Over 20+ Years Developing a Better Curriculum for Teaching Deaf Students How to Read

The Story of ASL Gloss™
and its Impact on Literacy Education

This breakthrough now demands attention regarding reading instruction considerations, as deaf students continue to struggle in gaining English literacy skills. In response, a charter school was established in Tucson, Arizona in 1997 and this school enjoyed a formal research and development affiliation with The University of Arizona, led by Dr. Sam Supalla’s efforts.

These efforts focused on how we can best teaching reading to deaf students by breaking down any restrictions. This is how ASL Gloss™ came into existence and allowed for building the literacy curriculum from the ground up. Dr. Supalla and his collaborators continued gaining experience from training and working with educators in three schools for deaf children in Canada. The Canadian pilot testing of ASL Gloss™ as well as the Arizona charter school’s efforts were critical for affirming the reality of effective learning experiences for deaf students.

The Science of Reading is Integrated with the GI Literacy Curriculum

By all accounts, deaf students need to make yearly progress with reading skills and deserve a better and improved experience in learning English literacy. While the science of reading emphasizes the teaching of phonetic skills for all students, the question for deaf education is how? Deaf students do not hear English words or think in words, and that becomes problematic for the development of word decoding skills. The good news is that the GI Literacy Curriculum has an answer to this dilemma.

One component of ASL Gloss™ known as the ASL-phabet can be accessed by deaf students to enhance their reading experience. This can now be done on paper, and this allows deaf students to demonstrate sign language phonetic skills that are teachable and measurable. The practicality of the ASL-phabet includes deaf students’ ability to use a bilingual dictionary with the paired listing of written signs and their English equivalents, thus helping deaf students understand the meaning of English words through translation.

Supporting the rationale of ASL Gloss™, researchers confirmed the restrictive nature of English phonology as follows:

Demonstration of insensitivity to phonological structure in young deaf children and older adolescents... strongly suggests that difficulties with spoken language phonological awareness are not outgrown, do not represent a developmental lag and are persistent and pervasive throughout at least adolescence despite intensive and long-term interventions.
— McQuarrie, Lynn & Parrila, Rauno (2008, p. 150)
Journal of deaf studies and deaf education.

See the Practice Behind the Research