Join Our Mailing List

Vocabulary Development through Repeated Viewings of Sign Language Stories

Big Idea

Children who are deaf and use sign language can increase their vocabulary by repeatedly watching stories presented in sign language in a video format. Pairing repeated viewings with targeted explicit instruction may increase the rate at which these students increase their vocabulary.

Brief Explanation

Teachers and students can engage in shared repeated viewings of stories presented in sign language. The teacher can provide instruction on targeted content, such as vocabulary words or story elements, before, during, or after the viewings. For example, the teacher might pre-teach character and setting or she might stop the story and show an explicit example during shared, repeated viewings of the story. After the viewing is over, the teacher might review examples of the characters and settings with students. The teacher and students can also engage in discussions about the stories, similar to shared repeated reading of storybooks.

Supporting Fact

For DHH preschoolers who used sign language, repeated viewings of interactive signed stories with embedded sign language dictionaries increased the children’s and their parents’ sign language vocabularies (Mueller & Hurtig, 2010). When DHH preschoolers repeatedly watched a sign language video with embedded vocabulary instruction, including vocabulary words presented in print, fingerspelling, and sign, the children increased their identification and use of the targeted vocabulary words (Golos, 2010).

Supporting Fact

Elementary DHH students increased their math vocabulary after the teacher pre-taught targeted words and the students watched repeated viewings of the math stories that contained the words (Cannon, Fredrick, & Easterbrooks, 2010). During pre-teaching sessions, the teacher provided the word in print, the corresponding sign and definition, and examples and non-examples. Following the brief teaching sessions, the students watched each story three times, searching for the printed word and sign, and increased their math vocabulary.


Cannon, J. E., Fredrick, L. D., & Easterbrooks, S. R. (2010). Vocabulary instruction through books read in American Sign Language for English-language learners with hearing loss. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 31(2), 98-112.  Cannon, Fredrick, and Easterbrooks paired pre-teaching with repeated viewings of math sign language stories with four children, ages 10 to 12 years, who were DHH and English Language Learners (ELLs). The teacher taught students the targeted math words, five per story, using a printed version of the word, the corresponding sign, examples, and non-examples. Students watched the Connect to Print signed versions of the stories on DVD, in which the corresponding print was visible, three times for each story. The students mastered the targeted vocabulary words with a combination of pre-teaching and repeated viewings.

Golos, D. B. (2010). Deaf children’s engagement in an educational video in American Sign Language. American Annals of the Deaf, 155(3), 360-368.  Golos investigated the behaviors of 25 DHH preschool students during repeated viewings of an educational video presented in American Sign Language (ASL). Vocabulary instruction was embedded in the video through the use of ASL, fingerspelling, and English print. Children increased 278% in their signing of targeted vocabulary words from the first to third viewing of the video. The children also increased in their comments that were related to the video content and in their fingerspelling during their viewings.

Mueller, V., & Hurtig, R. (2010). Technology-enhanced shared reading with deaf and hard-of-hearing children: The role of a fluent signing narrator. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 15(1), 72-101.  Four preschool students and their mothers used the Iowa Signing E-Books [electronic], which presented stories in ASL narration. The books contained interactive vocabulary support, such that children or parents could click on the text to see a video clip of the corresponding sign. When compared to E-Books without ASL narration, children used the books with ASL narration 3 to 5 more minutes per book. All children increased their sign language vocabulary following use of the books.