts that.  My students were very surprised to learn how much langauge development takes place before age two.  IMHO, meta-linguistic awareness is crucial for helping students become more literate.  Together, the questionnaire and the article helped them understand themselves better.  They realized that they can become skilled readers and writers.  They’re not stupid or lazy.  Their struggles with English come from their background, not their abilities.  

As one student said, “All this time, I thought it was just me.” 

Yeah, heartbreaking.

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Snow day!

February 6, 2007 at 8:58 pm (Deaf Literacy)

What better way to inaugurate my new blog than cozying up to the computer while it snows outside.  Right now, I’m checking homework and getting a sense of my students’ writing skills.  Although I’m teaching college reading this semester, we do a fair amount of writing.  One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s a lot easier to teach deaf students how to read better than it is to teach them how to write better.  Train them to look at the details in a paragraph more carefully, have them memorize the relationships established by common transition words, do some old-fashioned vocabulary work, and they’re well on their way to becoming good readers. 

But writing … different story.  Why is that??

Some writing skills can be taught easily, like setting up good essay structure and smooth transitions between ideas.  Some grammar problems can be fixed easily, like subject-verb or noun-pronoun agreement, unclear pronoun reference, or verb tenses.  But when you get to the nitty gritty details of syntax, I fail to see noticeable improvements.  Is it me?  What are the best strategies for teaching complex grammar skills?  Is it the short time span (a semester is only 15 weeks, after all)?  Will my students make significant progress expressing complex ideas in correct syntax by the time they graduate?   

Something else to consider – are we asking students to do the right kind of writing in college classes?  Should we be aiming more for business writing skills than essay skills? 

What are your thoughts?  Experiences?  Strategies?

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