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Action Steps

1. While the connectives discussed in this module do not typically pose a problem for most first language users of English, to deaf students the sheer number of connectives, the nuances of meaning, and the different syntactic environments that each requires pose major problems. For teachers, it is not enough to be a proent user of connectives--it is necessary also to ficibe able to explain what they mean, how they work, and where they can be used. In particular, it is recommended that, before talking to students about their use of connectives, teachers take some time to familiarize themselves with the different syntactic requirements of conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs, and prepositions, as discussed in this module.

2. There are four clearly identifiable problems surrounding the use of connectives for non-fluent users of the language. These are, in order of importance: (a) understanding the differences among logical relationships in a conceptual sense, (b) understanding the general meanings of each connective, (c) understanding the syntax that constrains the use of each type of connective, and (d) understanding the nuances of meaning that control the selection and use of one connective as opposed to another in a particular semantic environment. Enhancing the fluency of language learners requires exposure, explanation, and practice in all four of these areas.

3. One interesting conclusion that one can sometimes draw from the writing of some deaf students is that they have obviously had some exposure to the use of connectives but that the exposure has not been sufficient. This seems to be particularly true of conjunctive adverb use, where the student knows how to use this kind of connective but has not fully internalized the correct meanings. Thus, one finds the student using however instead of therefore, and so on. Presumably, increased practice is all that is needed to increase appropriate usage in such instances.

4. An intrinsic problem with some English connectives is the fact of multiple meanings. Thus, the conjunction since can introduce information about either time or reason. There are several other examples (as, whenever, where, etc.) of multiple meanings. A second problem is the similarity in form of connectives of different syntactic classes, for example, because/because of, instead/instead of, as well/as well as. Finally, some connectives can function as both conjunction and conjunctive adverb (for example, besides and before) or as both conjunction and preposition (for example, until and since). All of these dichotomies can appear quite frustrating to a student who is trying to learn "the rules."

5. At the very least, the teacher who is confronted by student writing that has obvious errors in the use of connectives should make sure to draw the student's attention to the problem. Certainly, some measure of problem diagnosis will also help.

6. The examples of exercises in the Guided Practice section of this module can easily be expanded. The essence of such exercises is to provide a challenging task that requires some measure of careful thought in order to arrive at the correct answer. Simply giving such exercises to students without careful review and explanation of the correct answers is probably not sufficient.

7. One simple exercise for teachers to adapt is to take a paragraph from a textbook that students are assigned to read anyway, delete the connectives, and ask students to supply correct ones. Such an exercise can lead to a useful discussion of all four of the "clearly identifiable problems" outlined above.