DePaul Education Professor Devises Method to Help Deaf and Hearing Impaired Improve Their Reading Skills
In a pilot study in 2000, Trezek found that after seven months of using Direct Instruction curriculum alone, students gained between 1.2 and 2.5 grade levels on standardized measures of basic reading and reading comprehension. Subsequent studies that also incorporated Visual Phonics corroborate these findings.
(Media-Newswire.com) - As a longtime educator of the deaf, Beverly Trezek was frustrated that her deaf and hearing-impaired students couldn’t read beyond a fourth-grade level.
“Historically, the average deaf or hearing-impaired student graduating from high school tends to plateau in their reading at a fourth grade level,” said Trezek, a special education professor in DePaul University’s School of Education. “That’s going to impact the kind of future and type of job that these students and young adults can have.”
So Trezek set out to address the issue by devising a groundbreaking method that combines an instructional tool called Visual Phonics with an SRA/McGraw-Hill scripted reading curriculum called Direct Instruction, which uses a systematic way to teach phonics.
“I investigated various methods to help students visualize and represent sounds and found Visual Phonics, which allows teachers to use hand gestures and written symbols to teach students about sounds with visual, tactile and kinesthetic feedback instead of relying solely on hearing,” said Trezek, a licensed Visual Phonics trainer who co-authored a book titled “Reading and Deafness: Theory, Research and Practice” ( Cengage Learning 2010 ) and has written numerous articles on the subject.
In a pilot study in 2000, Trezek found that after seven months of using Direct Instruction curriculum alone, students gained between 1.2 and 2.5 grade levels on standardized measures of basic reading and reading comprehension. Subsequent studies that also incorporated Visual Phonics corroborate these findings. One of the most compelling discoveries was that acquisition and generalization of phonics skills did not appear to be associated with the degree of hearing loss, she said.
Trezek believes the method is so successful because it helps students visualize sounds rather than teaching them to memorize whole words by sight, especially because reading English is such a phonetic-based process.
Trezek has traveled worldwide lecturing on this topic and training teachers about how to use the method. Locally, she has helped implement this approach at the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonsville and in schools in South Holland, Lansing, Westmont and Mount Prospect, among others. She also teaches it to future teachers in her classroom at DePaul.
“We’ve seen great growth in our reading scores. We hope it’s the missing link that we’ve been looking for,” said Marybeth Lauderdale, superintendent of the Illinois School for the Deaf, which implemented Trezek’s method for reading in 2007. “It creates a strong foundation for reading. It’s been a paradigm shift for us.”
Trezek has found that students with learning disabilities have very similar patterns of reading difficulty as deaf students, and believes the method can benefit these students as well. She tried Direct Instruction curriculum with high school freshmen who had learning disabilities and were reading at a second grade level and was able to make three-year gains with these students in one year. She hopes to expand her research efforts by using this approach to help struggling readers who are tutored by graduate students in DePaul’s Family Lab.
For more information about the method, Trezek recommends reading her articles published in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education in 2005, 2006 and 2007 ( http://jdsde.oxfordjournals.org/ ).
DePaul has one of the largest schools of education in the Chicago area, offering degree programs in early childhood education; elementary, secondary, and physical education; special education; world languages education; bilingual/bicultural education; curriculum studies; educational leadership; human services and counseling; and language, literacy and specialized instruction.
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