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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Literacy and Your Deaf Child: What Every Parent Should Know

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Writing is not simply written speech; the ability to write requires skills that go beyond those needed for spoken language. Writing, for example, presupposes at least the following four stages:

  • Planning
  • Translating ideas into words
  • Organizing the content
  • Reviewing the output

There are two broad aspects to writing. The first consists of the product. This is the resultant message and includes elements, such as the vocabulary, syntax, and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and legibility). The second is the process, where higher-level skills are required to accommodate aspects, such as intent, audience, organization, and style.

To compose a message, the writer first must go through a series of thought processes that includes determining the structure of the text, choosing the right vocabulary, constructing correct sentences in the proper sequence, and arranging them in paragraphs that convey the major points. He also has to be mindful of spelling, punctuation, and handwriting; all this while keeping in mind what the intended audience knows and what they need to know if the message is to be understood. As with reading, there are some unresolved questions concerning the effects that a deaf child’s limited access to phonology will have on the task of writing. Comments made on phonology in the previous chapter on reading also apply to writing.

Deaf students are not the only ones who may find writing to be a challenging task. Studies have shown that the writing of many college-entrance students lacks organization, cohesion, and clarity. In fact, only a minority of these college students was capable of writing a competent persuasive essay or an accurate and precise description of an event. As many as one in four reported that they experienced great difficulty with writing; even more claimed that they hated writing at school, and the longer they stayed in school, the more they disliked it. This is disheartening because writing is the ultimate link in the communicative chain that starts with thinking. Writing also stimulates further thinking and helps us to develop greater accuracy in the outcome of our thought processes.

At a practical level, writing is a skill that all of us, at some time or other, will need because of its indispensable role in our culture. The proliferation of forms that we all have to complete and the growing encroachment of computers as a means of social interaction require that we submit written information on more and more occasions. Whether we use pen or keyboard, writing is a part of our daily lives.


At the beginning of this chapter, you were told a story about how a teacher helped his deaf students develop a positive attitude toward writing through twice-weekly short periods of writing. The students selected the topic, and the teacher never corrected their efforts. He did, however, read each story carefully and talked to the students individually about them. Generally, the period of talk was brief—sometimes as short as two minutes. In addition to the content of what had been written, the teacher was interested in the student’s perception of how effective they had been in their writing. Indeed, the success of this writing experience was intimately linked to the students learning that writing is another important means of social interaction.

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