ASL Stories with Handshape Rhyme: An Exploratory Intervention to Support English Vocabulary with Signing Deaf Readers
An exploratory reading intervention using ASL stories, some with no visual handshape rhymes and others with handshape rhymes, to foster English print vocabulary was evaluated. Four signing deaf students, who were prelingually and profoundly deaf, between the ages of seven and eight years of age and reading at the first-grade level or below were engaged in the intervention. During group story time sessions, stories in American Sign Language (ASL) were presented on PowerPoint slides that included stories translated into both ASL and English, and short lessons using bilingual strategies. Using a pretest-posttest design, the print words were presented within ASL stories across three conditions; 1) with no ASL handshape rhyme, 2) with ASL handshape rhyme, and 3) with English word families (e.g., cat, sat, bat) that rhyme. Students’ vocabulary scores were significantly higher on the ASL stories with handshape rhymes, marginally significant in the non-rhyming ASL stories, and non-significant in the ones with rhyming English word families. This finding points to the importance of rhyme for young deaf children attending ASL/English bilingual programs and suggests that creating ASL stories with rhyme can help to bootstrap English literacy. Future directions for research are recommended.