How Cued Speech Represents Spoken Language

Whenever I mention that my current students do not use sign language but instead rely on Cued Speech to support their oral skills, I am always met with blank stares and questions. Here is a good explanation I have found over at Hannahfmann:

A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

Anyone who’s familiar with manually coded English (MCE) such as Signed English or Visual Phonics may wonder, rightly so, how Cued Speech can provide 100% access to English on the lips and hands. Fortunately, Aaron Rose of Cue Cognatio has designed and illustrated a 3-D model that shows the relationship between Cued Speech and spoken language.

Image courtesy of Aaron Rose. Image courtesy of Aaron Rose.

Aaron explains this model as follows:

“There are three components to each ‘system’ [speech and Cued speech] for the purpose of expressing traditionally spoken language via speech and Cued Speech.

1.) Both systems use the same mouth shapes. 
2.) The hand shapes take the place of the tongue placements (place of articulation)
3.) The hand placements take the place of the voicing/air (manner of articulation). 

This is a general model and should not be used strictly for research purposes, but is intended to provide a better idea of how and why spoken language and cued…

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Teacher Summer Bucket List

Summer has arrived! I’m excited for the change in routine and the chance to work with my students one-on-one specifically on their language and hearing needs without concern for curriculum content. Yes, that’s right; it’s summer, and I will still be working with my students.

Contrary to popular belief, teachers are still working even when the schools are out of session. Even if you don’t have a formal extended school year program, like I do, I’m sure your classroom is somehow on your mind. There’s lesson plans to be improved, curriculum to be updated, professional development to attend… If our summer break includes a vacation it is probably no longer than what would be given in any other profession.

Every summer I always have a ton of projects and intentions for all of the “extra time” I will have on my hands. Some years, I am better at checking off all to do’s than others. One of my transliterators suggested I make a summer bucket list to help keep myself on track this year, and I’m excited to share that with you here.

Teacher-y Bucket List

  • 40 hours itinerant Extended School Year
  • Summer Academy PD workshops (We’re moving to the Stetson inclusion model; has anyone tried that?)
  • teach parent and student ASL classes
  • plan daily math centers with independent, hands-on activities (any suggestions would be most appreciated)
  • select class novel and write reading guide and lesson plans
  • get TESOL certification (45% of my students this year were ELLs.)
  • improve Cued Speech fluency
  • develop way to integrate Cued Speech reading instruction (Any ideas? My students are not fluent cue readers, but it is their primary (if not only) communication modality; we need some serious improvements!)
  • make conversation sentence stem cards to help with language samples and class discussions

Non-Teacher-y Bucket List


  • Italy trip
  • Colorado wedding road trip
  • visit college friends (Atlanta, Virginia, Nashville)
  • sew travel kit accessories (I found these ideas here, here, and decided to make my own version of this item here.)
  • sew placemats (Can you tell I like to sew?)
  • knit sheep baby blanket (idea found here)
  • finish mug storage (another fun Pinterest project idea)

Reading Bucket List

  • I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language  by Lydia Denworth
  • Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
  • When the Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Dr. Teri James Bellis, Ph.D.
  • Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms by Jeff Zwiers
  • The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor (not teaching or Deaf related, but you gotta have some fun reading, right?)

I don’t know that I will get everything done before the end of summer, but I am hoping to finish a good bit and maybe do a few things more for my classroom and lesson planning as inspiration hits. Do you make a summer bucket list? What do you put on your list?

Communication Modalities

I am only in my 4th year of teaching, but when it comes to communication modalities within Deaf and hard of hearing programs I think I may have seen them all, from various U.S. sign languages all the way to oral/aural.

My student teaching was at a school for the Deaf that followed the bilingual/bimodal modal, or claimed to. It was supposed to be American Sign Language instruction in all classes except English Language Arts, Reading, and Speech. ELA supposed to use Signed Exact English, Reading was to use Signed Exact English and then be translated into ASL, and speech was speechreading and oral expressive communication. However, what actually happened was all instructors signed at their level in whatever sign modality they were familiar with, which was mostly various degrees of Pidgen Signed English and attempts at Total Communication/SimCom. I don’t think anyone used Signed Exact English, and the only teachers who were pure ASL were the ASL and Deaf History teachers. It was a messy conglomeration. I wish I had a chance to see an actual bi-bi system in action.

When I was itinerant, I taught ASL and auditory verbal therapy, trying to create as close to bilingual/bimodal instruction as I know how. I was in no way an expert of either system, but I worked closely with experts through video communication to make sure I was teaching everything correctly. American Sign Language is a beautiful, fully accessibly language to everyone without vision impairments, and it is my personal favorite, if only for the fact that it is its own language and can be taught as such with all the benefits of a brain that is fluent in more than one language. I also saw excellent success with auditory verbal therapy in students who had cochlear implants, both those who also signed and those who were only oral/aural. Spoken English language developed quickest in those who were strictly oral/aural, but there was often something missed at times. With those who also signed, they had visual spatial language to fall back on, and when that signed communication was PSE or a version of SEE provided by an interpreter, it was often well synchronized with the speech of the original speaker.

I am now in a program that uses Cued Speech. It is one of the largest Cued Speech programs in the nation, and it is the only such program in our state. Learning and implementing Cued Speech has been highly enlightening to my instructional practice. I have found both strong pros and strong cons for the system as it’s used in my district. I think Cued Speech is a fantastic reading instruction tool and opens up decoding strategies for students who would otherwise be limited to their current vocabulary sight word knowledge. This phonics access is a tremendous benefit! However, I think that it is only a reading tool for many students. Some students could use Cued Speech as a communication modality successfully provided they meet the 12 diagnostic criteria set out by Orin Cornett when he was developing the system. However, I think somewhere along the way someone decided to ignore Cornett’s list of qualifications for successful use of Cued Speech as a communication modality and applied Cued Speech to all DHH students indiscriminately. This is, in my opinion, unfortunate, and while I know some would disagree, I am not seeing the successes with all students that I do with those that match the criteria.

I think the field of Deaf education has been polarized so long that many professionals, and thus many families, seem to believe that there is only one correct answer, whether that is sign language, oral/aural communication, or Cued Speech. I, for one, feel that this has greatly hindered progress in the field. Why can we not offer students with all the tools we have available? Surely each modality has its best situation and best candidate. Can we not find ways to combine our systems and create well-rounded students with a full set of resources readily available to them to help them in success in the world after school education?

Where do you stand on the communication debate? What successes have you seen with various modalities? Do you strongly prefer one over the others? If so, can you share your strategies and results? If you use a combined approach, what results have you seen? Which do you prefer on a personal, as opposed to professional, level?

First Post! An Introduction

Hello, and welcome to Talking With My Hands! This is a blog about Deaf education, sign language, Cued Speech, and Deaf literature. For me, this blog will allow me to share my experiences as a teacher of the Deaf and a graduate student. I hope it will also enable collaboration with other Deaf educators and allow for communication with professionals and community members. There will be at least 1 video post and one book review per month.

Books will most often be Deaf literature, meaning it is either written (or signed!) by a Deaf author or it has at least 1 Deaf character in the story. There will also be some nonfiction books about issues in education, deafness, language acquisition/development, or communication modalities.

Video posts will be in either Cued Speech or American Sign Language. My goal with these posts will be to get feedback to improve my skills while spreading awareness of these essential communication skills.

I expect to have posts about every other week, so stay tuned in for regular updates.