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The Bedrock Literacy Curriculum

Foundational English Literacy Skills for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

by Kristin A. Di Perri, Ed.D.

This manual is designed for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) student. This is not a curriculum in the traditional sense, but instead supports teachers in their search for developing literacy skills in meaningful ways - by building a solid foundation that minimizes gaps. The contents are focused on supporting the teacher as they create a literacy plan using visually based approaches that excite, motivate and most importantly are meaningful to their students. The Bedrock program outlines a developmental plan rather than a grade level approach for cultivating students essential literacy skills.

Bedrock covers foundational components -how to read, how to write, and how to develop a strong beginning vocabulary. It also includes some basic beginning grammar skills.  The Bedrock program focuses on engaging the DHH students meta skills (i.e. meta-cognitive, meta-linguistic) to develop the independent processes for constructing and understanding meaning-the hallmarks of a literate individual. The approach and activities are distinctly designed using a hierarchy that will make sense to the DHH child who has not had intensive exposure to English. These critical literacy building blocks are what all literate students require for lifelong literacy development. 

Challenge for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teachers

Teachers of DHH students are expected to meet the needs of all of their students. For many teachers, this is a reasonable assumption if students have aural/oral abilities they can use to learn English literacy skills. However-what if the DHH student is an ASL user? What if the DHH student comes from and returns to a home environment where access to any language is constrained? What if the DHH student can not use the English phonological system for learning to read and write? What does the teacher do then? 

Teachers are often told to adapt or "tweak" existing curricula that has been designed for hearing children as if information accrued in the birth to 5 years of language acquisition was nominal. In Kindergarten, hearing students are not "starting" the literacy process. Instead they are taking the wealth of information they have already acquired and learning how to map it onto a written system. This is a markedly different experience for DHH students who are ASL users or those that have not had this access to any language. Trying to adapt mass marketed English curricula for these DHH students continues to end in underdeveloped literacy abilities and frustration for their teachers.

The DHH teacher is often left wondering the following:

  • How do I teach students to read if they can't sound out words while reading?  Will "copying" signs be enough?
  • How do I teach them to write independently if they need me to spell most of the words they want to write?
  • How do I get my students to remember vocabulary items better?
  • How do I help my students recall the sequence in spelling words if they don't use sound or syllables?

Bedrock was written to address these concerns. Many DHH students need a different approach to become literate. They require a design that orients from concepts developed using language neutral activities and then adding ASL and English.  They need structure and activities that take advantage of visual properties for connecting to print. For them, direct instruction on how English "works", is a significant necessity. This instruction is critical because, without a firm foundation, lifelong English literacy development can be compromised. Though the lessons included in this curriculum are not based on the English phonetic system the principles undergirding the activities are cognitively accessible. This means all children, regardless of language modality, can benefit.

Who is this for?

This curriculum is designed for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, (ASL, Spoken English, Total Communication-Signed English, Cued Speech, etc.) who have not had complete access to English. Though intended to be used from Kindergarten on, the curriculum is ungraded. The curriculum is written using a developmental approach and therefore appropriate for any student, regardless of age or grade level who has not had an opportunity to develop foundational skills in literacy in a comprehensible manner. 

Though it was developed with the beginning student in mind (ages 5-8), the approach is written developmentally so that students of any age, who have had gaps in their foundational understanding of English (i.e. reading, writing, vocabulary, basic grammar skills) can use it. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some middle (and high) school students to have underdeveloped literacy foundations. This is often marked by students who detest writing, are stalled in their reading comprehension levels and have an understandable general lack of interest in English. Further, DHH students from other countries often arrive in schools/programs for DHH students having never developed a language or had formal schooling. For these students the principles outlined In Bedrock are also highly applicable. The developmental sequence is based on building knowledge from the ground up. Therefore teachers can use the provided objectives from each unit to gauge what their students need or have already learned.

Learn More

Click here to read about the proposed sequencing for the Bedrock manual.