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Research Findings

In analyzing 600 compositions from nonnative English writers, Kaplan, (1966) noted that the paragraph development of these writers followed different organizational formats depending on their language background. One research study has shown that Deaf writers have some basic knowledge of discourse rules but apply them in writing less frequently than hearing writers (Marschark, Mouradian, & Halas, 1994). However, both Deaf writers and nonnative English writers with basic writing skills need to be specifically taught how paragraphs and essays are expected to be developed and constructed.

Ball (1991) reported that African American students typically prefer to use different organizational patterns for academic writing tasks than the organizational patterns American mainstream teachers expect and reward. Therefore, teachers with basic writers from diverse cultural backgrounds should also directly teach about the organizational structure expected.

Livingston (1989) studied the revision strategies of Deaf writers and found that teachers tended to ask Deaf writers for more information and indicated the need for additions and elaborations following their first drafts. In addition, Deaf writers were able to improve their initial drafts with subsequent revisions although the revisions seemed to be focused on grammar. Thus, Livingston suggested that teachers form their questions on students' drafts by looking at the writing from a whole (that is, discourse-based instead of sentence specific) especially during the initial drafts.

Bienvenu (1993), Bienvenu and Colonomos (1989), and Roy (1989) described the structure of an ASL lecture or presentation. Deaf students may follow this type of structure when writing their early drafts in English. One researcher (St. Clair, 1980) found that the written compositions of Native American students also used structures influenced by features of their culture's rules for storytelling or public speaking. For deaf students who use ASL, directly teaching an awareness of the ASL structure and contrasting it with the written English structure may be helpful.