A Deaf Child's Language Acquisition Verified through Text Retelling

Article excerpt

The researchers studied a method of mediation with a deaf second grader. Language needs were identified through transcription of the child's retellings of weekly basal stories. These were either targeted for adult-mediated conversations during reading activities or left "untargeted but tracked." During two intervention phases, the student's performance on semantic and syntactic features of interest incorporated into retellings improved when an adult facilitated; when an adult was intentionally unavailable to mediate retellings, documentation of positive linguistic changes indicated internalization or acquisition of these features. Analysis of language behaviors that did not improve during unmediated retellings indicated a need for continued mediation. Untargeted but tracked behaviors that went unchanged during data collection further documented that language behavior changes resulted from adult mediation, not maturation. The child achieved 1 year's reading growth during the data collection period (1 academic year) on the Gates-MacGinite Test of Reading (hearing norms; W. MacGinite & R. MacGinite, 1989). Text retelling methodology proved useful, although group design study is warranted.

The English-language and reading difficulties evidenced by the majority of students who are deaf or hard of hearing (Paul, 1998; Paul & Jackson, 1993) are cause for increasing concern because 80% of all such students now attend public school (IT.S. Department of Education, 1989). These "included" students are more apt to be reading from "new" basal texts chosen by the school district (LaSasso, 1978)stories that Hoffman et al. (1993) found place greater demands on students, abilities to decode vocabulary than did older basals (e.g., 1993 texts as compared to these produced during 1986-1987). Hoffman et al. and LaSasso also found substantially more unique words in the newer basals and a reduction in vocabulary control and repetition.

Luetke-Stahlman, Hayes, and Nielsen (1995) advised that both student and adult variables need to be considered in determining whether students who are deaf or hard of hearing and are using the newer basals are becoming better readers. Researchers have investigated student variables related to the following challenges: (a) accessing phonological processing, (b) utilizing short-term memory efficiently, and (c) processing English (Williams, 1994). More specifically, it has been found that vocabulary (King & Quigley, 1985; Moores, 1996; Paul, 1984, 1998; Paul & Gustafson, 1991; Quigley & Paul, 1984), multiplicity of meanings (Blackwell, Engen, Fischgrund, & Zarcodoolas, 1978) indefinite pronouns (Wilbur & Goodhart, 1985), subordinate structures (Engen, 1995; Paul, 1998), figurative language (Paul, 1984), and inferencing (Engen, 1995) cause comprehension problems for readers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Variables pertaining to adults behavior while they read to students have focused in part on instructional practices, for example, attention to students' weaknesses in phonology and syntax-an important skill area if deaf students are to read proficiently (Paul, 1998). In addition, Dickinson and Smith (1994) found that students who are proficient readers are those who have engaged in cognitively challenging conversations with teachers at school (e.g., discussions involving the analysis of characters, events, and problem resolution, as well as discussions about the meaning of vocabulary, figurative expressions, and grammar used). Student variables and adult variables combine to present a reading challenge that, ironically, might be met when adults carefully plan and participate in facilitated reading activities.

Mediation and Reading Comprehension

The practice of parents and teachers reading to students of all ages has been highly acclaimed by educators and researchers alike (Hoggan & Strong, 1994). Research has documented that such mediated reading experiences aid the semantic and syntactic language development of hearing children (Chomsky, 1972; Gelzer, 1988; Heath, 1983; Holdaway, 1979; Irwin, 1960; Karweit, 1989; Ninio, 1980; Peterman, 1988; Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines,1988). …