ASL Stories with Handshape Rhyme: An Exploratory Intervention to Support English Vocabulary with Signing Deaf Readers

  • Merrilee R. Gietz University of Houston
  • Jean F. Andrews Lamar University
  • M Diane Clark Lamar University


An exploratory reading intervention using ASL stories, some with no visual handshape rhymes and others with handshape rhymes, to foster English print vocabulary was evaluated. Four signing deaf students, who were prelingually and profoundly deaf, between the ages of seven and eight years of age and reading at the first-grade level or below were engaged in the intervention. During group story time sessions, stories in American Sign Language (ASL) were presented on PowerPoint slides that included stories translated into both ASL and English, and short lessons using bilingual strategies. Using a pretest-posttest design, the print words were presented within ASL stories across three conditions; 1) with no ASL handshape rhyme, 2) with ASL handshape rhyme, and 3) with English word families (e.g., cat, sat, bat) that rhyme. Students’ vocabulary scores were significantly higher on the ASL stories with handshape rhymes, marginally significant in the non-rhyming ASL stories, and non-significant in the ones with rhyming English word families. This finding points to the importance of rhyme for young deaf children attending ASL/English bilingual programs and suggests that creating ASL stories with rhyme can help to bootstrap English literacy.  Future directions for research are recommended.

Author Biographies

Merrilee R. Gietz, University of Houston

The first author, Merrilee Gietz, is Deaf, and a second-generation European Canadian.  She became an US citizen later after she graduated from a Deaf school.  She went to a pre-K school and knew some signed English signs before going to an oral school for two years.  After leaving the oral school at six, she enrolled at a Deaf school that utilized ASL. During this time, she also took a science course at the public high school. She was inspired to learn folklore and historic ASL stories by several Deaf teachers (both Canadians and Americans). Her journey did not provide opportunities for mentoring or support for publishing. 

Jean F. Andrews, Lamar University

The second author (Jean Andrews) is a hearing, European American with a background in Deaf Education, linguistics, and reading.  She has published and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and textbooks in the areas of psychology of Deaf people, language and literacy among Deaf persons, many of whom are her Deaf co-authors.

How to Cite
GIETZ, Merrilee R.; ANDREWS, Jean F.; CLARK, M Diane. ASL Stories with Handshape Rhyme: An Exploratory Intervention to Support English Vocabulary with Signing Deaf Readers. Archives of Psychology, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 2, may 2020. ISSN 2573-7902. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 04 june 2023.
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