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Implications and Action Steps

1. English relative clauses are difficult structures for many deaf students.

2. Deaf students are more successful on sentences in which a relative clause follows a main clause object rather than one that interrupts the main clause subject and verb.

3. Deaf students are most successful on sentences in which the relativized position is the subject.

4. Except for who in subject position, deaf students show a preference for relative clauses that do not contain wh-words or phrases.

5. Deaf students are less successful on relative clauses in which the object of preposition and more deeply embedded positions are relativized.

Research Implications

1. The use of English relative clauses in instructional materials should be kept to a minimum.

2. When relative clauses are used, the "easier" relative clause structures described in the research summary should be chosen.

3. The "harder" relative clause structures should be avoided.

Action Steps

1. In developing quiz and examination questions, avoid using English relative clauses when possible. Choose alternative, simpler structures.

2. Otherwise, use the "easier" relative clause types in developing written materials and in oral and sign English presentations.

3. With respect to published course readings that contain difficult relative clause structures, paraphrase critical sections, in writing and in class discussions, using simpler English structures.

4. Whenever possible, use visual supports and other adjunct materials to supplement English text.

5. Help students improve their knowledge of English relative clauses by incorporating select relative clause structures into course materials. Do this where the functions of relative clauses can be clearly demonstrated, for example, in comparing two or more similar things.

6. Take the time to correct student assignments not only with respect to content knowledge, but also with respect to English skills. Rather than focusing on all of a student's errors, focus on one particular skill such as relative clause usage.

7. Devise your own methods for getting a rough assessment of your students' relative clause comprehension and production in order to anticipate the degree to which their relative clause knowledge might affect successful learning.

8. Use pedagogical techniques that have been shown to be successful in teaching English relative clauses. For example, Pennington (1995) suggests activities for teaching English relative clauses to speakers of other languages. Techniques from that field can be effective in teaching English to deaf students.