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purple arrow (1137 bytes) NCIP Profile: Telling Tales in ASL and English

NCIP Staff, 1994

After watching a story told in American Sign Language (ASL) and then retelling it in sign on videotape, students participating in the following project write their own version of the story.

Viewing a Story

black and white photo of students and teacher watching a video (4264 bytes)

Students at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf
and Hard of Hearing watch a story told in sign language.

At the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Boston, Massachusetts, a small class of primary-school children have come to the Literacies Lab to work with reading specialist Anne Devaney on their reading and writing skills. They are young children who are deaf and who use ASL.

The students, who have varying fluency in English, begin their work by watching a story in ASL presented by a teacher or on videotape by a storyteller. The videos -- which come from Horace Mann's extensive videotape library -- are classic imagination-capturing tales that hearing children typically read in the early grades. "A primary goal is to make the writing process as visual as possible," said Doris Corbo, the program's curriculum specialist.

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To reinforce the concepts that underlie the story, Anne leads a discussion focusing on its plot and characters. Students are asked to retell part or all of the narrative in sign language to improve their understanding.


Creating a First Draft on Video

black and white photo of students signing for the camera (5433 bytes)After Horace Mann students have seen
a story told in sign language,
they are videotaped retelling the story.

 

After watching and discussing the video, students go to a writing table to draw the story's scenes and characters. This "visual road map" will be used later when they retell the story again in writing.

While students draw, Anne takes each one aside and, using a camcorder on a tripod, videotapes him or her retelling the story in sign language. In the process, the student becomes more familiar with the structure and content of the narrative. This videotape version becomes the student's first draft.

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Working with Teachers and Classmates

black and white photo of student and teacher transcribing video (7820 bytes)Once they have been videotaped telling
a story in sign, Horace Mann students
sit with their teacher and discuss how to
transcribe the videotape in written English.

While Anne watches the videotape with the student, she transcribes the child's sign language into English on a computer. If the student disagrees with the teacher's translation, the two discuss what the student meant and how to convey this content in written English. After the story is fully transcribed, the student prints it out and reviews it three times -- alone, with another classmate, and with Anne or another teacher.

Video icon (2105 bytes)View Video Clip

As an alternative to working with the teacher, a pair of students may watch one of their sign language drafts together and discuss its content. According to Doris, some students express themselves more easily with classmates than with teachers.


Writing the Story

black and white photo of boy typing on computer (3931 bytes)After participating in a variety of activities
focused on the retelling of a story, Horace Mann
students individually or in pairs write their own
version of the story on computer.

Having reviewed the content and language of the story through a variety of activities, students are now ready to write the tale themselves. Using their drawings, but without the aid of the teacher's English transcript, students go to the computer and individually or in pairs create their own version of the story in English.

While they write, teachers encourage children to take risks with language. The most important thing for these beginner writers is getting their ideas on paper -- using proper spelling and grammar will come later.


Teacher Reflections

Teachers continually assess what kinds of support individual children need at each stage and what can be done to improve the process. For example, video-recording the children's version of the story was not originally part of the process. When this step was added, according to Doris, the quality of subsequent drafts dramatically improved.

As students' skills improve, steps in the process are dropped. Needing less support from the technology and their teachers, children move closer to becoming self-confident and self-sufficient writers.

Teachers in the school believe the program has significantly boosted students' enthusiasm about writing. Middle-school teachers also report that students who have participated in the project are entering their classes with better English language skills. [Audio]

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.