Investigating the course of L1 SASL development and L2 Afrikaans reading development in young deaf children following a newly introduced curriculum with SASL as both LoLT and school subject

Steyn, Minna A. (2015-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Reading skills of Deaf schoolchildren in the United States of America are reported to be significantly below those of their hearing peers. In South Africa, Deaf learners’ prospects of attaining high levels of literacy are even bleaker. This fact gave rise to the current study, which examines the impact of a newly introduced Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) curriculum with South African Sign Language (SASL) both as a school subject and as language of learning and teaching on (i) the course of language development in SASL and (ii) early reading development in second language (L2) Afrikaans amongst young Deaf learners. The expressive language (SASL) of four participants with various home language backgrounds (some with signing, Deaf parents; others with hearing, non-signing Afrikaans- or English-speaking parents) was regularly video-recorded over a period of three years, from the beginning of their pre-Grade R (i.e., Grade 0) year until the end of their Grade 1 year. These learners all started reading at the beginning of Grade 1, but were exposed to SASL for varying periods prior to that. The language development (in terms of handshape and discourse skills) and literacy development (reading comprehension) of the participants were qualitatively analysed based on the recordings. Despite the diverse circumstances of the four participants in terms of date of diagnosis, length of exposure to SASL and age of first exposure, parental mastery of SASL, and length of attendance of the school in which the SASL curriculum was piloted, they all showed notable progress in terms of SASL acquisition over the course of the study period, and they all managed to acquire reading skills up to the level expected of a Grade 1 learner. As was found for hearing users of a spoken language, language competence appears to be a prerequisite for the development of literacy skills in Deaf children (see Adams 1990; Gathercole and Baddeley 1993). The assumption is that the four children studied here were successful readers in their L2 (despite Deaf children usually finding the acquisition of reading skills very challenging) because they had sufficiently developed first language (SASL) skills as a foundation for literacy acquisition. The participants’ phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic knowledge of SASL appeared to have “come together” by the time they reached Grade 1, although these were not necessarily taught explicitly. This, again, enabled the acquisition of grade-appropriate reading skills in the L2. The findings of this study indicate the potential benefit of early intervention for Deaf children and that the SASL CAPS curriculum ought to be introduced at the time of enrolment in a school for the Deaf (i.e. from age three years onwards), and not only in Grade R.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Leesvaardighede van dowe skoolkinders in die Verenigde State van Amerika is na berigte beduidend laer as dié van hul horende eweknieë. In Suid-Afrika is dowe leerders se kanse om hoë geletterdheidsvlakke te bereik selfs skraler. Hierdie feit het aanleiding gegee tot die huidige studie, wat die impak ondersoek van ‘n nuut-bekendgestelde Kurrikulum-assesseringsbeleidstellings- (KABS) kurrikulum met Suid-Afrikaanse Gebaretaal (SAGT) as beide skoolvak en taal van leer en onderrig op (i) die verloop van taalontwikkeling in SAGT en (ii) vroeë leesontwikkeling in tweedetaal- (T2) Afrikaans onder jong Dowe leerders. Daar is gereeld oor die verloop van drie jaar video-opnames gemaak van die ekspressiewe taal (SAGT) van vier deelnemers met diverse huistaalagtergronde (sommige met Dowe gebaretaalgebruikers as ouers; andere met horende Afrikaans- of Engelssprekende ouers wat geen gebaretaal ken nie), van die begin van hul pre-Graad R- (i.e., Graad 0-) jaar tot die einde van hul Graad 1-jaar. Hierdie leerders het almal begin lees aan die begin van Graad 1, maar is voor dit vir verskillende periodes aan SAGT blootgestel. Hul taalontwikkeling (in terme van handvorm en diskoersvaardighede) en geletterdheidsontwikkeling (leesbegrip) is aan die hand van die opnames kwalitatief geanaliseer. Ondanks die diverse omstandighede van die vier deelnemers in terme van diagnosedatum, lengte van blootstelling aan SAGT en ouderdom van eerste blootstelling, ouers se bemeestering van SAGT, en lengte van bywoning van die skool waarin die SAGT-kurrikulum geloods is, het hulle almal noemenswaardige vordering getoon in terme van SAGT-verwerwing oor die verloop van die studietydperk, en het hulle almal daarin geslaag om leesvaardighede te verwerf tot op die vlak wat van ‘n Graad 1-leerder verwag word. Soos gevind is in die geval van horende gebruikers van ‘n gesproke taal, blyk taalkompetensie ‘n voorvereiste te wees vir die ontwikkeling van geletterdheidsvaardighede in dowe kinders (kyk Adams 1990; Gathercole en Baddeley 1993). Die aanname is dat die vier bestudeerde kinders suksesvolle leerders in hul T2 was (ondanks die feit dat die verwerwing van leesvaardighede gewoonlik vir dowe kinders ‘n groot uitdaging is) omdat hulle eerstetaalvaardighede (in SAGT) voldoende ontwikkel was om as fondament vir geletterdheidsverwerwing te dien. Die deelnemers se fonologiese, morfologiese, sintaktiese, semantiese en pragmatiese kennis van SAGT blyk “byeen te gekom het” teen die tyd wat hulle Graad 1 bereik het, alhoewel daar nie noodwendig eksplisiete onderrig hieroor gegee is nie. en dit het die verwerwing van graadtoepaslike leesvaardighede moontlik gemaak. Die bevindinge dui die belang van vroeë intervensie vir die Dowe kind aan. Die bevindinge ondersteun ook die seining dat die SAGT KABS-kurrikulum vanaf toetrede tot ‘n skool vir Dowes gevolg behoort te word (d.i. vanaf ouderdom drie jaar), en nie eers vanaf Graad R nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97906
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