University of Edinburgh

Assessing and Monitoring the Writing Development of Deaf Learners

Presented on Tuesday 28 October 2008

Connie Mayer's Writing Assessment Tool

connie mayer

Connie Mayer
York University Toronto Canada

How the tool was developed

Over the past 6 years Connie has worked with teachers of deaf children in New Zealand about writing skills.

The tool was developed jointly with teachers.

Why monitor writing?

  • To help your planning as a teacher.
  • To prepare more focused writing targets.
  • To evaluate the effect of your teaching.

What are the risks?

  • Danger of losing the important focus of creativity in teaching writing.
  • It can skew our appreciation of pupils' work.
  • We may subconsciously pass on an error mentality to our pupils.

The writing tool is:

  • Not designed to be shown to learners;
  • Not designed to be a checklist for what to teach deaf learners about writing.

Remember your creative impulse!
But also use the tool as a check on your teaching and an aid for your planning.

Collecting suitable texts

  • You want as much writing as possible
  • Written with as little help with redrafting as possible
  • Note down the stimulus for the task
  • And any help the pupil has received
  • Analyse one text every few months

Overall impressions

Prompt / motivation

The class is planning a Christmas fair and Tanya is producing a poster. She's had a talk with her partner about what to put in it.

References, support provided

Tanya and partner have notes answering 5 questions: What? Where? When? How much? Who? There are other posters for events on the wall.

Layout and Organisation

In her first draft Tanya used an illustration and large font for the key information. Capitals mixed with lower case.


Tanya's poster was understandable by her classmate, but not by someone who didn't know what was going to happen. Missing information eg; time.

Meaning: Narrative

First person
I was born in a thatched hut.

Third person
She finally gets out of the house and rushed to the Police Station.

Amsterdam, 2nd World War

Anne Frank
Otto Frank - her father
Peter van Daan - friend in hiding

Narrative structure

Random or illogical sequence
eg; incorrect time sequence

Temporal sequence
eg; correct time order

Cause - effect relationships
I can't go to away match because of my wheelchair.

Relationship made between events and characters
He has tried talked to someone help him about his car. He have decided phone A&A car, suddenlty they have came here and checked his car, this is damage and he has have been explain to them. They have picked up his car for car fixing. He has went to home, he has crazy and upset, he couldn't sleep in the nightmare.

Plot development


Schaum's quick guide to writing great short stories (1999) Lucke, M. New York: McGraw

Motivation of characters clear

However until his finished work, he has tired now he has getting in the car again and he has thinker about his new idea. He has patient and long day. He felt quiet in the day while.


Description eg; Science observations: making fresh water from salt water.
Opinion eg; Letter to newspaper: Should young people be able to buy alcohol?
Direction eg; maps / instructions
Explanation eg; History: Why did people leave the Highlands 150 years ago?
Argument eg; In pairs discuss you different views on X, then write a For and Against poster for others to read.
Persuasion eg; Write an advert to sell your house.

Background details - information to help the reader eg;
Gordon used a title: Letter to the Editor and referred to last week’s paper by date in the first sentence.


Mean Length of Utterance
Aisha and Joshua came downstairs to wake Matthew up but Matthew’s bed was empty. Matthew has left the note, Joshua read and told his wife what Matthew had wrote that Matthew love her but Joshua felt happy that he was left already, he got mixed emotion felt for his wife!

Mayer says use the student's sentence boundaries.

Sentence Types

Fragment He tired fine
Simple A van escaped away.
Compound After a few minute later, he was sudden a smashed the car and run van speeds away.
Complex if you know any thinig about the van driver Please call 0800 016819.
Not many friends can do what we did, but thank God we are still in touch after all these long years.
He explains that your mind is very important because it helps you have more survival time and pretects your life in dangerous places.

Useful website:


    Explains and practises compound/complex sentences

    Sentence Functions

    The van smashed the car.
    Interrogative “Why do you think I am bully my lovely niece?”
    Imperative Twist the elastic band to wind it up.
    Exclamatory By devil!


    Write all the verbs - especially for beginners

    has, have, left, see, smashed,
    driven, looked, feel, break, waited,
    coming, known, seen, though(t)

    Describing words. Can fill this sentence
    I feel very _____. It is very ______.
    eg; happy, tired, creative, dry, boring…

    Tell you more about the verb, or comment on the whole sentence. Some end in -ly.
    Use Cobuild dictionary to check.
    eg; really, very, quite, suddenly, slowly, yesterday, here, now

    Unusual words Rattlesnake
    What you count as unusual will depend on the level of the learner.
    Misused vocabulary I used to be interesting sign language but the teacher didn't improved and told us to stopped signing and talk properly.

    Use the comments box to comment on features in nearby sentences such as:
    Synonyms eg; lorry - truck
    Antonyms eg; rich - poor
    Hypernym (eg; animal) and Hyponym (eg; dog)
    Worth noting because their use often shows developing understanding of cohesion.


    Omitted letters televison
    Added letters tommorrow
    Transposed letters hoilday
    Unusual word attempted but misspelled measuem


    Full stop as abbreviation eg; No. = number
    Commas for joining independent clauses so and but are co-ordinating conjunctions:
    Paul hates computers, so he never turns his computer on.
    Commas for separating dependent clauses If you want to learn BSL, you need to mix with Deaf people.
    Maggie, who is over 60 now, is backpacking this year.

    Grammar: Articles

    • Rules for articles a/the are complex
    • Last to be acquired by people learning English as an additional language
    • Omission or addition of articles could be noted rather than if they are used correctly
    • What's the best way to learn how to use them?

    Subordinating conjunctions

    after although / though as as soon as
    because before if now that
    since so that that unless
    until when where while

    Game 1

    • Divide into 3 teams
    • Each team member searches for 2 clause cards
    • Put the clauses into a sentence
    • Decide: Is it compound or complex? Is there a dependent clause? Is there a subordinating or co-ordinating conjunction?
    • Add commas if needed
    • Trade clauses between groups
    • Present your results to the class


    • This is an area of great difficulty for deaf learners
    • Some particles are closely connected to verbs rather than being prepositions eg; close in on, get by, run over
    • A preposition of manner = How? in ink, in a hurry, with a smile, in a low voice

    Note: Discuss how to treat phrasal verbs. Look in Cobuild.

    Pronouns: substitute for nouns

    Subject Object Possessive
    I me mine
    you you yours
    he him his
    she her hers
    it it its
    we us our
    they them theirs

    Types of pronoun

    Interrogative Pronoun

    • Ask a question
    • With a question mark

    Who said that?
    Where is she?

    Relative Pronoun

    • Introduce a relative clause

    I know who you are.
    He told me where they live.

    Verb tenses

    There are many ways of marking future time, which we should record:

    • I will go and see that as well.
    • We are going to Russia to St Petersburg.
    • We may be on television (never know).

    Where should we record it?

    Useful website:

    What is the perfect?

    • The auxiliary (helping) verb HAVE
    • Plus the 5th form of the verb:
      Eat, eats, eating, ate, eaten
      Walk, walks, walking, walked, walked
    • Meaning: action in recent past or a past time linked to now
      I have met so many people who are
      positive about their deafness.

    What is a modal verb?

    • It is an auxiliary verb
    • Its form doesn't change
    • It changes the meaning of the verb phrase to show attitude: possibility, probability, necessity, past time habit, logical deduction, politeness

    Game 2

    • Get into your teams again.
    • You will see a sentence. As a team decide on the tense.
    • Is there an auxiliary verb?
    • Is there a modal auxiliary? What meaning does it add?
    • See how many your team can get right.

    Subject Verb Agreement

    • Coffee cost too much in Starbucks.
      Subject Verb
      We can change coffee to it.
    • The children likes half term.
    • He know sign language.

    Rule: he/she/it take -s on present tense verb

    Comments box on verbs

    • Auxiliary verbs are often a difficult area for deaf and EAL learners.
    • Note success or failure with auxiliaries eg; DO, HAVE, BE
      Did the interview go well?
      Have you heard how to do this before?
      She was told that only the girls in the
      family have the deaf gene.

    Word order

    • Usual patterns of clauses in English:
    • Subject Verb Object: She hit the ball.
    • Subject Verb Adverbial:
      He has gone to Spain.
    • Subject Verb Complement:
      I am hungry.

    Game 3
    This game is about SVO SVA and SVC

    Word order
    Dependent clauses have already been noted under complex sentences and punctuation.

    This time we are focusing on word or clause order in a dependent clause.

    If you get involved in the wrong place in the wrong time, it could cost you your life.

    Placement of adjectives

    The cat black
    ? The old, valuable gold ring

    Adverbs - often quite mobile words

    • The very hungry caterpillar
    • Actually, I didn't go.
    • I'll see him tomorrow.
    • ? It's late really.

    Using the assessment tool

    • Choose a text
    • Work with a partner
    • Record the features
    • Swap with another pair
    • Talk in a group of four to comment on your recording

    Matching targets to creative approaches
    GAME 4

    Take a target card.
    Find a teaching approach card.
    Explain how you get from target to better

    • Using the second text, set some writing targets.
    • What is most urgent? Not too many targets.
    • Discuss how to introduce these in an IMAGINATIVE way.
    • Take your recommendations back to the meeting and discuss.

    Keeping in touch

    • Swap email addresses?
    • WebCT site?
    • Colleagues in Canada and New Zealand?
    • Journal/blog?
    • Google docs?
    • Connie's visit in 09/10

    Contact details

    Rachel O'Neill