Strands in the American Sign Language as a Second Language Curriculum
The course American Sign Language as a Second Language, Level 1, Open (LASBO) is organized into four distinct but interrelated strands:
- A. ASL Conversational Discourse
- B. Comprehending ASL Construction and Content
- C. Constructing ASL Content and Usage of ASL Grammatical Structures
- D. Understanding the Connections Between ASL Language, Culture, Identity, and Community
This framework includes overall and specific expectations in which learning related to ASL as a language is interwoven with learning related to ASL culture.
The curriculum is designed to develop a range of essential skills in the four interrelated areas. It has a culture-based foundation that encompasses knowledge of ASL cultural protocols and perspectives. The development of analytical, critical, and metacognitive thinking skills is also emphasized. Students learn best when they are encouraged to consciously monitor their thinking as they learn, and each strand includes expectations that encourage such reflection. The knowledge and skills that students develop in the course will enable them to engage in conversations in ASL; comprehend, reflect upon, respond to, and construct a range of ASL literary works and ASL texts, including ASL media works; and enhance their understanding of ASL culture.
When teachers plan an ASL program, they focus on the ASL as a second language curriculum expectations and ensure that resources and program approaches directly support the achievement of the Ontario curriculum expectations and reflect the assessment, evaluation, and reporting policy. Teachers may provide ASL dictionaries and other ASL educational resources. These ASL-specific resources support comprehension and construction of various ASL discourse structures and help build students’ ASL vocabulary and classifier usage.
ASL teachers plan activities that integrate expectations from the four strands in order to provide students with experiences that promote meaningful learning and help them recognize how ASL cultural and literacy skills, in the four areas, reinforce and strengthen one another.
Strand A – ASL Conversational Discourse
This strand provides opportunities for students to develop the knowledge and skills essential for conversational discourse in ASL. Students learn how to use a variety of grammatical structures and interactive strategies, and become familiar with ASL cultural protocols. They learn how to understand, analyse, interpret, reflect upon, and respond to ideas and information when interacting with others in a variety of ASL conversational discourse contexts (e.g., conversation, dialogue, discussion). When they converse in a variety of contexts, they make connections and convey their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions, using ASL conventions and structures coherently and cohesively.
As students work towards achieving the expectations for this strand, they will develop the skills required to explore and convey ideas and information in the classroom, outside the classroom, and in other contexts.
Strand B – Comprehending ASL Construction and Content
In this strand, students develop the knowledge and skills essential to understanding basic ASL content. They learn how to identify different ASL forms and styles used in a variety of contexts. Students begin to extract meaning from ASL literary works and ASL texts, including ASL media works, that reflect ASL culture and community. As students develop their comprehension skills, they can identify what interests them most, and can begin to seek out ASL works that reflect their own interests.
ASL, like all languages, is full, rich, and complex, and comprehending ASL requires cognitive work. Students will benefit from a using a variety of comprehension strategies in the deciphering-deconstructing process (see below for a definition and more discussion). Examples of comprehension strategies include activating prior knowledge, re-deciphering-re-deconstructing, making connections, predicting, visualizing, making inferences, questioning, summarizing, synthesizing, and reflecting. Decoding is another example of a comprehension strategy, and students can decode unfamiliar ASL words and classifiers to determine the meaning of content in order to analyse and/or interpret ASL literary works or ASL texts.
The term deciphering-deconstructing refers to the act and process of “message-getting and problem solving” in ASL. It involves analysing ASL literary works, such as prose, poetry, and other genres, that are experienced live or in video format, without the use of an orthographic system. It also includes analysing ASL texts. The process involves decoding ASL words and classifiers and language structure, thinking about the meaning of the content, and extracting meaning from the work. Examples of deciphering-deconstructing strategies include skimming ASL literary works and ASL texts for information or details; analysing parameters of ASL words; substituting unfamiliar ASL words and classifiers with familiar ASL words and classifiers; and breaking down the content of ASL literary works into strophes, stanzas, and lines. During the deciphering-deconstructing process, students may use cueing systems – that is, semantic, syntactic, and/or pragmatic clues from the context or from their understanding of ASL structures and/or ASL parameter relationships – to help them understand unfamiliar ASL words and classifiers. They may also use a variety of comprehension strategies to help them construct meaning and eventually demonstrate their understanding of an ASL literary work or ASL text.
The term deciphering-deconstructing more closely represents the nature of American Sign Language than other terms, including reading, which is typically associated with the act of taking in the printed word. More accurately than other terms, deciphering-deconstructing describes the actual thought processes that an ASL person goes through when perusing ASL literary works or ASL texts that are shown live or on video. It describes what the eyes and mind do in the act of decoding ASL words, thinking about the meaning of the content, and extracting meaning from the content.
Adapted from Linda A. Wall, “From the Hands into the Eyes:
The ASL course should include a wide variety of ASL forms and genres that engage students’ interest and imagination. For more information on ASL literary genres, see the chart in Appendix A.
ASL teachers routinely provide authentic ASL resources created by ASL people who reflect the diversity of Ontario and of Canada. Students use techniques and strategies of critical literacy to enhance their understanding of ASL literary works and ASL texts, including ASL media works.
As a creative representation of life and experience, ASL literary works and ASL texts raise important questions about the human condition within contemporary and historical sign language communities and the world. As students study these ASL works, they deepen their understanding of the dimensions of human thought and human experience as individuals and as a collective. Students learn to decipher-deconstruct critically, to become familiar with various ASL forms and their characteristic elements, and to identify and analyse the purposes and uses of figurative language and other stylistic devices in ASL.
Strand C – Constructing ASL Content and Usage of ASL Grammatical Structures
This strand provides opportunities for students to develop the knowledge and skills essential to creating ASL literary works and ASL texts for different purposes and audiences, using a variety of ASL forms and language conventions, and knowledge of ASL culture. With support from their teachers, students will construct a variety of ASL literary works and ASL texts to convey ideas and information.
The ASL constructing process is best learned in the context of meaningful and creative constructing tasks that allow students to develop the necessary skills to think and construct coherently, cohesively, and effectively.
The ASL Constructing Process
The constructing process for ASL literary works and ASL texts takes place in stages that require the skills of planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing, respectively, as follows:
- Planning: This stage involves brainstorming and developing ideas, gathering information, including information about ASL culture, and determining a form that suits the purpose and audience. It may also include considering register, style, and point of view.
- Drafting: The drafting stage involves selecting and using ASL discourse structures and markers and registers, as well as ASL language structures, ASL parameters, ASL conventions, ASL vocabulary, classifier construction, spatial construction, and non-manual markers to organize content in a form and style appropriate for the purpose and audience.
- Revising: This stage involves critically examining the draft version of the ASL literary work or ASL text by using a variety of strategies to refine and improve the content, flow, and structure (e.g., to ensure cohesion, coherence, clarity, and accuracy).
- Editing: The editing stage involves checking the correctness of the ASL discourse structures and markers and registers, as well as the ASL language structures, ASL parameters, ASL conventions, ASL vocabulary, classifier construction, spatial construction, and non-manual markers.
- Publishing: This stage involves using elements of effective delivery, such as graphics, layout, and hyperlinks, to finalize an ASL work that meets the criteria identified by the teacher.
Constructing ASL literary works and ASL texts from the draft stage to the publishing stage involves a range of complementary thinking and composing skills, as well as other processes. As part of the constructing process, students are expected to use a variety of strategies and tools to synthesize the information they have gathered, including digital literacy tools. For example, students may use video-text applications, documents, photo editing applications, and websites, or a combination of these.
Students need to first consider their purpose and audience, then select the appropriate form and style to organize their content and apply their knowledge of ASL language features and structures and ASL culture. To develop these competencies, students need supportive and collaborative classroom environments. ASL teachers model and teach effective ASL language-learning strategies and skills, and ASL cultural knowledge. They provide scaffolding where needed and encourage students to work individually as well as collaboratively. They give students diverse opportunities to apply these skills and to construct content in a variety of ASL forms, and for a variety of purposes and audiences.
Strand D – Understanding the Connections Between ASL Language, Culture, Identity, and Community
In this strand, students develop the knowledge and skills essential to understanding ASL as a language, and its connection to ASL culture, identity, history, and community, as well as its role in significant events and its contributions to Canadian and global societies. An understanding of historical and current issues that have affected ASL communities will enhance students’ ability to participate effectively as members of Canadian and global societies.
Students will apply their knowledge of ASL vocabulary, classifiers, and grammatical structures to extend their understanding of their first language, ASL as a second language, and other languages. In addition, they will apply their critical thinking skills and knowledge of the ASL community, its culture, and literature. Through their study of ASL as a language and ASL culture, students will deepen their understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of people and communities throughout history, both in Canada and around the world. This strand also focuses on the importance of building positive relationships and creating equitable environments for all members of Canadian and global societies.
Culturally diverse learning opportunities in the curriculum will allow students to develop an appreciation of the diverse cultural perspectives, values, and beliefs of ASL people who live in Ontario and in other parts of the country, as well as in other parts of the world.