Bilingual One-Grader learning to write English

This post shows how the five-year-old bilingual kid acquires two languages (Ameslan and English) and develops her writing skills in English during the year in grade one.

Kinder writing

Note: All conversations between the kid and myself take in American Sign Language (ASL or Ameslan) only 24/7 since birth. Any English quotes in my posts are the translation from ASL.

Toward the end of the first month of grade one, as I cleaned up, I discovered many papers that the bilingual kid had left around on the coffee table that she used it as her desk in our living room. I noticed a bloom in her English writing skill.

It's fun to read five years old kids' written messages. They are fun and adorable. Sometimes a misspelled word can make the whole sentence out of context or changes a meaning and it's hilarious.

one-grader writing no games

By the end of September, the kid (age 5;8) left me a note on my desk (above). I was amazed by how far she could write something all by herself. And, this note made me smile; even though, she wasn't pleased in her tone.

Context: Juli and I played dots and boxes. Because she made handwritten dots that were not equal in length and width, the dots and boxes could be sometimes vague. And, I let her win. But, when I made a box, she insisted, "No, you made a double box." I explained that it was clearly a regular single box but she believed it was a double box. Okaay. As the game ended, she wrote the note.

Funny and perhaps contradictory because if I were to ask her to play again, her ears would prick up, ready and wanting to play.

one-grader writing halloween

One October day, she wrote a few messages, one for adults, one for babies, one for girls and another for boys.

As I read the paper for babies, I asked Juli about the word "pike". My first thought was "puke" and it didn't make sense. You are welcome to puke a candy?? She answered, "pick". Aah.

"I like your costume!", "Love it. You're nice to me.", "Happy Halloween! Boo to you."

I noticed that the plural words have an apostrophe. She recently learned a few words with the contractions such as "can't" and "don't" in her weekly spelling lessons at school. It might be an influence. Interesting, she made the correct contraction "you re", but she put an apostrophe in the wrong space. On the other hand, she wrote "yo'r" for "your". She will eventually understand the difference between contraction and plural, I thought.

That same day I scanned and uploaded the image above, at bedtime Juli picked a book, "Badger's Christmas." It was a perfect opportunity, I thought. I pointed to the "'s" (apostrophe and 's') in the title of the book and asked her what it meant. She replied that I don't remember, probably "many".

I explained the difference between "'s" as in possessive and 's' as in plural, of course, in ASL. Remember that ASL is its own language, not a form of signed English as contrary to many hearing people assume.

one-grader writing halloween

Next day after school, she wrote several on her desk. As I walked by, I noticed that she wrote the right plural words. Also shortly around the time, she used the possessive apostrophe correctly.

This is an example of how bilingual children, who speak native ASL, Spanish, French or another language in an English-speaking region, learn English and other school subjects efficiently. Deaf children, having a strong foundation of language (ASL) via eye from birth, acquire English at ease.

one-grader writing letter to leprechaun

In March, she set up a doll house and wrote a welcome letter for a leprechaun. She left the letter on the little house for the night, in hope to find him in the morning.

More to come this year and it's only the first month of the grade one. I can imagine a lot of surprises and joys to come in the next long months.

Related posts

Related posts: The emergence of writing at age 4.

This documentation project follows a baby's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, week by week from gazing at birth to manual babbling, to first words just before the first birthday in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.

The second-year and third-year documentation continues to follow the same child's language and phonological acquisition and literacy development in ASL on a weekly basis from the one-word stage to two-word and multiple utterances.

The documentary continues to follow the same child's ASL language and literacy development on a regular basis from age three to four. It surveys ASL phonological acquisition and more complex utterances.

These posts on ASL-English bilingualism, language acquisition, and bilingual education may be of an interest for parents who raise a bilingual-bimodal child in ASL (or another signed language) and English (or another written and/or spoken language of its respective) as well as informative and educational for ASL specialists, educators, and professionals.