account arrow-down-linearrow-down-small arrow-downarrow-download arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-link arrow-rightarrow-upaudio-less-volume audio-not-playing audio-plus-volume audio awarded books calendar close-modal closedate document education emailevent Facebookhamburger impact instagramjustice linkedin location-outline location opinion page phonepinterestplay pluspost preview project reports search-bigsearch-old search share startime twitterwelfare youtube zoom-in zoom-out

Literacy teaching for deaf pupils

Researchers: Professor Terezinha Nunes

Project overview

Learning to read and write is more difficult for deaf children because letters represent sounds and they do not make the subtle discriminations between speech-sounds required for using an alphabet. In addition, deaf children have a restricted English vocabulary, which interferes with reading comprehension.

Professor Nunes and her team developed a system based on the visual representation of morphemes ‘ units of meaning used to form words. For example, explaining that ‘s’ on the end of a noun represents the plural is difficult to convey to deaf children through sign language, so the researchers focused on visual representation through a series of pictures, books and games.

With additional support from the National Deaf Children’s Society, the research team developed specialist teaching and learning resources based on their findings. These resources are now accessible to all via the Oxford University website and are proving popular with teachers.

Professor Nunes was invited to share her research at a workshop for leading linguists and psychologists at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florian’polis, southern Brazil.


  • Professor Terezinha Nunes
    University of Oxford

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

Search projects

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.