|SignWriting List Forum|
Steve/Dianne Parkhurst |
Date: Wed May 5, 1999 3:22 pm
Subject: SW course in Spain
Below is a short evaluation of a course in SignWriting that we just
completed here in Spain. A recent message to the list asked, "How long does
it take to learn SW?" Here is a description of what we did in two weeks
time. I think it is important to point out that there is a difference in
being able to write a few signs and being able to write sign language.
After the first day students were writing and reading signs. But it takes a
lot longer to be able to write the sign language with all its richness. By
the way, the students proposed a new sign for SignWriting (SignoEscritura).
The palm of the dominant hand (5 handshape) touches the chin (this is the
sign here for "sign") then the hand drops down so that the back of the hand
touches the palm of the other hand. This signifies "signs put on paper".
For what it's worth, here's our summary of what has been going on here in
Spain. Happy reading! :-)
Steve and Dianne Parkhurst
Evaluation of a Short Course in SignWriting
Background: April 12, 1999 marked the beginning of the first complete
course in SignoEscritura (SignWriting) in Spain. The course was originally
designed to be a two-month course meeting twice a week for 2 hours (16
classes). However, the class we were asked to teach was to fit in a
two-week slot of time (10 classes, 2 hours each class). The course was held
at the "Prádez Project" office of the Spanish National Confederation of the
Deaf in Madrid.
Teachers and Students: We (Steve and Dianne) team-taught the course,
dividing up the teaching load between us. Our 6-month-old baby, Spencer,
also accompanied us. As one student said, "the best part of the course was
getting to see Spencer every day." All teaching was in LSE. We taught two
groups, with eight students per class. The students were a mix of hearing
and Deaf employees of the Confederation (7 Deaf, 9 Hearing). Five had had a
fair bit of exposure to SignWriting, and the others were at least aware of
Monday: Lesson 1 (Signer's perspective, hand orientation, 3 handshapes
(HSs), touch symbol, the head).
Lesson 2 (Front view vs. top-down view of the hands, double-stemmed arrows,
right and left hand arrows, brush symbol, 5 HSs).
Tuesday: Lesson 3 (6 HSs, single-stemmed arrows, touching the body and
Lesson 4 (6 HSs, changes of configuration and orientation, the eyes and
Wednesday: Review lessons 1-4
Lesson 5 (6 HSs, bend and flick of fingers, circular arrows on all three
planes [front wall, floor, and side wall planes], rub symbol).
Thursday: Lesson 6 (6 HSs, curved arrows on front wall and floor planes,
more finger movements, colon and comma).
Lesson 7 (6 HSs, more finger movements, hold and in-between symbols, ears
Friday: Lesson 7 cont. (curved arrows on the side wall plane).
Lesson 8 (4 HSs, fingerspelling, strike symbol, variations of curved
arrows, waist bar, shoulders up and down).
Monday: Lesson 9 (6 HSs, wrist rotations, eyebrows, brackets [for topic and
other situations where a facial expression covers more than two signs],
tense symbol, use of the tense symbol to specify classifiers).
Tuesday: Lesson 10 (6 HSs, wrist rotations, mouth, question marks).
Wednesday: Lesson 11 (6 HSs, wrist rotations, eyes, eye gaze, rapid
Lesson 12 (6 HSs, wrist movements and diagonal movements, cheeks, neck and
back of head, quote marks).
Thursday: Lesson 13 (5 HSs, wrist circles, tongue, shoulder and trunk
movement, top-down view of shoulders).
Lesson 14 (5 HSs, wrist movements, teeth and lips, parenthesis, dynamic
symbols [rapid, slow, tense, relaxed, smooth]).
Friday: Review and work on projects (graduation was postponed until Monday
because a number of students could not be present on Friday).
Monday: present projects, receive diploma, evaluation of the course.
Evaluation: Both teachers and students agreed that the course was too
short and intense to really become comfortable reading and writing. Because
we often had to teach two lessons each day, there was very little time for
writing in class. There was no time for the concepts to sink in before
moving on to some new topic. We were still in the process of designing the
course when we were asked to teach it, so there were many blank spaces
where we would have liked to have sample sentences and texts for the
students to read. Nevertheless, by the end of the course the students could
read (albeit slowly) extremely complicated writing. Simpler things were
quite easy for most of them to read quickly. The students had only one
writing project and all did very well at writing even the most complicated
signs. One person commented that it wasn't until she actually started to
write texts that the symbols began to stick in her head.
The overall reaction was VERY positive. All seemed to be in favor of
teaching more people to use this system. They realize that the lessons need
to be further developed and there needs to be a corpus of literature to
read-it does no good to know how to read if there's no literature to read.
I think that they began to see the potential for Deaf people to use this
form of writing. They also mentioned that it would be very helpful for
interpreters learning SL and that it could be used as a tool in bilingual
Future: We have been asked to teach a course during the month of July (20
classes, one hour each). The students will be about 30 Deaf persons who
teach interpreter-training courses around the country. This will also be a
sort of trial course. Between now and the end of June we need to complete
the lessons and the reading texts that accompany them. We hope to enlist
some of the graduates of the first course to begin writing stories to help
build up the corpus of literature. By fall we hope to be ready to launch
courses in several Deaf associations and begin training teachers.