Deb, and others,
I've been revising my reading methods class for next semester, and your question led me to get some thoughts together. I hope they are of some use, because the question of starting the reading process is really *hot* and I don't begin to have all the answers. Here is what has worked for me over the years (in a highly condensed version).
1. (definitely first place) Make language in the form of extended turns (narration, explanation, definition, description, etc) a part of all your teaching of information, concepts, and content areas, rather than "teaching language." Catherine Snow's research suggests that the presence of these extended turns in adult (and later in child) language in a child's early life predicts reading ability past 4th grade level later on. I believe Peter DeVilliers based the Clark School Language Curriculum on that concept, at least in part. The reason for doing this is so the children know what *ideas* to predict from the print.
2. For ASL/English, see Dr. Susan Mather from Gallaudet, Laurene Gallimore and other highly educated Deaf practitioners. From them I have learned to make every opportunity to allow students to see in English print what they are experiencing in ASL, AS IT HAPPENS (or as close as possible). Kids don't have to able to read it at this point, although you will be surprised what they can do with text in the context of a lesson where it appears during discussion. They just need to see the two languages side by side during discussion of ideas the children understand.
3. Push awareness of environmental print with functional activities. Fill the housekeeping center with real brand name containers, and act out creating a shopping list. Learn that part of the print is brand name and part of it is generic contents (Kellog's cornflakes). That can happen by finding a couple brands of cornflakes and finding the same words on all the boxes, and the different words--and noticing the size and value given to the different types of information (big print, fat print, colorful print=important information, at least to the manufacturer). Notice and decode (make meaningful) the warnings, instructions, and labels already in the environment. They are there for a purpose. Discover what it is.
4. Read real literature together, not once, but several times, until familiar, then use "Big Book" strategies to read the text as a class, using all the prediction, picture association, and memory strategies a regular group of kindergartners would use. Kids will often begin to identify interesting (to them) vocabulary at this point. It's not to early to emphasize that this is a separate language, and that BOTH languages can tell the story (internal language--meaning) is the same.
5. I second the post that talked about lots of writing. Carolyn Ewoldt's article: Ewoldt, C. and Hammermeister F, "The language-experience approach to facilitating reading and writing for hearing impaired students," American Annals of the Deaf, October 1986, is still a classic and to some extent addresses the ASL/English issue.
6. Talk about the nuts and bolts--phonics, word shapes, word similarities and differences, strategies for finding meaning--in the context of all of these activities. Basic skills are basic because they can be applied across all reading tasks, so they should be talked about as part of all reading tasks.
7. Finally, and this is definitely *last* in order of appearance in the teaching sequence, but NOT last in importance, learn sight words in isolation, drawn from the other activities as kids are interested in or need them (that will include dolch words, etc, as well as content words that carry meaning in particular stories and don't always show up again right away). Memorization of words that children have encountered meaningfully (even if the word itself is never defined) has a very important place, but it is not "first place" but "last place." But that doesn't mean end of the year. It means last in a sequence for that word. So, for example, the word "could", which is hard to define, and which is represented in ASL through a concept of being able in the past, so there isn't a one sign, one print word correspondence, might be learned this way: (and yes, it is not out of sight for kindergartners)
As you can see, I am a pretty "top down" sort of teacher, although I don't discount the "bottom" part. Also, I can hear people saying, "What if they don't have the language?" These are kindergartners, after all. My somewhat idealistic response is: They don't need "the language" if they have the meaning. I use role play, pictures, gestures, whatever works, to get the meaning across, and build the formal and informal language around it. If everyone doesn't get everything, there is always the next time. The language grows when we are using it to create or decode meaning, Hearing children are not asked to analyze language until they are old enough to distance themselves from it. Until then they experience it in many meaningful settings, and understand more and more of what is going on each time. All we really control as teachers is the quality of the settings.
Just my opinion. Hope it is helpful.
Uploaded by :B.J. Lawrence/ Deaf Education Major/Kent State University