Exploring British Sign Language (BSL) as a strategy for Welsh language acquisition to all learners in Welsh medium early years settings

Jones, Megan (2022). Exploring British Sign Language (BSL) as a strategy for Welsh language acquisition to all learners in Welsh medium early years settings. In: Teacher Education Advancement Network Conference (TEAN), 5 May - 6 May 2022, Virtual.

Abstract

The Government in Wales’ ambition is to produce a million Welsh speakers by 2050 and education plays a vital role in this vision (Welsh Government, 2017). Welsh is taught through education until the age of 16, through immersion at Welsh medium settings or as a second language in English medium settings.

Wales is currently experiencing an exciting reform of its education system and the new Curriculum for Wales aims to develop ambitious and capable learners, enterprising and creative contributors, principled and informed citizens, and healthy and confident individuals, which recognises the value of sign language in education. Current consultation proposes that settings should include BSL in their provisions as a first or second language for deaf and hard of hearing learners and as a third or second language (Welsh Government, 2021). Responses to the consultation indicate a preference for its delivery as part of the curriculum and participants responded positively to its impact on learners' Welsh language development (Miller et al, 2021). Research supports the delivery of BSL in settings. A study by Goodwyn et al (Vallotton, 2011) showed that children using signs before they could speak had better language skills than a group of comparison children who were not introduced to sign language. Evidence is also provided by Millar and Light (2006), that the use of alternative forms of communication, such as sign language, does not prevent children with developmental delay from speaking and may in fact support their ability to speak. Daniels (1995; 2001) also found that sign language should be an integral part of pre-kindergarten organisations where, as a result, children's language ability would increase, through breadth of vocabulary, greater pleasure in communicating and better listening skills.

As a new Teacher Educator, I am interested in language acquisition and passionate about nurturing multilingual learners. It’s my aim therefore to ensure that teachers of the future develop the necessary attributes and awareness of language development. To support this, I will draw on recent experience as a Primary teacher and intend to create a framework of activities and resources to facilitate the implementation of sign language in Welsh medium early years settings. The research aims to investigate their effectiveness and pedagogy, with the possibility of creating case studies of practice for teacher education. This roundtable presentation will outline my proposed research project discussing the context of where the research sits in the current education and ITE reforms underway in Wales.

References

Daniels, M. (2001). Dancing with words: Signing for hearing children's literacy. ABC-CLIO.

Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: a research review. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research: JSLHR, 49(2), 248–264. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2006/021) (Accessed December 21st 2021)

Nick, N, KilBride, K, Morgan, N & Mann, J. (2021) Analysis of Consultation Responses on Additional Guidance for the Curriculum for Wales. Available at: consultation–summary-of-responses-to-british-sign-language-guidance_0.pdf (Accessed 21st December 2021)

Tedick, D. D. J., Christian, D., & Fortune, D. T. W. (2011). Immersion education: Practices, policies, possibilities. Channel View Publications.

Vallotton, C. (2011) Signing with Babies and Children: A Summary of Research Findings by Claire, Ph.D. Available from: Two Little Hands Productions Signing-with-Babies-and-Children-Vollotton.pdf (Accessed 21st December 2021)

Welsh Government (2017) Cymraeg 2050. Miliwn o Siaradwyr. Available at: Cymraeg 2050: Miliwn o siaradwyr (llyw.cymru) (Accessed 20th December 2021).

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