Problem: Improving the vocabulary and reading ability of my deaf

Improving the vocabulary and reading ability of deaf students with low language skills
continues to be an ongoing challenge in my classroom. At the elementary level I have
had several students enter the program with very low language levels and little exposure
to vocabulary, sign language, and/or reading. Sometimes students take right off with
daily classroom exposure, but I have had some children that just struggle to learn how to
read the most basic of stories.
I use a variety of early emergent level books such as books from The Wright Group.
These books are leveled so that I can work with different students on different levels.
The books contain predictable sentence patterns and have wonderful text to picture
correlations. I also have some Hard of Hearing students who are using the regular
curriculum reading series, however they are bombarded with an abundance of new or
unfamiliar vocabulary within each story. Regardless of what reading material the
students are using I have found a few activities that are helpful in improving vocabulary
in all of my DF/HH students.
Vocabulary Activities:
 After students using the Wright Group books have read their little books, they go
to the computer and use a program called Writing With Symbols. Using the
word processor portion of this program they type in the vocabulary from the story.
The program will give a picture to match the word they type. Then we import
Boardmaker’s PCS Sign Language Libraries into the Writing With Symbols
program and the students retype each word they previously typed. Now instead of
a picture the program will pull up the sign for the word. When completed the
students print out the document and make flashcards. In my class they write the
vocabulary word on one flash card, and then they draw a T shape on another flash
card. On this card, they write a sentence using the vocabulary word above the top
of the T and then glue the picture of the vocabulary word below to the left and the
sign below to the right. This way they can play Concentration with the cards.
The concentration game is a great homework assignment. It introduces the
parents to the signs for the story vocabulary as well.
Another activity my younger students do to improve vocabulary is create their
own books following the same sentence pattern as their Wright Group Book.
Students can use a variety of the larger teacher shape notepads as the cover and
pages of the books. For example, during Halloween we read many books about
pumpkins. My students created their own Pumpkin Books using large pumpkin
shaped notepads as the pages of their book. Last week when we were learning
about Penguins, my older students used a large Penguin notepad as the cover of
their Penquin Fact Book. I cut copy paper in the same shape for the pages of their
books and stapled it together. Each student wrote and illustrated their own
Penguin Fact Book.
Another activity we frequently do is Vocabulary PowerPoint. By using the
templates that allow you to insert clip art you can have the students type their
vocabulary words or spelling words in the top box of the template, write a
definition and a sentence using the word in the lower text box, and then click on
the Clip Art symbol to insert a picture of the vocabulary word. When the students
click on the Clip Art icon and type in the vocabulary word and it will pull up all
pictures related to the word entered. This is helpful in that the children do not
have to spend an abundant amount of time searching for a picture to match the
vocabulary word. (It can also serve as a red flag to the teacher if the student
consistently chooses pictures that are not appropriate.) Microsoft Word Art can
be used in a similar way. We recently did a unit on adjectives. Students used
Word Art to illustrate their assigned adjective. For example:
We make Vocabulary Flip Books frequently to practice story vocabulary. Fold a
sheet of paper in half long ways, then fold it back the other way (so that your
paper resembles an M or zig zag). Next, hold the middle of the M together and
staple the paper together at the top underneath the flaps. Then cut the two flaps
on either side up to the fold line so that we have a front and a back both with four
or five flaps (see below). I have my students with low language abilities write the
vocabulary word on the outside of the flap, illustrate the word on the inside of the
flap at the top, and write a sentence on the lower half. (See example below – This
student glued on a picture of the word and the sign of the word, then wrote a
sentence below.) Students with more advanced language skills are asked to write
the definition on the outside of the flap and put the vocabulary word and
illustration under the flap. This has been an extremely helpful activity to use with
Science Vocabulary in 4th and 5th grades.
(side view)
(front view of front only)
The impact of these activities has been that my students’ abilities to remember and recall
story vocabulary have improved noticeably. Students are able to use the Flip Books they
have made as a tool to review and practice their story vocabulary. I have noticed that my
students are beginning to enjoy literacy activities more. They are beginning to ask for
signs of words they do not know. Another improvement I have noticed is that my
students will use the clip art portion of the Microsoft Word or Microsoft Power Point
program as a sort of “reverse dictionary”. When they come across a word in their
independent silent reading time and I am working with another student, they have always
been encouraged to use the ASL Sign Language Dictionary on CD ROM. Now they have
begun to go to the computer and pull up Clip Art. Then, they type the word into the
search line in hopes of bringing up a picture of the unfamiliar word. Often times they
recognize the picture and know a sign for it. My students enjoy printing out their
reading stories in sign language to take home and share with parents, siblings, and
Contact Information:
Jennifer Maxwell
[email protected]
Columbia County
Blue Ridge Elementary School
550 Blue Ridge Drive
Evans Georgia, 30809