University of Edinburgh

Supporting Deaf Pupils in Secondary Schools

Presented on Wednesday 28 September, 2011

Julie Fordyce
Aberdeen Hearing Support Service

Developing subject specific signs

Issues identified

  • Not enough advance preparation.
  • Use of initialising and fingerspelling.
  • Staff and pupils forgetting signs.
  • Staff changeover/new staff.
  • Staff covering absences.

BSL subject dictionaries

  • Photographs/graphics of signs. (graphics from Let’s Sign and Write – Widgit)
  • Movement shown using similar symbols to those used in the Dictionary of British Sign Language/English.
  • Definitions added.
  • Pictures/diagrams added if appropriate.
  • Dictionaries used in school by pupils and staff.
  • Copy sent home for pupil and parent use.
  • Word & sign flashcards used to learn signs and words.



  • Staff and pupils well prepared before lessons.
  • Fewer occasions of not having a sign.
  • Forgotten signs can be found quickly and easily – even in the middle of a lesson.
  • New staff or covering staff have a valuable resource.
  • A useful revision tool for pupils.
  • Once a dictionary is made it is there for future staff and pupils.

Adapting classroom materials

  • Provide pictures/photos/diagrams/drawings to support learning in class.
  • Make glossaries.
  • Modify texts - teaching materials and homework worksheets.
  • Pupil notes – modify text, add diagrams, pictures etc to suit learner's needs and preferences.


Can be useful when modification of text is not required or is impractical.


Modifying texts

What do we modify?

  • Texts which are inaccessible to the pupil – usually lengthy texts which are required to be read in order to answer questions or to complete a follow-up task.
  • Homework.


  • Does the pupil want a modified text?
  • Time available to produce modified texts.
  • Access to original texts.
  • Pupils need to encounter complex texts in order to improve their reading and understanding.

Possible difficulties for pupils

  • Passives – 'the liquid is poured'
  • Phrasal verbs – 'look over'
  • Complex sentences
  • Idioms – 'It's raining cats and dogs'
  • Technical terms
  • Infrequent words – rarely, occur, gradually
  • Familiar words with different meanings eg; bear
  • New words
  • Substitution - The Titanic was designed to be the flagship of the White Star Line. The liner was large and luxurious.
  • Ellipsis – words missed out because they can be deduced from previous information
  • Connectives eg; although, despite
  • Reference - use of pronouns
  • Presentation – cluttered, small font, long paragraphs, no sub-headings, use of italics and block capitals, information presented in a muddled order.

The Story of the Titanic  

The Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland, under the direction of J Bruce Ismay, co-owner of the White Star Line. On July 31, 1908, the final contracts were signed for the construction of Titanic and her sister ships the Olympic and the Britannic. The Titanic, as her name implies, was enormous. According to the original specifications, she would be 882 feet 9 inches in length, 94 feet wide and 100 feet high to the Bridge level. Construction continued in various phases until the Titanic was ready for her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912.

On the day she was launched from Queen's Island in Belfast on the 31st May 1911, the RMS Titanic was the biggest ship in the world and the largest moving object ever built. The White Star Line was one of a number of shipping companies who transported people across the Atlantic Ocean. At this time, before aeroplanes became popular or advanced enough to carry large numbers of passengers great distances, large liners were the only way to travel and there was a great deal of competition between all of the major companies to be the biggest and best. Ships like the Titanic should best be described as the 747s of their day. As huge people carriers, travelling at moderate speed, with space for large cargoes, they posed a great commercial threat to the smaller and more expensive-to-operate ships of the Cunard Line, one of the White Star’s main rivals.

The Titanic was designed to be the flagship (leader) of the White Star fleet. The ship would be so large and luxurious that she would sweep aside all of the competition and make the White Star Line the number one company. It was said that even the Second Class cabins on the Titanic were as luxurious as the First Class cabins on other ships. Even the Third Class (sometimes also called 'Steerage' cabins were thought to be the best ever designed. It was even believed that the Titanic was so large and so well built that she would be 'practically unsinkable'. The reason for this was that the hull of the Titanic was made up of sixteen separate watertight compartments. The idea was that this would make the ship more difficult to sink because even if a hole were made in the hull the water would not be able to flood the whole ship as it would be contained in the compartment. This meant that it would take damage to several compartments before the ship would be in danger of sinking and the chances of this happening were thought to be very small.

The Story of the Titanic  

The White Star Line

In the early 1900's aeroplanes could not carry lots of passengers or go very far. People had to go on ships to cross the Atlantic Ocean to America. There were quite a few shipping companies with ships crossing the Atlantic. They all wanted to be the biggest and the best. One of the shipping companies was called The White Star Line.

The White Star Line got people to build three new ships. They were called the Titanic, the Olympic and the Britannic. The Titanic was the most important ship the White Star Line had. It was the biggest ship in the world and its cabins were better than the cabins in all other ships. The White Star Line became the best shipping company because they had the Titanic.  

Building the Titanic The Titanic was built in Belfast in Ireland. It was finished on April 10, 1912. It was huge. It was 8882 feet 9 inches long. It was 94 feet wide and 100 feet high. The people who designed the Titanic thought it would never sink. They thought this because the Titanic's hull had sixteen watertight compartments.


watertight compartments

If something made a hole in the hull the water would only come into one compartment not the whole ship.  

To make the Titanic sink something would have to make holes in more than two or three compartments. Nobody thought that would happen.


The Titanic was launched on 31st May 1911 from Queen’s Island in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 



Pupil notes

Pupils often have difficulty understanding the language used in notes copied in class or handouts given out – not useful for revision.

Making new notes with the pupil.

  • Linked text boxes
  • Short sentences/ phrases
  • Colour key words/ most important points
  • Add pictures, diagrams etc.
  • Add signs