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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Sep 7, 1999  12:43 pm
Subject:  Web Report #1 from Germany

September 7, 1999

Dear SignWriting List:
Participating teachers in the SW Literacy Project are asked to fill out
three web reports, to give us feedback. Below is Stefan's first report from

From: Stefan Woehrmann

Teacher at the LBZ-H Osnabrueck/ Germany
To: "SignWriting"
Subject: Web Report #1
Date: Mo, 30 Aug 1999

1. Why do you want to learn SignWriting?

When I started to learn German Sign Language (DGS) I couldn't look back on
any foundations. I knew nothing about German Sign Language and had a hard
time to shift my perception from the auditive to the visual channel. To
realize how to move my hands, my arms, my body - how to accompany my signs
with an appropriate facial expression was not so easy. In order to keep
this combination of the various components for a special sign in mind, I
tried to describe every single sign in words. This way I invented lots and
lots of cribs and filled a lot of copy-books. Depending on how well I
characterized the movements in my own words, I could repeat the signs
correctly until they were familiar to me.

Teaching various subjects at school there is every day the need to learn
new signs in order to introduce them to my pupils. Today I would take
advantage of SW as I could take notes for the many new signs I have got to
learn. There are a few Sign Language CDs and Sign Language dictionaries
published in Germany. Maybe we can refer to these videoclips and fotos with
movement arrows and description to have a competent native signer as our

With the help of SW hopefully young pupils discover their potential for
learning the German words as well (just as we learned our second
language?). SignWriting would demand consciousness for the exact
performance of a sign from me and my pupils. In Germany there are quite a
lot of dialects in DGS. Introducing SW at the beginning of the pupils
schooldays might hopefully strenghten their confidence in their literacy

Every hearing child is able to play reading a text which is presented
together with a meaningful picture. No deaf child has any chance to
practice "free writing" as the hearing child can do. With SW there seems to
me the possibility to reinforce the wish of expressing the ideas in a
written form long before they can express themselves on the same level in
German. But we can take advantage from this because the pupils will
probably accept their task to learn the adequate words in German much
easier - (hopefully).

Except for one, all of my deaf pupils come from all hearing families. What
we will have to do in our class is to enlarge our common symbol-system
(distinct signs) as quick as possible. SW may help to keep a record
concerning our improvements. To help deaf pupils to remember the meaning
of German words I sometimes have to copy sketches of a signing person into
the worksheets. Being able to use SW instead could be a big reduction of
this time-consuming procedure.

2. What have been some of your past frustrations when teaching?

The transfer from signing to a written German text is a very difficult task
for most of my pupils. We have great difficulties to enlarge our vocabulary
in a systematic manner. Without the knowledge of SW every pupil tries to
paint drafts in order to illustrade the meaning of new German words. The
next day many pupils have great difficulties to remember the meaning of his
"product of arts." Another aspect is that the paintings my pupils try to
add to new German words don't help them to memorize how to sign these

3. Are you hoping that SignWriting might help? If so, in what way?

I hope SignWriting will help to assist my efforts regarding the issues I
mentioned above. I'd love to set up a bilingual dictionary German - DGS.
This way we hopefully can enlarge systematically the vocabulary in both

4. How would you like to use your web page?

I would like to use the web page as a place to share our classroom
-experiences with other colleagues and interested people in the world.
Probably we can post photos and probes of our materials. In addition to
that I would like to share my moments of doubts or difficulties in order to
get support and feed-back from other colleagues who might be familiar with
these kinds of problems.

5. Please write any additional information you would like to share.

I am fascinated by this new working-tool. When I talked to my pupils - now
7th grade - about this development and perspective - they were eager to
learn more about that. So all of us are highly motivated. One problem might
be that I'm right now beginning to understand the foundations of SW. To
learn together with my little friends might be a very enriching new
pedagogical experience. I'm very interested to get in contact with other
teachers for the Deaf. I need your advice and support - especially in the
beginning. Most of the parents and colleagues to whom I talked about this
new tool are very openminded and demonstrate great interest in this
project. I think that our project gets as much support as I can ask for .-
I'm very happy about that, because we've still got to walk a long way to
the complete acceptance of a bilingual/bicultural education for deaf pupils
in Germany.

Thank you so much for considering us for your literacy project. Special
thanks for your benevolent support which is so neccessary for us to get

Stefan Wöhrmann


Valerie ;-)


Valerie Sutton..............................................SignWritingSite

Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting...Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization...Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

  Replies Author Date
1813 Donated SW Materials Shipped Valerie Sutton Wed  9/8/1999
1821 Web Report #1, Algonquin Middle School Valerie Sutton Thu  9/9/1999
1824 New Masters Thesis on SignWriting Valerie Sutton Mon  9/13/1999

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