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Action Steps

  1. As indicated elsewhere in this module, the English article system is complex. Many instructors in content areas might not know how to explain the details and rules of the system. Therefore, it is recommended that, before talking to students about their use of articles, instructors take some time to familiarize themselves with the elements of the system discussed in this module. It is also important to acknowledge that, on occasion, article usage may not follow the system's general rules.
  2. Since correct article usage impinges on student comprehension of texts, as well as the clarity of their own writing, this area of English grammar is an important one to pay attention to. It seems to be a particularly difficult area for deaf students to become proficient in. Like any difficult structure, the more practice students have in identifying and correctly using articles, the more likely they will gain in proficiency.
  3. In general, it is recommended that instructors draw students' attention to article usage and comment on it when responding to student writing.
  4. It is a natural language-learning strategy to try to develop one's own grammar rules. Often these self-generated rules are not correct. In the case of articles, for example, sometimes deaf students will report that they believe that the always means plural. Where it is apparent that a student has derived an incorrect rule, an instructor may simply want to bring the student's attention to it or, alternatively, attempt to re-teach the rule.
  5. While, as a whole, the English article system is complex, at least one element of the system is straightforward, and that is that the article a is never used with plural nouns. Since students often confuse the singular and plural forms of nouns anyway (in addition to making article errors), when instructors comment on incorrect noun usage in students' written work, it is recommended that they also take the opportunity to highlight correct article usage.
  6. The importance of the correct use of the lies in the requirement for effective communication that the writer (or speaker) intuit the knowledge of the reader (listener). The need to consider one's audience, of course, goes far beyond the mere use or misuse of articles, and any commentary on student writing is likely to include reference to audience awareness. Discussion of the student's correct or incorrect use of the and the other articles can be used to introduce or highlight this important aspect of writing.
  7. One simple exercise for instructors to adapt is to take a paragraph from a textbook that students are assigned to read anyway, delete the articles, and ask students to reinsert the correct ones. A caution here is that there are often exceptions, or instances which appear not to follow the rule. Therefore, it is recommended that only those articles that clearly follow the general rules be deleted.