Monday, March 12, 2007

Bilingual Instruction in Action with Deaf Children: NALB

Barb DiGi demonstrates several applications to No ASL Left Behind (NALB), Chapter 1 series by having her elementary-aged deaf children reading the text using ASL. This simple reading activity is an example how to make a leap forward in reading comprehension among Deaf children. Had to edit from 20 minutes of taping to under 6 so the whole process cannot not be shown but you will see how it works to give you the picture.


Amy said...


This is the most wonderful vlog! I am very impressed how you prepare this vlog including showing examples with children. I loved the children's testimony why it is so important to understand ASL and how ASL can help them to read!

Big hand waves to you and the kids!

My question - can you explain little bit about translation process for the kids? What is happening in their learning process when they are starting to translate English to ASL and ASL to English?


Carl Schroeder said...

This is a wonderful vlog. I think you clearly explained that you discuss the translation progress with your children by comparing ASL with what they read in the book. There's no fixed procedure for cross-linguistic and cross-cultural translation; it has to be natural.
I love the humor your son expressed when a mistake was realized. I saw myself in him, and I usually became a clown about my own mistakes.
Barb, you're outstanding!

Barinthus said...

Why not break up your 20 min vlog into several small vlogs of perhaps 4-5 minutes each? I'd love to see the entire thing! :)

ASL said...

Wow, that's excellent example for all of them to learn your structure. Other teachers will learning it from you and I hope they will sharing with you from their experiences to better for teachers to understand itself rule. And of course, Deaf children will learning more and better than I am when I was little kid.

Dave Smith said...

This is good! We need more examples like this for pre-service and in-service teachers. I know that the Signs of Literacy Project at Gallaudet has a good source of such videos but they can't just release them to the general public because of Human Protection laws that researchers need to follow regarding confidentiality of participants. Deaf kids are considered a "vulnerable population" so rules for researchers are strict. I have to go through this myself everytime I propose a research project.

Jay said...

I actually watched the entire vLog. It felt real to me, and I enjoyed witnessing things and learn from it than reading all about it. Thank you for real-life experiences and hope you would continue to do so.

Anonymous said...


You made an excellent discussion on the views of your children's ability to read and to comphrend the large book that you taught them to conceptize of word meanings to connect everything.

When I noticed you hold the large thin book, I said, "I wish that book should provide during my time". My eyes bursted tearing. At the same time, I was angry. The oral school refused to allow me and other deaf kids to learn sign language. It apparently failed my concept and English structure from the book you elaborated beautifully.
Time move on for me. Yet, I am still struggling in English despite I just graduated from Gallaudet University. Thank to them and NTID for opening my mind and giving me new learning into my motivation toward my future.

Thank you for sharing the wonderful topic on your vlog.


Michele said...

Wow! Thanks for the information -- I don't think it applies to only deaf children but koda children as well. That is why I was puzzled at why my children were signing in English order more now and fingerspelling and then you clarified in the vlog, that was a big relief to hear about it! I use ASL when I converse with my children but they sign in English order and then I try to help them with ASL sign if they don't know what the sign is for to improve their ASL skills at the same time!

Toby Welch said...

Wow! That is awesome how you do with your Deaf children. I will take Bi-Bi classes at Lamar University. It is part of Deaf Education/Deaf Studies. I would love to show your vlogs to some professors if you don't mind. I would like to learn how to teach Deaf students like you do.

Thank you for sharing with us and showing us how you do that!! Keep vlogging!

Barb DiGi said...

Hello everyone!

I will consider showing more examples and methods as I get to move on to Chapter 2 :-)

It is really sad to see how difficult it is to get permissions for deaf children for study purposes making it more challenging and prolonging to produce the outcomes but that's how it is.

So I thought starting with my children will give me an opportunity to analyze how they learn English by using ASL as a model along with my camcorder to make documents. It is still challenging as I am trying to set up a natural process as they don't rehearse or know information beforehand.

Also it depends on the day, their energy level and mood. It is a matter of timing too. Actually, I asked them to read a few weeks ago with the camcorder and they said no so a few weeks later they told me they wanted to do it. I don't believe in pushing them to do it if they don't want to so it helps that they volunteer to participate in this taping project. They had fun though so I am positive we will continue with this taping session.

Anonymous said...


You ARE a true teacher! That is generally how deaf children of signing parents acquires the concept of the English linguistics after he has acquired the concept of ASL. Fluidly and effortlessly switching back and forth. One can see English on the boy's and the girl's mouth whilst signing. Beautiful! I urge you to send a copy of your vlog to both the Department of Linguistics (Dr. Bob E. Johnson and the Department of ASL (Ben Bahan or Dirksen-H. Bauman) at Gallaudet. Also another copy to Dean Katherine Jankowski, Dean of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. They would be most grateful to you for sharing! Love your vlog. Please do more vlogging.

Jean Boutcher

John F. Egbert said...

I am concising this comment to make it short.

A deaf school uses its policy on signed English in education that teachers uses.

Every Friday night, group of deaf students would sneak into gym locker room to hear a deaf janitor telling stories from a book he just recently read and students loved to listen to his stories because of ASL.

One Friday night, the deaf janitor said that he will talk about this particular book and one of the student said that he had read it.

After the deaf janitor was finished with his ASL story about the book, the student told the janitor that it was not the same as he read.

Nonetheless, the student re-read the book again. He was amazed... and finally understood about English language. He developed the concept of English language just by listening one night from the deaf janitor.

This proves that a deaf child needs to be bilingual, ASL/English-reading and writing.

ASL, not MCE signs.

(MCE - Manual Code English).

FYI - this is a true story!

John F. Egbert

Dragon 21 said...

The video isn't working.

Barb DiGi said...

There was a glitch in youtube so try again JD..

Jean, I will put that in consideration about your suggestions so thanks!

John, thanks for sharing your story. I have heard these kind of stories and I could relate to that.

For deaf children to master ASL from reading text is challenging. They used some Signed English and some ASL so I am trying to have them realize that they could sign ASL instead of Signed English like for the word "every-day" and use more correct sign concepts when signing the words "carting" and "loads".

Dragon 21 said...

Finally move is on...
Kids are so cute.
We need more and more people like you to teach young students to help them learn good English. This is why ASL is very important in our culture because it not only will improve the students' reading skills but writing as well. Sadly, I believe that reading and writing English is sorely lacking in Deaf education and this is an area where we are in desperate need of helping young students. Truthfully, I believe you are a phenomenal teacher because you continue to promote how important ASL is in Deaf education. Without your help, what will the future hold for them? How will they choose their career paths? Or better yet, what type of career would they have after they graduate if their English skills were poor? Again, it all comes down to needing more teachers like you - we should all be proud of your efforts!

Barb DiGi said...


No, I don't mind sharing since the purpose of posting this vlog is to use as examples that any teachers or professors can use to demonstrate. There are more examples that can be used as this is just the beginning. :-)

Anne Marie said...

Wow, that's an excellent thing you did! Few comments:

General research shows bilingual children start to separate two languages and their set of rules by around 10 year old at average.

I remember I used to complain about teachers asking students to sign each English word literally while reading but what I see in your approach, it works. It requires teacher or parent's knowledge of ASL to be able to guide a child's "transliteral" reading process, that is signing word for word.

I hate to say that but being fluent in ASL does not mean this person will do well in literacy. There is a misunderstanding about this. Having a full rich language enables a child to develop metacognitive skill (analysis, comparation, metaphors, prediction, etc) so needed for acquiring second and third languages and be able to go beyond 4th reading level. It is more of this.

To learn English through ASL, what a teachers does:

1) Explain English rules through ASL. (I looooooove any teacher who can do this)

2) Show ASL translation of English and vice verus

3) Translate ASL into writing

4) Cross linguisitic - grammar comparation of both languages, discuss how their rules and structures are similar and different.

It is not a bilingual curriculum if teacher is only signing contents in ASL assuming that children would somehow figure out. It has to be structured and explicit.

Bravo Barb!!!! Hands shaking!!!

Jana Bielfeldt said...

Yes, yes. That is what I did with my hard of hearing son. He is a bright and vivid reader. He reads faster than me now. It pays off when parents read to their children. Hard worker teacher and you prove us. Sad, many parents do not take the time to read with the children (deaf or hearing). They just dont bother reading with them. Im looking forward to your next Vlog

Susan said...

That was a very inspiring vlog, I loved the way you showed how to put it in practice with your children.

Very valuable tips you shared there, some that I didn't know about.

One thing I was interested about, was that you mentioned that you use fingerspelling only when explaining an English phrase....what I normally do is sign (Auslan) in English order (same as phrase) and fingerspell the words that don't have the signs. I'm curious about your thoughts whether that is an ok method, or fingerspelling the whole phrase is better?

Thanks again for the vlog and many thanks to your children for participating so that we can see how ASL is important in understanding English :)

Deaf Niches said...

Wonderful vlog! It was good seeing AV and Brianna... my kids shrieked with delight when they saw them on your vlog :)

Is your school moving toward Bi/Bi philosophy or is it still a taboo?

Anonymous said...

Wow! We need more people like this to teach the deaf children between ASL and English as well as CODAs (just like my daughter). I like what you did to your kids in this vlog. Great job, Barb!


Anonymous said...

My bad! I mean KODAs (just like my daughter). Pardon me?!


IamMine said...


I wish I had you as my teacher, Barb, when I was growing up in the SEE environment! Dang!

Now you gave me a wonderful idea on working with my last hearing child, which is the 4th child. (Yes, the LAST one! *smile*) She’s almost five years old.

But for deaf children - I can see clearly how that can work in a Bi/Bi program.

I hope you'll spread this and more deaf parents will come and do more vlogs.

We need evidences like this to implement more Bi/Bi programs.

I'd love to see this happening for hearing children as well - to help reinforce the Bi/Bi program.

Thank you so much - but I missed the 20 minutes vlog!

I guess I didn't get that treat. :(

Deaf Niches said...

I have been reading the articles from CAEBER (its office was relocated to Washington DC from New Mexico, at Gallaudet U.) and learned that Bi-Bi philophy has been very successful in Sweden, since 1970's. Bi-Bi movement is still relatively new here in America, starting after Deaf Prez Now protest (in late 1980's/early 1990's.) In fact, the Swedish government passed a law requiring that all deaf children be exposed to Bi-Bi method in Sweden, after noticing that the reading/written grade averages of deaf people were up on the same par on the hearing people, unlike here in America. In Sweden and Denmark the hearing parents and the deaf parents are STRONGLY encouraged (I'd say required, from reading the articles) to socialize with each other, so that the deaf children of the hearing parents would succeed as same as the deaf children of deaf parents.

It was fun reading it. I have a meeting with the ISD's cirrculum director soon and will get more info since she started attending the CAEBER's yearlong workshops last weekend, so I am curious at how I could help my daughter to succeed in reading and writing at home.

By the way, wow, Brianna is a speed reader ;)

Deaf Niches said...

Have you thought about joining NTID's MSSE program as adjunct professor? You have a lot to share with the MSSE's future generations. Ask Gerry Bateman.

Jessica said...

Fascinating! We need more studies out for Deaf in Bi Bi. I really liked the way you paused to explain in between how the students were processing their learning experience. Gave me a much better idea of what teachers can look at such as fingerspelling words can be a sign that they are not familiar with the word yet. Looking forward to more of this.

Anonymous said...

Deaf and English

Susan said...

me here again... I keep thinking about how you interacted with your children...

do you think it's possible to have the full 20 minutes in 4-5 minute segments, like Barinthus suggested? I know it's a lot of work... but will help so much, I believe. (Only if you have the time, if not possible, no worries).

Barb DiGi said...

Hi Barinthus and Susan,

Sad to tell you..when I was editting the clips, I emptied the trash since I needed more space as my memory on the computer was limited. I will demonstrate next time with details. I didn't realize some of you would be interested to see the whole thing since I read somewhere saying the vlog should be not too long so trying to make it short, sweet and simple. The good news is there will be a lot more next time. My kids just expressed their interest to do it again so it will flow more to come :-)

Adrean Clark said...

Thanks for posting the video! I appreciated seeing the models very much! Would like more information on portions of that process itself, see more examples from others. (I see your mention that more is forthcoming, looking fwd to it!) I appreciated someone listing in the comments above the steps in that process. It helps much to break it down into clear steps with an outline.

It would be neat to have that online resource. Hopefully more bilingual teachers can get involved with this as you have already done so much, need more support! :D

As a side note I do read with my KODA kids but when I read with them, I'm not skilled with the interaction part and mostly tell the story and pick out a few things to ask them about. The breakdown above, I will try with them, hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Barb, this is truly wonderful! I won't go on as others have said it all. :) I however would like your permission to use this vlog as one of the demonstrations in the Language Learning course that I will be teaching at McDaniel College this summer. Please let me know: Kudos!! Petra M. Horn

Anonymous said...

Hello Barb:

I wanted to share a story that I observed in Orlando, Florida. I wanted to see how a child from a different country (Mexico, Peru, Columbia).

When the hearing child was learning how to write English and I noticed the teacher was using bilingual approach. The child was struggling with the word "water."
The teacher responded "aqua" and the child got it and moved on to the next word.

However, what I do not see most hearing teachers of the Deaf using the bilingual techniques. That made the Deaf child more frustrated in learning English because the teacher does not give American Sign Language examples.

What you have done with the Deaf students is AWESOME! You were using a mentoring approach and not putting the child down. You are encouraging the child to think for themselves. You are creating a "learning" environment which is what most schools lack today.

Lastly, Barb, you are a rare jewel!


Joseph Pietro Riolo said...

Very beautiful demonstration!

I noticed that Ms. DiGiovanni consciously or unconsciously provided continuous feedback on the children's usage of some signs. It is my belief that continuous feedback is one of the key components in any successful education. Feedback enables the children to see the difference between the correct and incorrect ways.

Joseph Pietro Riolo

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

drmzz said...

Promised myself to watch this when I have free time. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

IamMine said...

I wanted to add something that many teachers and even most parents are not aware of what they are doing with their children...their learning styles and so forth.

I learned as a tutor that this phase is the MOST important to promote independent learning and self-reliance...this is identifying the student's "thinking process" in order to understand and identify their own learning process so they can improve their learning in their own way. AND to have them summarizing their thinking processes.

You did exactly that - you asked questions in an effort to find out why they didn't understand and then further asking questions to help them understand what they were saying.

A tutor is always guilty for "giving answers" like, “No, let me show you how it really works…”, or indirectly blocking their ability to think by, "No! No! That's NOT how it works!!!"

I’m not a perfect tutor and I am still learning…even with my 4 children who has their own individual learning style!

I can't wait to see more vlogs and sending it to people who want to fight for Bi/Bi programs!

Shel said...


Your approach for teaching bilingual approach to literacy is similar to my approach to teaching my students in Language Arts. You cannot separate the two languages when teaching literacy, and core subjects. I am of the opinion that bilingual-bicultural approach really works when used correctly (Used incorrectly, total communication would happen, and that is undesirable). We not only learn to use ASL, and English respectively, but we also learn how to be bilingual, so that is a challenge when a student does not have a strong foundation in first language.

Do I have your permission to show your vlog to my colleagues? Some of them aren't so accepting of the bi-bi approach. I believe your vlog would go a long way toward their towards understanding the value of this approach, hopefully.

I would like to keep in contact with you to discuss issues in deaf education in both USA and Canada.

Shelley Potma

Anonymous said...

Hi, You did a beautiful job. I agree with you about how important to have both ASL AND ENGLISH for the deaf children to use daily. It is very important to have BIBI program in all state schools for the deaf in this America.ASL,I believe, have all the answers to the problems of the education in schools for the deaf.:)

Mauserw said...

I think you should continue with this.. I saw another comment to the effect that confidentiality regulations and the like prohibit the use of many videos of this type involving children. Even if the parents say "OK", there may be other reasons such videos cannot be shown by researchers affiliated with universities... I think the more parents can volunteer their time or volunteer their kids to participate, with the proliferation of YOUTUBE we can get more examples out there and people can see the connection between a strong foundation in ASL and literacy. By watching videos such as this we can learn lots not only about the importance of ASL but also the interesting ways in which children will attempt to express concepts they are not familiar with, and we see many times how children, when guided can often correct their OWN mistakes.. this I believe is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of it all...

We need more!


Anonymous said...

No question about that like that! ASL is a key tool for anything to understand other languages. That is a good example of what Barb'statement is showing very clear!She domonstrates very good example of what her children express in ASL very clear after they read English.Great wonderful demonstration for children can learn both way of using ASL and English. THe children have naturally grasped the concept which is very important learning!