skip to content
Primary navigation

What's Really Happening in Literacy Education? with Dr. Susan Easterbrooks Transcript

Good afternoon. You're still here. 


That's wonderful. Nobody's gone back to the room to take a nap. Or was that earlier? I was asked earlier how to pronounce my last name. It's Easter -- like what happened last weekend. And I'm very often confused with another person in deaf Ed who is Esterbrooks. Difference is he's a dude and I'm not. 


So it's Easter like the bunny, and I have to admit that every couple of years, we get phone calls all weekend long, from children, is this the Easter bunny's house? 


Since it's been such a long day, and everybody's tired, I thought I would start off with some presents. And Mark has mentioned to you that we have some articles available. I actually have a file on some travel drives with links. That you can go directly to the article. These are high-impact factor articles that have been in The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. So let me start -- I'm hiding. Let me start by asking if our grandfather is here? Is grandfather here? Hi, grandfather. From -- would you give that to him? These are... And who traveled here the furthest? Traveled the furthest. Not a presenter. I came further than you, honey, sorry. 


How far? 

>> 299. 

>> 299 miles. How far, ma'am? In the back. 

>> 900. 

>> Susan: 900 miles? You get -- 

>> Washington, D.C. 

>> Susan: You definitely get one. All right. Who has been in the field working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students the longest? I've been doing it 42 years. That's a long enough time. Whose been doing it the longest? 

>> 1974. 

>> Susan: 1974. Anybody been doing it since -- longer than '74? All right. So who's been doing it since 1975 or '76 or '77? Got another one? You might as well take all of these, Brook. Who is a -- a practitioner and has the most -  a full-time practitioner and has the most children at home? 


Full-time practitioner with five kids. Give me five. Okay. Give me -- anybody with four? That's just - that's more than double duty. That's quadruple duty. Do you need anymore Brook? Any more people needing -- over there. Two left. Okay. Let's see. Who drove here this morning? Who didn't stay over? But drove here this morning and it took you the longest amount of time. Anybody come here this morning from afar? And our Ph.D. student. Who is our Ph.D. fellow right over here? Oh, you have one already. Did I give you one? Our doc student. Yes. He gets one. Okay. Give yourself a hand. Because if you've been in the field that long, and you're working that hard, thank you, thank you, thank you. Appreciate it. This is an unusual setup in trying to see the screen here. In order to see it, I have to take my glasses off. Which means I can't see you. So if you -- feel free to give me all these weird looks, because I won't see them any way. I am officially retired. Yes! From my University position. In teacher preparation. But I'm still working on the foundations for literacy and CLAD grant half time. And that means I work full time for half time pay. And I want to tell you -- oops, wrong one. Wrong button. I want to tell you about our center. It's the Center on Literacy and Deafness. And it's a national research and dissemination center, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, and the exciting thing about it is, this is the largest single research grant that has ever been given to the field of deaf education, that focuses specifically on literacy and specifically on kindergarten through second grade. So we're really excited to have this opportunity to be making some in-roads into our knowledge-base, in specifically in early literacy.

Here's the grant numbers. You always have to tell what your grant numbers are. And if you want to go and find out what's going on with our project, you can go to the CLAD website, Center on Literacy and Deafness. And it is There it is. And then you should be able to follow what we're doing in our current studies, and there's tons of reports you can read. I'll refer to this website periodically, because there are some resources on it that I'd like to suggest you might want to take a look at. This is a huge -- an exciting project. We have multiple collaborators from all over. University of Arizona, Dr. Shirin Antia. University of Colorado-Bolder, Dr. Schick is one of our collaborators. And Dr. Carol Connor is one of our collaborators. And British Columbia, Dr. Cannon and University of North Florida, Dr. Gardino. And we have imposed on -- I can't tell you how many people since this all started. 

CLAD's objectives are three categories to describe the development of language and literacy skills and diverse sample of kindergarten through second-grade children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. To identify what instructional strategies work for which children? And to develop interventions for a range of issues that all -- we all face in helping our students read. So let me start with objective one. Because that's kind of behind us. We -- we're charged with determining a model for reading. And with describing the levels of functioning of students, and to -- to kind of address the issue of, Do deaf children read differently from hearing children? 

So part of this involves theory. And statistics. And those kinds of unfun things. And I'm going to go through these really quickly and try to get on to the most interesting parts. But I think it helps to see what the base is for what we did. As with anything that you do, you have to start with your theoretical perspective. We all come to what we do, with our own mindset. And in our field, we know that means that we all bring strong belief systems to it. And so are those beliefs child-dependent? Or are they beliefs that ALL deaf children are engaged in a particular manner? So the starting point was to develop a political framework which is what this puzzle, blank puzzle represents. Is we kind of came up with what the theoretical framework was that we were going to build it all around. And then after you speculate on your theory, you have to identify what are the ways that you're going to assess the individual pieces? And those are represented by the pieces in the middle. And then somebody told me I could do it this way, but I'm not sure if I'm that coordinated. 

[ Laughter ] 

Tada! Yes! Got it. And that's the last time I'll try it. So then, after you gather your data, you see, what it looks like. And you hope that when you put those data into that background, into -- put those little pieces together. That it confirms, yes, this is the picture, as I thought it was. So that's really what the theoretical perspective on the data had us taking a look at. And so we, meaning the CLAD members from the multiple universities, meaning consultations with people in the field, with discussions, work groups, a long process, determined that we were going to start from the perspective of, what's called the simple view of reading. And we know that now, that the simple view, that terminology is very complex system. But the simple view tells us there's essentially two huge components to reading. One is decoding and one is language. I know you don't have to scratch the surface of what we do very far to find out that when we're talking about language, it is extremely complex. We're talking about decoding. It is extremely complex. But we speculated that, in -- in that -- for our kids, in the decoding side, spoken phonology would be a critical factor. And fingerspelling phonology would be a critical factor for the signing children. 

We also speculated in our model, that American Sign Language would be a critical factor for children who use sign primarily, and that English would be a critical factor for children who use spoken or total communication or non-ASL. So after that, we then had to go through the process of determining what our measures were. Primarily we adapted tests that are used with children with typical hearing. Except for two tests, and they were the fingerspelling phonological awareness test, and the ASL syntax test also developed by Dr. Schick. On the next couple of pages here, I would encourage you, if you're interested in looking at the assessments we did, to go to the CLAD website and find a downloadable handout about all of the assessments we did. Let me just show you what we dragged all those poor little babies through. All those cognitive tests. All those auditory and speech tests. All the Phonological speech test and language tests and more language tests and literacy tests and more literacy tests. And then a spelling test at the end of it all. 

So we did about an hour and a half or two hours of assessment in the fall on all these kids and then about an hour and a half or an hour in the spring. We assessed 354 children, kindergarten, first and second grade. So where do you think we found these children? Did we go to Downtown Minneapolis to find 354 kindergarten, first and second graders? Do you know how many nation-wide -- about how many kindergarten-age deaf and hard-of-hearing children there are across the whole country? About 3,000. There's about 3,000 children at any particular age range nation-wide. And we have what? 20,000 different school systems in the country. So they are scattered all over everywhere. So in order to get the assessments on that many children, we went from Vancouver British Columbia all the way to St. Petersburg, Florida -- St. Augustine, I do that all the time. St. Augustine, Florida because we are a low-incidence disability. To get that many students into the pool, it was a two-year process. And we had to go to over 100 different pull-out classrooms. We went to pull-out classes only, based on the assumption that if the child was in the general ed curriculum, and making it fine in Gen Ed without the need of support services, that child didn't need any of the special interventions we were proposing to create. And so the kids that we were able to assess, came from pull-out programs. Ultimately we had to throw out about 20 of the -- members of the sample. For various reasons. Somehow a hearing child got into the pool. 


Go figure. We did -- we did not include children who had significant cognitive deficits. We needed to find out what children -- what children without significant cognitive deficits and significant vision involvement, what they were doing, before we could then take this as a baseline and see how those other populations were differing. So we did have a couple children get into the pool who were vision impaired only. Don't ask me how. These kids were referred by their teachers, but, you know, those things happen when you're doing research. It's the fun part. 

So we have 334 kids. Kindergarten through second grade. They had from mild to profound hearing losses. They came from nine different states and one Canadian province and mostly in self-contained or resource. We administered this battery of tests in the fall. And the battery of tests in the spring. And in addition, we went into their classrooms, three times over the year, fall, winter, and spring. And we videotaped their language and literacy blocks, and then in the winter taping, I know "tape,” that's old fashioned, recording. And the winter recording we videotaped their entire year. So we have about 3,000 video hours of what's going on in classrooms with kids. This is just so exciting to me. And one of the things that we've -- we had been talking to recently with people in doc programs, that eventually, when they are out and in their Universities, and they -- we hope to make these tapes accessible, these videos accessible, for the next level of researchers to look at them in greater detail. Then where we're going to be able to go by the end of the grant. So here's what they look like. 

Remember, this is not representative of the population. This is representative of children who don't have additional significant cognitive or visual issues, and of children who are in pull-out programs, and not just doing fine in the mainstream. And so you can see, of the 334, 131 of our kids were sign-only, voice-off for the most part. 102 used spoken language and sign. And that is any variety from sign-assisted speech to speech-assisted sign. We had specific criteria for how we labeled these children. They had to have a teacher recommendation of their modality. They had to have specific scores on the early speech perception test, and then they had to have an interview with the examiner, and based on the examiner's checkboxes on the interview list, combining all those three, we place the kids into these categories. Okay. So I don't know -- sorry, this -- those of you in the back,  I'll try to do this really fast. 

But 45% of the sample was identified after six months of age. So here, after all these years, we have early identification. This is similar to what's going on in my state, about 60% of the kids -- they're identified in the hospital, and then nobody picks them up. They just kind of get lost, the follow-up. So this is -- we found -- we thought we were really bad people in Georgia. But we found, Whew, we're not so far off from the rest of the country. 45% of them were not identified until after six months. 50% of the students who use some kind of spoken language, whether that was with sign or without. Used Cochlear implants. Of the children in the -- in the sign-only group, the voice-off, sign only, 50% of those kids have deaf parents. So it's a very unique population to look at. Those 131 kids. And so that's -- that in and of itself is the future study to look at the videos of those 151 kids, and I hope that some doc student out there, in the future, might be interested in doing something along those lines. 51% of the sample had -- received free or reduced lunch. That's -- we did not do any other socioeconomic strata assessments. 22% of them were labeled with mild disabilities, learning disabilities, attention disorder. Minor behavior issues. That sort of thing. 41% were white. 30% Hispanic. 17% African American. And more kindergartners than first or second graders. By the time we got into second grade, so many of them were in the mainstream that we had fewer in the pull-out programs. And 52% were little girls. 

So keep in mind, that's a different sample than the overall population that's very targeted to students who are not successful in Gen Ed and particularly, we're really excited that we got such an even number across those modalities. The voice-off sign, spoken language and some kind of sign, and spoken only. So we could make some comparisons, across groups that -- would be needed to make in the field. Okay. So now that we had all these data, we had to take a look at what did that mean, relative to our theory. Remember the puzzle pieces, so we speculated on what those pieces would look like. We did the assessment, and we thought, here's the green piece, here's the yellow piece, here's the blue piece. And so now we had to fit them into -- back into the middle, to see, did those data actually show us the picture we thought it was going to show us? And so using confirm inventory factor analysis, and the M + system and latent variable modeling and you can ignore all this stuff, except fellow over here who is going into a Ph.D. program, he can't. 

We -- latent -- latent modeling, latent factor modeling is looking at things that you can't directly look at, like you can't measure wisdom. You can't directly look at that. It's a latent factor. But you can look at a person's wise decisions. And see the outcomes of a wise decision. So that's where we were. We had to look at those latent -- we were looking at those latent factors. And so language is something that you can't see going on inside a child's head. You can't see when he's languaging. But you can see what vocabulary he's using. What grammar he's using. So you get all those data and -- in the assessment, and then you see, does it give you that picture of how they're languaging? Does it give you that picture of how they're reading? And when you put those pieces into the puzzle, does it give you the picture we thought it was going to show us? And here's the technical one. Just so you see, we did the hard math, somebody else did the hard math. My guy who does the hard math, not I. 

And we found in looking at the children who use spoken language and the children who use signing only, that, you know what? The -- what they have to do is the same. They have to know language. But what language they know, does not matter in this model. The kids who were higher users of a language, whether that language was sign -- ASL, specifically, I'm not talking about some kind of sign stuff. But whether that language was ASL or whether that language was English, the better languagers, the better the readers. And we also looked at, remember, we were looking at the simple view of reading where you have the one piece is language and the other piece is the decoding side. Okay. So we looked at the language, and sure enough, kids have to have language in order to read. But, as long as they have a language, that's the important thing. 

And then in terms of decoding, we did assessments of a signed version -- a fingerspelling version of phonological decoding. And as we suspected, the picture we thought was going to turn up, did, that both groups whether they use sign or not, needed to decode, but -- so what they had to do was the same. But how they did it was different. And so the better phonological decoders they were, using the Schick phonological test, the better readers they were. The better spoken language decoders they were, the better readers they were. This is what it looks like in one of those models that goes into a heavy-duty research paper. But, nobody cares about theory. You want to know, what the children did. 

So here's what they did with language. in terms of expressive language, now, those of you who are psychologists, and most of you know, standard -- what means are, median, mode, standard deviation, and you know that if a child is at 100 on the bell curve, when they're in third grade, you expect them to be 100 on the bell curve in fourth grade, because average is average is average is average. and growth over time is incorporated into -- into those data. So to see any kind of movement of a standard score, in a child's ability, it -- to see that needle move at all is just really exciting. Something very exciting. 

And so in our expressive vocabulary assessment, we found that children did -- did grow over the course of the year. That it benefited our kids to be in school. In terms of the elaborated phrases, they grew a lot. Over the -- over the year. But you can see, if this line that's 100 is typical average, you can see that our kids were starting off at a full standard deviation below the mean. And so here, it's this line would be, the expected typical average line and our students were starting off at a standard deviation below. Or more. At the beginning of the year. But we did see, that they grew over the course of the year. This was without any intervention at all. This was just pre and post. In terms of ASL syntax test, here's what the kids did, fall to spring, kindergarten, first to second. This is not longitudinal. This is of the kindergartners that we looked at, of the first graders. Of the second graders. 

So the kids who were in kindergarten, are not the same as the ones who were in second grade. We did this in a one-year span. But you can see, that their ASL syntax when they were in programs that were -- where they learned the ASL, or used ASL, from starting kindergarten to the end of second grade, improved. This is a raw score improvement. So what this means is something we're still working on. But our kids are improving. They are gaining. Here's where I may have to put my glasses back on. Or I can just walk over here. That's what I'll do. This is the -- and then I'll come back and hope you all can see it over there. 

This is a thing that was very interesting to me. In the passage comprehension, letter word identification and passage comprehension, in kindergarten, students were starting somewhere close to that 10:0 magic 1:00 average level. So they weren't doing all of that poorly. And that was time -- was fall, was spring. And then time 1, time 2 for first graders and time 1, time 2 for the second graders. So when they started, when they started off and measuring the kindergartners, they started off pretty close to that magic 100 mean that we use when we're placing kids. But you can see by the time they hit second grade, they had dropped down quite a bit in standard scores, and even more so, when we're looking at passage comprehension. This is their word knowledge. This is their passage comprehension knowledge. Down below. 

So what we saw was, and then in talking with a lot of the teachers, kids are being assessed in kindergarten, in those IEP meetings. And they're being placed based on that. And services offered to them. Based on this notion that they're not doing too far -- they're not so far away from hearing kids. And then not -- maybe not -- we don't -- we're speculating. Maybe not getting the intensity of services that they need, based on that initial perception that their language wasn't that far off. But by the time they got to second grade, I mean, this -- you know, 78, that's really, really quite a dropdown. And indicates that the student is really struggling. So we -- we're speculating, and one of the things we're going to see when we look at all these videos, we're speculating that kids are testing okay at first, and giving a false impression of what they can and can't do. And assumptions are being made about what they need early on, that is not true, not holding up. That they are needing more and more and more services rather than fewer and fewer and fewer. And as I go around the nation, visiting these schools and seeing what's happening, I see kids -- the intensity of services that kids are getting, waning. I don't know if that's happening in your state. But it certainly happens in a lot of -- a lot of the states. 

Rather than -- maybe we need that intensity. We were talking about that, I think it was in the fireside chat. Fourth grade there seems to be a real shift in learning to read versus reading to learn. Maybe we need to keep working on learning to read more intensely for a longer time with our kids. Rather than just saying, oh, they're doing okay. This is what they're doing in kindergarten. They'll be fine. We see that they're not. Another way of looking at the passage comprehension can you see in the -- from kindergarten to second grade, their skills just went from near expected, down into the toilet. From near what you would want, down to critically low. And you can see what has gone on with the second graders. You find the same deterioration of skills. In terms of spoken language blending, the CTOPP oral blending, blending sounds together to make words. Kids with spoken language were -- they started off just a little bit above one standard deviation. If they used spoken language, if they use speech and sign, any kind of sign, then their blending skills, those children's blending skills were not as strong as the children who use spoken language only. So that -- that says, they're not getting the same kind of instruction in -- and opportunities to learn to blend. And in fingerspelling blending, using Dr. Schick's test. 

We found the student, fall to spring, fall to spring, fall to spring, in kindergarten, first to second grade, were able to increase their blending ability through fingerspelling. So this kind of gave us the notion that, maybe fingerspelling would be an alternative route to decoding for our signing kids. So that brought me back to a study that I had done, a long time ago. Well, 2005. That's not all that long. But any way. A while back. Where I asked master teachers, in the field of deaf education, this is -- I guess, right around 2003 or '04 that I was gathering the data. I said, “Do you teach phonological awareness and phonics?” And most of them told me, no, they do not. You can't teach that to children who have a hearing loss. And I think if some of you who have been doing this for a while, think back to what you were doing ten, 15 years ago. Were you doing phonological awareness? They said no. That it was not of benefit. That it was too costly. Too time-intensive, and then some of them ‘fessed up to the real issue which is they didn't know how to do it. 

So since then, there's been a huge push to engage in phonological awareness with our kids with hearing loss. And we're seeing gains. So what's going on with the signing kids? That kind of brought us to where we are in the first round of analysis of what it is we're doing. So we know from our study, language is delayed. The start of school. Especially syntax. Our kids, although they're delayed in vocabulary, they still keep making vocabulary process. Who was the young lady I was talking to in the hallway earlier? Hi, how are you? We focus on vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary. Now it's tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 vocabulary. We pre-teach and re-teach the vocabulary, and post-teach the vocabulary, and our kids still aren't making grammar gains. 

So if we want them to be reading and comprehending text, they need to have that underlying grammar. And our data show that there's a huge imbalance between their -- the vocabulary that they're mastering and the grammar, so our children are not making language -- do make language gains across the years, but very slowly. They start at grade level and reading. But then there's a sharp decline. And phonological awareness is weak. And bimodal children resemble signing children when it comes to the use of fingerspelling for reading. Which brings us to the conclusion that structures of early literacy are the same. Kids have to learn the same thing. How they learn that is what's different. So I'm going to skip over this. And to go into our next objective which now is to identify child by instruction interactions. And that brings, that involves coding of all the videos we have. So we have a process for coding. All of the videos. The thousands and thousands of hours, and we're getting very close to that first pass. Here's one of my master students who's also my graduate research assistant, Melissa, sitting in front of that computer, looking at, probably, the 500th hour of videos that she's had to look at. In this process. And we use a system where you punch a code in, and then you watch a string, and then when that action stops, you punch it again. Then you click a code, and it tells you what went on during that particular string of time. So here are the things that we're looking at. In the first pass, at coding. We're looking at what kind of instruction is going on. We are -- our coding the videos for what kind of group the kids are in. We're coding it for management style. We're coding it for literacy content. And then we're coding it for non-instructional activities. I think I have a second -- nope. Let me go back. Sorry. So we've done the first pass. And now we're in the middle of looking at the second pass. Which is that we have gone back and looked at the videos for literacy, and we're in the process, this is where we are right now. We're in the process of recoding these for all of these features. 

Phonological awareness, sign phonology. Word encoding, all of the things that go into those code-based or decoding, and the meaning based. So this to me, I can't wait until we're done this part. Because I want to see, how much time teachers are spending on these different sorts of things. Theoretically, hypothetically, what we will then be able to do is, look at things like, amount of time, or dosage, spent on a particular literacy skill.  Relative to the child's gain over the course of the year. So that's really where we're heading with it. And we're right in the middle of doing all that coding right now. It's a lot of video to go through, and you can only torture a poor  unsuspecting graduate student for so long, before, you know, it's time to find another one to torture. Okay. So we have confirmed through our data, though. Something that Vicky Donne and Naomi Zigmond did in 2008. They took a look at three school systems. All the deaf and hard-of-hearing students in three school systems, and they found that during the entire instructional block for literacy, children actually spent only 12 minutes a day reading. So we're doing tons and tons and tons of things. In the name of teaching reading, but they're not spending very much time actually doing it. And so just a visual analysis, I don't mean from the perspective of essential case design. I mean from the perspective of the graduate assistant's been sitting there for 50 hours watching this and going, these kids never read for three whole weeks. And so from experiential analysis, we're finding that our kids are not spending very much of that reading instructional time actually reading. So we're trying to figure out what that means, what they're doing. And all this coding's going to allow us to do that. What are they actually doing instead? And then we found that from the videos, and just gut-level reaction to this, we kind of confirmed Dr. Marchark's work with this crew here, that students are less aware than hearing peers when they don't understand something that they read. That they rely more heavily on pictures in the books than on their actual background knowledge. And that they tended to be very passive readers. And I'll -- I'll talk to you about another study we did, where we confirmed that. Next thing is, we've gone into this second pass of coding. Where we're taking a look in greater detail. So one of the things that we did was that we -- my students, in the deaf and hard-of-hearing program, and I, took the children's fluency passages, we had them read three different passages, for fluency. And rated their fluency based on rate, time, and -- so, in the data collection, either they passed it and moved on. Or they didn't. 

We took that chunk of kids who passed it and went on, and looked at the videos and re-coded the videos for rate, correct words per minute, and we also looked at miscues and self-corrections. And then a comprehension question. We had, in that group, we had, I think, 107 students that we looked at. And what we found was that, yeah, they had -- they were slower in rate. They were slower incorrect words per minute. But the thing that was most striking, was their miscue analysis and self-correction profiles. Usually when you do a miscue -- lots of you do miscue analyses, right? So you do you get this variety of things that kids do. They try to self-correct or correct it wrong or ask you to tell them what it is. Or they say it, and then they say it again. That means -- there's all these different strategies they used. What we found is that the students, the deaf and hard-of-hearing students who read the fluency passages, and then on whom we did the miscue analysis, either knew it or they didn't. They either answered it correctly, or they hopped over it. They ignored it and they moved on. That was very striking to all -- to us as we looked at the data. Either they knew the word, and they read it, or they hopped over it. No strategy -- very few strategies. 

So I -- they have learned, if you don't know it, just go to the next word. And I guess they've learned, somebody will tell it to you, and then you just go on. So that's a very productive line of -- that I'm looking at right now, in trying to see, of the kids who did attempt to correct themselves, if they made a mistake. What did they do? And so that's -- I'm right in the middle of doing all that right now. So maybe next year I can tell you what they did. But, the -- the sad part is that they had no strategies. So that's one thing that I hope you will take away from this. 

That if you're working on expressive reading with your students, and you're doing any kind of assessment or any kind of guided reading, be sure that you are teaching them strategies to utilize. If they don't know what to do when they come across a word that they don't know how to read, then what are they supposed to do? So they -- they didn't even try to decode. They didn't try to fake it. They didn't try to invent a word. You know, a lot of kids will see a letter and then they'll invent a word that -- that begins with that same letter. They didn't do that. At all. So very, very few strategies, and that, to me, is very telling as to why our kids are struggling. They don't have the strategies for addressing a word when they don't know it. So in the videos, now, we're going to be able to start teasing out, for the kids -- who are the kids who did develop the strategies, and who are the ones that did not? And for the students who did do specific strategies, were figuring out words, what did they do? And so this whole area of the coding and the child by instruction interactions is an area we're just now diving into, and we are -- we hope to be able, when the final coding of the videos are complete, to make this body of data available to other researchers, who want to come and say, you know, I would really like to look at all your videos of the first graders, non-instructional time. What are they doing? What's non-instructional mean? And how are they fooling around in the classroom so we give them strategies to get them back on task, as one example? So we're -- we encourage you to -- future researchers, to keep in touch with what we're doing, because -- because we got some great data for you. 

The third and most exciting part of what we're doing, to me, is the development of a set of interventions that are -- developed specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing struggling readers in kindergarten through second grade. There are several that we're working on right now. Theory of mind. I know we were talking earlier in Dr. Marschark’s Fireside Chat about personality and how that -- that gets into executive function, executive function sounds so important for our older kids. But what does it look like in our younger kids? I think it looks like theory of mind. Dr. Schick and a small subgroup of people, in the grant, are looking at -- in the CLAD grant are looking at an intervention called fingerspelling our way. "Fingerspelling our way to reading." And this is a fingerspelling based phonological coding and decoding intervention, that they've been developing for several years. Also, foundations for literacy, which is the prekindergarten, that we've been working on forever and about to roll it out to a randomized control trial across the country if we find people willing to participate. Dr. Shirin Antia has developed vocabulary for success. And some data on that, that's not going into the national trial. The first -- the second and third are, the Fingerspelling Our Way intervention, and Foundations for Literacy. We're actively seeking research participants to begin in the fall to implement these interventions. We have to have 40 prekindergarten through second-grade classrooms. Pull-out classes. 

Which means we'll be going all around the country to try to find these groups. This is a condition of our granting agency that we do it that aggressively and intensively. So we may be coming back to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to work with some of your prekindergarten, first-grade children. Very exciting. Then we're in the process of developing a syntax intervention. If you want to read more information about these interventions, if -- if you would go to our website, and then go to reports and publications, this -- right over there. Reports and publications, and then click on "research and presentations." So you would go to the main website and reports and publications, and then research and presentations. This is a list of all of the articles that have been written from data from the project, and all of the presentations that have been done based on data from the project. I would encourage you to scour through that and keep in mind, that more and more and more information will be added to that pool. Let me tell you about one of the interventions that we developed. And this is the theory of mind intervention. 

We were talking, a group it was talking about how -- what --  even the college-age kids. That they don't know that they don't know something. They think they know more, they think they've learned more than they have, even if they have a good teacher, even if they have a good interpreter. They think they know more than they know. But they don't know that they don't know. And so, what does that look like early early early on with little kids? And it relates to the concept of theory of mind. Theory of mind is that you understand that the person sitting next to you, might be thinking something different from what you're thinking. The clearest example I can give of this, I was at a restaurant, and a little two-year-old boy was there with his parents. Dad went up to go to the -- stood up to go to the bathroom. The little boy stood up on the edge of the seat and flew out like that. 

[ Indicating ]

And landed smack on the floor. And got up screaming, "you didn't catch me! You didn't catch me!" And the father spun around, frantic, and said, "I didn't know you were going to jump!" "He said, "yes you did. You always catch me." "But you didn't tell me you were going to jump." "But I always jump and you always catch me." And they went back and forth. Because this little boy did not have a theory of mind. He didn't know that his dad didn't know, what was in his head. That's what a theory of mind is. Knowing what is in another person's head. And that is -- that relates with older kids to the issue of, knowing what you know and knowing that you might not know. 

And knowing what you know might be different from what the other person knows. So we created this intervention, Dr. Stacy Tucci, one of my most recent doc students. Really proud of her. Create this intervention for theory of mind. And we've been able to move the needle on that. She looked at stages of theory of mind, and there's a stage where a child looks at something and knows it. And a stage where they're not looking at it, but they still know it. But they don't realize that they've retained an image in their heads. This is based on work by Wellman and Peterson, where they did thought bubble interventions. And then they go to the level where they're thinking of it. And then they go to a level where they don't see it. But they're still thinking about it. So you see it, and you think about it. I mean, you're looking at it. When you're looking at it and you're thinking about it. And then you're not looking at it and still thinking about it. That's another level. 

And then it gets harder. Somebody comes along and changes what it is that you looked at. And so there's this false belief task that everyone does in the area of theory of mind where one child thinks they know what is in the basket, or in a box. And then they have to turn. Another child comes in, changes it out, and they have to have to determine, is it still the same thing or is it different? And then -- it gets harder, more and more complex. Well, Dr. Tucci created the materials for this intervention and she did the intervention using single-case design with two classes of children, signers, and non-signers and found that children were able to master the concept of theory of mind. So if you want more information about this intervention, she would like to talk with people who would like to be interested in trying it out and helping her flesh it out into a better product. But here's her e-mail. She gave me permission to give it to you. So that's one of the interventions that came out of what we were doing. And then the next is this Fingerspelling Our Way to reading. Because we're pretty sure from the data that we've gathered, that phonological coding can be utilized as an alternative to the -- to decoding in general. For kids who sign. We know that the spoken phonological code represents words that we coded through the alphabetical principle and that there is a relationship to English orthography. But the ASL phonological code through fingerspelling, ASL phonological code as typically defined, as related through signs, and does not relate directly to English orthography. 

We speculated fingerspelling could be utilized in a one-to-one relationship, with print orthography. Dr. Schick and Lederberg and people from both teams have developed this intervention. It's a full year intervention called, “Fingerspelling Our Way to Reading.” And you can go to this website address, and you can download this brochure about it. I think she's going to be at the school for the deaf in Minneapolis, and I think she’s going to be gathering information at the Metro -- I don't know if she's heard back yet from the Metro --is it Metro Day School? Metro Deaf School. Sorry. So she's hoping to get in there but hasn't heard back yet. If you know of any other locations where there are signing kids who are voice off signers who are interested in being involved in this randomized controlled trial, we're rolling it out in the fall. In 20 controlled classes and 20 intervention classes. Nationwide. And so they're in the process of actively recruiting participants for this intervention to see if this moves the needle on reading decoding for our young deaf kids who are fingerspellers. 

Dr. Antia in Arizona has developed a process, “Vocabulary for Success.” It's not as far along as the other two interventions. She has single case data on it and is doing some additional studies, and additional design work on the intervention, and then in future years, that may roll out, as a randomized controlled trial. But she's found these four procedures, four strategies as being critical in vocabulary acquisition. 

Fast mapping, interactive book reading, conversation, and then extension activities. Fast mapping is a process that all children use to learn new vocabulary. We see a word, we see two objects, and somebody -- the child might know cup and clock, but not necessarily microphone. And you point to that. Here's the three objects in front of the child. Give me the microphone. And because the child knows the other two, he automatically applies that word he doesn't know to the object and the vocabulary of the item he doesn't know. That's called fast mapping. So she designed an intervention that created the tasks and the materials and, you know, all the little flip cards and balls and cups and things, they do give to the children. And found that deaf kids, in fact, are very good at learning vocabulary through fast mapping. 

So that was followed up by the next -- push the button here. Incorporating that into interactive book reading. Incorporating that into conversation. And then following up with some drills and practices, and work on concepts. So if you're interested in that, and you want to contact Dr. Antia, she would love to hear from you, and she will keep you posted. Or you can look on the CLAD website and see where our research is going in that area. I'm just going to skip over this. And then the other one that we're doing a randomized controlled trial on national controlled trial on is Foundations for Literacy, which is an emergent literacy curriculum. This is one hour a day, four days a week, with follow-up activities on the 5th day, if the teacher so desires. And it starts off with a story that embeds a sound, a phonological concept into a story. 

Students learn the story, and then they engage in a plan, do a recall activity, geared to help the child make that connection between the sound -- and the activity -- the concept represented in the activity. So for example, the sound "O" is this little girl, is being chased around. This is Kate, and she's being chased around by a bee and she's going, “Oh, oh, oh.” So there's the story of the Ms. Giggle characters. The primary characters in the intervention and the kids pretend they're chasing each other with bees, or that they're, you know, gardening with Ms. Giggle. And they learn all the vocabulary through the Ms. Giggle story. They make the connection with the sound, letter correspondence, and then there are other activities, that are involved in the intervention. So we're rolling that out in the fall, we're looking specifically in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for kindergarten -- a prekindergarten classroom. So if you have a pre-K classroom, a pull-out, each class has to have a minimum of 3 students in it. Because of attrition, because if one student gets sick, moves or leaves, you can't have a classroom of one child. Based on research design as it was set up. We would love to talk to you if you're interested. Dr. Antia is working on a syntax intervention. 

Still in the early developmental stages. We got to get some of this stuff assessed and out there, and used in the field. So we have stuff coming up through the ranks, stuff that's in the design stage, stuff that's in the -- think about it in your brain stage. And stuff that's in the randomized controlled trial stage that we hope to get out there, as soon as possible. And so if you're interested in participating in the randomized controlled trial, we would love to hear from you. I think I have 8 minutes left, and in those 8 minutes, I just want to tell you some of the other things that we're looking at. We did not -- we're not funded to do any assessments of noise in the classroom. But, hey, since we're out there, we gather data on noise, in empty classes, and in classes where the children were present. Pardon me. And we have data on noise in 100 classrooms. And we looked at that data, relative to ANSI standards, which are the standards for noise in classrooms, and we found that most of the classrooms our kids are in are very noisy, far too noisy for them to get maximize benefit out of their listening technology. 

So oddly enough, the kids who we did have -- we did have several kids in the study who received their instruction from -- in a push-in environment. And we did go, and include some children, in push-in environments, and oddly enough, the classrooms for hearing kids -- were quieter than the classes for the deaf kids. Without kids in them. And with kids in them. So why might that be? Well, think about it. Where do -- where do our class -- our classes get placed? They get placed in a closet. A big closet with poor acoustics. They get placed in a podium in the back of the cafeteria. With the -- you know, they draw the curtain thinking that's going to be the great acoustic environment that you need. And it's really not. So that's one of the things that we're -- Dr. Michele Gremp who is at Eastern Kentucky University and I are writing that up, we hope to have in the literature pretty soon. But if -- what we've been told by all the auditory-verbal therapists and by all of the acoustics, acoustic physiology people for years and years and years we've been told that noise matters. And we know that noise matters for hearing kids. Then, why are we putting our kids in really noisy environments and expecting them to be able to sort through that? I mean, it's like they're in extra-noisy environments for some reason. I'm doing analysis of function words. 

We gathered language samples from the -- from the pre-kindergarten kids, using, “Frog, Where are You?” And we found that our students are gaining in content vocabulary in their language, but they are not gaining in function vocabulary in their language. Function vocabulary is that really hard stuff to learn. We think, oh, well, they've got to have all these pictures and we got to act out the vocabulary and got to use it in context and make the vocabulary, rich, rich, rich, rich. And then -- but, um, how do you do that for the word "of"? Well, I don't know. That's the really hard word. We'll just make them memorize it. And so the hardest words, the hardest vocabulary items are those function words, and so we then say, well, they're the hardest words kids have to learn, they'll just memorize them? That just doesn't fit. 

So one of the things that we know is that function words make sense within the context of phrases. And so we're looking at phrase-level language acquisition. Phrase-level reading. And -- as a -- as that place where grammar and semantics overlay one another. Individual words, our kids are pretty good at. They're not making that leap to syntax, and without that leap to syntax, they're not mastering reading comprehension. So in terms of function words, and phrase-level reading, that's where the function words are found within the context of phrases, and you can teach phrases in that imageability model where you provide the image. So if I say, "with a cane,” walking with a cane, versus, with my sister. Those mean two entirely different things. But you can get a picture in your head of what those mean. And so we're just now starting to look at the relationship of function words to grammar. 

That's kind of like, you know, in the middle between individual words and grammar. We're missing something. We're not doing something. And I think it's that phrase-level stuff that we're not doing. So here are some other things that we're doing. I'm told that I just have a few more minutes. Let me see if there's any other one I want to point out here. Oh, yes. The team out in Arizona is developing a classroom observation scale, and environment rating scale, based on starting from the coding that we're using. And the coding process of the videos, they're taking that and turning it into an environmental rating scale. And they'll be able to take that environmental rating scale and look at it relative to all the data that we have on the students. And come up with an -- an evidence-based scale, that you will be able to use, to go into a classroom and say, this is a really good learning environment for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. This is not a good learning environment for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. So those are just some of the highlights of what we're doing. And I thank you for indulging me in sitting there so patiently. And I'm making a shameless plug here for my literacy instruction book through Oxford University Press. And thank you for your time. 

[ Applause ]

back to top