View Our Catalog

Join Our E-Mail List

What's New

Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

Press Home

Literacy and Your Deaf Child: What Every Parent Should Know

David A. Stewart and Bryan R. Clarke

Chapter Eight: Writing

This chapter will help you understand

  • That writing is more than written speech and is related to reading
  • The first steps in writing begin in the home
  • The roles of handwriting, punctuation, and spelling in shaping a child's overall writing style
  • Some strategies to help your child write better
Writing, like reading, improves with practice. But getting children to write is not as simple as placing a computer keyboard or a pencil and paper in front of them and waiting for something to happen. It might seem logical that the more comfortable people are using words in conversation the better able they should be at writing. But sometimes even the best of speakers and signers are reluctant to write more than the occasional note or e-mail message. Becoming a writer involves motivation and confidence in one�s ability to convey messages in print. Following is a story of how one teacher got two deaf children to enjoy writing.

The teacher taught in the middle school program at a school for deaf children and had a twice-weekly writing requirement: Students engaged in fifteen minutes of uninterrupted, sustained, silent reading everyday. During the two writing sessions, the students were encouraged to write about anything at all, and the teacher read what they wrote but made no corrections to their work. Instead, he would meet with the students individually in brief encounters that often led to animated discussions. The teacher helped the students think about what they had written, how best to get the message across, and how they might improve upon their efforts the next time they wrote.

Heather was a twelve-year-old deaf girl with a fifth-grade reading level whose English skills were adequate at a basic level. She could write grammatically correct sentences following patterns that her previous teachers had taught her. She kept her stories short and her grammar accurate. This manner of writing, however, lacked vitality, and at the beginning of the year, she often rendered dry recaps of her life:

Saturday, I had a lot of fun. I went to see the movie called, The Princess Diaries. I enjoyed the movie. It was a fun movie to watch. I stayed home Sunday. I watched TV with my sister.
Through conversations with the teacher, she realized the value of elaborating upon different aspects of her story. In addition, she came to understand that one function of writing is to entertain other people. She learned that writing a story is not simply telling something to somebody; rather, it is saying something to others in such a way that they will want to read it. At first, Heather found this a difficult concept to incorporate into her thinking about writing. For years, she had aimed at writing correctly and with precision rather than for social reasons. To write well, she now had to learn how to take risks in her writing by experimenting with words and letting the story, rather than her knowledge of grammar, guide her writing.