Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reading Milestones - Part 2

I am frequently asked how I teach reading to Deaf children.  There is no simple answer to that question; it would probably take pages to fully answer that.  However, as I stated in my previous post, I will share effective strategies that I use in conjunction with the Reading Milestones program that I started using with my students last January.

In this post, I will focus on reading sentences, paragraphs, and pages.  I'll discuss vocabulary instruction at a different time.  When I teach children to read, I scaffold in 4 phases.  I cannot put a specific length of time to stay in each phase.  It really depends on the child and his progress.

The first phase is for beginning readers, regardless of age; I have them read word for word.  Now don't scream just yet!  My goals are vocabulary recognition, developing reading confidence, and using picture clues.  As they read, I use teachable moments for those words that are not in the ASL lexicon.  I do not use any form of manually coded English, no invented endings and no English initialization.  After a child reads a sentence in English (on the first reading) I then sign it back to him in ASL order.  I then use questioning techniques to ensure comprehension.  During this first reading, if there are any word chunks or multiple meanings, I guide the student through discovering the correct meaning.  For example, in a story a child recently read in the Blue book, the sentence said "The frog jumps high." After the child read each word, I asked her to look at the picture and describe how the frog jumped.  The child used the signed JUMP, but instead of the frozen sign, she added inflection by having the Bent-V sign go high in the air.  COMPREHENSION! Each time she came across this word pair, she made 1 sign instead of 2!  As the students reread the story, I encourage them to restate in ASL and I remodel if needed.

In the second phase, I have the student read a sentence silently then retell to me in ASL.  When they start this phase they will often just recite what they remember in English word order.  This is OK for the first reading.   I teach them to read the sentence to themselves, close their eyes, and visualize what they just read (visualizing is taught in a separate lesson).   After they feel they have a good visual image, I ask them to retell the sentence.  I then will read the sentence back to them, translating into ASL.  We then have similar discussions about conceptual accuracy and such.  Yes this takes a long while to get through a story, however the more time you spend developing their metalinguistics (using their knowledge of ASL and applying it to English) the more successful they will be in reading.  We'll tackle metalinguistics in another post. 

In the third phase, I have students read a paragraph silently then retell what they read.  I need for them to tell me what they feel is important from the paragraph.  I am not looking for every specific detail but just what they feel is important AND that it flows from the previous paragraph.  I, again, will model to them how I retell a paragraph.  And some point though, I stop retelling each paragraph, instead just giving them feedback on what they said and including those teachable moments.

Finally for the fourth phase, I want the child to silently read the entire page and SUMMARIZE what they read.  Yes at this phase I do not expect them to tell me everything they read but to summarize what they feel is the key features.  This is an important skill and part of the reading standards.  I do teach summarizing in a separate lesson also. 

Through each phase I do a lot of questioning as we read and take advantage of any teachable moment I see.  I find more success with tackling the reading standards by incorporating as many of them as I can into that guided reading time instead of as separate lessons.  This allows for frequent and repetitive coverage of the standards.

The good thing about Reading Milestones is that in the earlier levels there is a lot of repetition and highly structured sentences.  This makes it easier for deaf children to quickly comprehend what they read and move through the scaffolding phases.  I do need to emphasize though, when using Reading Milestones or any other program with high structure, you MUST include  typical literature and informational text into your daily instruction.  This can be done via read alouds and shared reading.  If you do not give these children the opportunity to experience 'normal' text, you will not be giving them a quality education - you are denying them the rich language of English (i.e. metaphors, similes, idioms, etc.) and hence setting them up for failure.

I would love to know your opinions to my posts.  Please leave comments :-)


  1. I'd like to know how you structure the inclusion of 'normal' text. Is there a way that we can use 'normal' texts to help build reading skills without having to depend on formulaic reading programs? This is something that I struggle with frequently, especially when I look at students who are in high school yet still reading at 1st 2nd grade level and have no other identified cognitive delays. I keep searching for reading programs that will help increase their vocabulary retention and help them become fluent readers. I notice that you are now using DiPerri's Bedrock Literacy Curriculum (she was my professor at BU many moons ago :) and I admire her work). Which do you think is better: Bedrock or Milestones? or do you use them together? Are there any other programs/curriculum out there that are geared toward reading instruction for deaf students (specifically deaf students who use ASL). I'm scouring the web for other teachers blogging about this topic and came across your posts. Would love to connect!

  2. Hi Tamara,

    I'm so sorry for never replying to this. I did read it, though! :)

    I too graduated from BU and had Kristin as a professor. We are the luckiest teachers on Earth!

    I think no one program meets all the needs of DHH kids. I don't think Reading Milestones should ever be exclusively used. Literature and informational text are always intertwined in my instruction. I use these for read alouds, shared and guided reading. I like to use Reading Milestones as a way to introduce skills and standards then have them practice transferring the skills to "normal" text. I also integrate Bedrock too.

    As for other, I have all the VL2 stories on my iPad and some of the Signed Stories. I use those to provide my students with other language models, then build lessons around them.

    I hope that helps and hope to see you at the next #DeafEd Twitter chat!