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American Annals of the Deaf

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Teaching Deaf and Second-Language Students to Be Better Writers

Sue Livingston

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Read reviews: The Midwest Book Review, Reference & Research Book News, Choice, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

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Working Text: X-Word Grammar and Writing Activities for Students

From the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education

The teaching of X-Word Grammar will appeal to writing instructors and tutors who work with deaf college students. Livingston, the author, created an engaging instructional handbook that aims to make teaching English simple and less complicated. X-Word Grammar is a revising technique that derives from the work of Allen (1967). Allen’s original system was Sector Analysis and was adapted into X-Word Grammar. The letter “X’’ stands for auXiliary as in auxiliary verbs (“be,” “do,” “have,” and all the modals). Livingston has taught developmental writing for many years in the Program for Deaf Adults at LaGuardia Community College. Eight years ago, she was introduced to X-Word Grammar through a colleague and had seen positive development in her students’ working texts.

The instructional guide in her handbook offers some key pointers that are noteworthy. They are the language strategies that appear to simplify grammar instruction. First, it begins with reading activities. The intention of the reading activities is to set students up for prewriting tasks that would lead to the creation of an essay. Her descriptions are clear and excellent on how to integrate modalities in a writing classroom: signing, interactive feedback, using an overhead projector, and marking and annotating text on a whiteboard. These modalities establish teaching language that is visible and interactive in order to meet the needs of visual learners. X-Word Grammar is progressively introduced to the students as they begin to write their drafts. Because American Sign Language (ASL) does not have the “be” verbs and a written form, I would envision the deaf college students in my writing class to begin working with the “be” verbs in her accompanying student workbook: Working Text: X-Word Grammar and Writing Activities for Students. The workbook begins with the yes/no questions in order for the students to turn questions into sentences that bear the auxiliary verbs. In this approach, students would begin to notice how sentences work with X-Words.

Livingston has broadened my perspective on sentence patterns that come later in the X-Word Grammar instruction. These patterns simplify complex sentences by using a set of X-Word symbols. These symbols appear simple and convenient for editing and demonstrate if sentences can work together or if they work better in a different way. Users will learn to appreciate sentence patterns as they learn to organize their ideas and express them well.

Another key point is that Livingston includes the “lexical approach” (Lewis, 1997, 2000). This involves reading activities that recognize the use of word phrases or chunks of language in print texts. Livingston believes that if students notice how the words are partnered, they will integrate them into writing, such as good writers know how certain words need a partner. This is an important approach because deaf students normally miss paired words during dialogues with hearing people, and ASL does not have a written form to show how words are formed together. This handbook stresses the importance of word patterns and the need to bring it to students’ attention.

Livingston understands the unique needs of deaf students, and her handbook serves its purpose. Her handbook, workbook, and CD are carefully planned and include culturally relevant literature. She covers topics and units that make it a valuable teaching tool not only for deaf students but also for anyone learning the English language.

Sue Livingston is Professor, Program for Deaf Adults, LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York, NY.

ISBN 978-1-56368-466-1, 8½ x 11 paperback, 224 pages, figures, appendices, index, writing activities CD

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