SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 108

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. first language of the children and as the primary language of instruction, should be employed both to impart information and to talk about English. While it may be useful to use special signs to talk about English structures and to represent those aspects of English in signing, such systematic English signing should not be used for the transmission of content or the conduct of interpersonal communication in the classroom. English will be taught as a second language and methods of English instruction will take advantage of the first language competence the children already have. As grade level increases, the acquisition of information through reading becomes more critical and English will become increasingly important as a vehicle of instruction. Classroom discourse, however, will continue to be in ASL. Some readers might misinterpret our focus on ASL discourse as a neglect of English. It is not our intention to diminish the value of learning English for deaf people. It is an undeniable fact that proficient English is necessary to economic survival in the United States. Of more direct relevance to this paper, however, is the fact that in each successive year of school, a larger proportion of the curricular content is located in books and other reading material. Thus, if our goal of at-grade-level curriculum is to be met, children will need to have increasingly higher levels of proficiency in the reading and writing of English in order to succeed. Our goal is children who are bilingual in ASL, and English. Thus, proficiency in English is one of our primary objectives. We contend simply that both the learning of English and access to the curriculum may be speeded and enhanced by establishing ASL as the first language. Both languages should be respected, valued, and used by all adults in the program and the specific utility of each should be a topic of open discussion. The importance of English literacy in the adult life of deaf people in the United States should be a topic included in both the language and the social studies curricula. o The learning of a spoken language (English) for a deaf person is a process of learning a second language through literacy (reading and writing). Erting (1982) and Sacks (1988) both emphasize that the essential adaptations that deaf people must make to succeed in a world designed by and for hearing people are visual. The learning of English for a deaf child is no exception. It is primarily a visual (as opposed to auditory) experience. This is true whether the child learns English through the lipreading of English speech, through a signed code for English, or through literacy. De Bentancor (1986) has shown, for example, that for deaf children learning Spanish through oral methods, the coding of lipreading is visual, rather than auditory or phonological. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 108