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Why a Bilingual Grammar Curriculum for ASL and English?
How many times have we seen Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students graduate high school with English literacy proficiencies well below grade level? For over 35+ years we have struggled to find a system of instruction that works and, unfortunately, outcomes have not changed. The Bilingual Grammar Curriculum (BGC) rethinks everything we have been doing and offers a new, comprehensive way to address grammar instruction.
We were teachers who faced the same challenges, and felt the same frustrations. We knew that we could, and must do a better job, because something about the system just didn’t make sense. So, we went to work to figure out what it was that made instruction so ineffective.
In an ideal world, DHH students would learn grammar through a natural, immersive approach using ASL and English. This immersion would be mediated by native adults users of both languages much as Deaf Parents of Deaf children do everyday. Naturally this is the best way. But if we take a look at the population of current DHH students, their linguistic, backgrounds, their home language environment and various approaches to education in their schools it becomes apparent that too many DHH students do not have access to this acquisition process. We are invested in making sure another generation of DHH students does not leave school with unrealized abilities.
After many years of teaching, consulting and working with DHH students we put together all the ideas and approaches that were successful and organized them into a single resource that we wish we had when we were teaching. We firmly believe that when teachers follow this (for both ASL and English grammar instruction) we will see exciting changes in our instruction, and in student outcomes.
Who is this curriculum for? Why is it being created?
This curriculum is for anyone interested in a comprehensive approach to teaching grammar so that students internalize the elements and use them independently to improve expressive ASL and English abilities. Though designed for implementation in a school setting, others can also use it in various ways.
The Bilingual Grammar Curriculum (BGC) is being written to answer the
questions the DHH teachers have always had when looking at their students writing:
“Where do I start with grammar instruction?"
The task seems overwhelming at times and teachers, without direction end up teaching unrelated scatter skills found in work designed for hearing children to practice skills they already know. Thus, given the lack of instructional depth, DHH students often forget and rarely internalize this type of grammar work.
The BGC is a developmental curriculum that is concept focused. Teachers of DHH students support their metalinguistic ability to guide them in looking at grammar skills first in ASL and then applying what they have learned to English. In this way, the students are able to talk about what they already use -- the various components of a visual language.
The BGC uses a developmental approach and is therefore not a grade level guide. Since many DHH students come to school with incomplete language structures it is imperative that they have the same opportunity to understand the grammar of the language they will be using in terms of a developmental hierarchy. Thus, the BGC is applicable to any student regardless of their age because of its developmental, conceptual approach.
Creation of the BGC and Rationale for Why it is Produced in Phases Rather Than as a Complete Curriculum
In creating this bilingual grammar curriculum, a tremendous amount of research, consultation with deaf adults, careful consideration and designing/aligning objectives has forced us to slow the process down until we felt satisfied with the resulting product. We were invested in ensuring that Deaf adults helped to frame our thoughts concerning the trajectory and types of lessons. We also wanted to be able to field test the BGC in various schools before we could offer it to others. Many, many edits have been necessary to ensure our framework - in terms of the overall structure and contents of our curriculum- is successful with actual students.
Our initial goal was to have everything completed before we sold any of it. However, because this process has greatly exceeded the amount of time initially projected for completing this project we have been relegated to rolling it out in 'phases' of what we have completed. The eventual goal is a completed curriculum but we are not there yet. As authors, we will only add material to this field that will be truly beneficial to our students and helpful to teachers. Our work is grounded in the perspective of the DHH student (and not simply the expectation to "tweak" materials designed for hearing children). As former DHH teachers, current consultants and trainers of teachers we will only allow what we know works to be marketed. Thus, the amount of field testing and revising until we feel satisfied has been extensive. We want this work to stand and also be the change the field has needed in this area long after we are gone---and hopefully others will continually to improve on it.
So with all of that...our first part of the process or Phase 1 was to produce the structure or the "roadmap" which outlines a hierarchy of sequenced skills appropriate for the student who is DHH and not designed on a hearing child's linguistic background and abilities. Our goal is to get students who have little to no functional grammar skills in ASL or English through three levels of intensive Anchor Standards, Benchmarks and related performance based objectives to the point where they have independent use of the controlling grammatical features of ASL and English.
Phase 1 (available for purchase on this website) then is this listing of the three levels of Anchor Standards, their related Benchmarks and performance-based objectives. There are over 500 objectives in ASL and English, each deconstructed using a developmental and task analysis approach to make sure we did not have gaps in grammar knowledge. Our goal for the students is success at each step. Teachers are directed to only continue to the next consecutive objective when the student has at least 80% mastery of the current skill. Each objective (i.e. the specific grammar skill being developed) depends on the understanding of the one before it.
We had a dilemma in initially allowing Phase 1 (the goals/objectives for 3 levels -approximately 4-5 years of grammar work) to be purchased. We originally intended to wait until everything was complete (i.e. each level having lesson plans, activities, target sentences in both languages, assessments, extension activities, etc.) to be sold. However after many of our teacher colleagues saw the work they asked us to make it available now. Their thought was that, rather than waiting for the completed curriculum, this sequence of ASL and English goals/objectives would allow them to know where to go in instruction. So while the teacher currently must make the lesson plan they no longer have to try and figure out which grammar skill to teach and when. The objectives are performance based and succinct in nature so they can be easily measured. So, teachers felt they could do this rather than waiting for the full curriculum-- what could be quite a long wait.
When will the full curriculum be ready? What is available for purchase now?
Currently, Phase 1 is available for purchase. Phase 1 includes:
The Bilingual Grammar Curriculum ASL and English Anchor Standards, Benchmarks and Performance-based Objectives for Level 1, 2 & 3. This provides instructors with a sequenced layout of all of the overarching goals and objectives and align ASL to English skill work. This represents approximately 4-5 years of detailed objectives for grammar instruction.
Phase 1 also includes a section for instructors to make files for individual students so that they can complete progress monitoring of all grammar work completed in an effective and ongoing manner.
Phase 1 does not include lesson plans or other curriculum related materials.
Other Phases of this work
PHASE 2- Phase 2 is almost completed! We will have Level 1 ASL and English as a full curriculum ready for purchase. It will be accessed from a website that is only for the BGC. This will include all of the Anchor Standards, benchmarks, objectives, target sentences in both languages, lesson plans, extension activities, and assessment suggestions. We are hoping for a September 2020 release date. It is currently in beta testing now with various schools and Individuals.
PHASE 3- Completion of Levels 2 & 3 as a complete curriculum. Dates TBD
PHASE 4- Addition of Levels 4-6- Advanced Grammar Instruction. Dates TBD