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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Wed Oct 27, 1999  1:27 am
Subject:  Classroom Experiences in NM, Part 1

October 26, 1999

Dear SignWriting List:

Cecilia Flood, who is teaching SignWriting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has
been communicating with me about her experiences in the classroom. I have
now received her permission to post the following quotes, plus a second
message of quotes that will follow:

Quotes from teacher Cecilia Flood, Part One:

"I had a group of 4 Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing kids (ages 5 and 7) together
talking about 'feelings' happy, sad, surprised, angry etc. A highly
predictive activity with character illustrations of those feelings, I held
up a small flashcard with the SignWriting symbol for those feelings (one at
a time) and the 5 year old (Deaf of Deaf) and one 7 year the
symbols...signed what they saw on the card and matched the card with the
illustrations. I did not offer any explanation regarding the symbol
they read them pretty quickly...SAD and AFRAID. We're talking one 'sign'
reading at a time. When the 'surprise' SignWriting symbol flashcard
surfaced from
the pile...I did do some modeling of the two different handshapes...the
same two kids placed their hands on the card and completed the sign
including movement. While the recognition of the SW symbol interests me, my
inquiry will focus on an affective response to reading/writing signs. I've
been doing this 'off the cuff' introducing of SignWriting in the counseling
context the kids and I create."


"I remind myself of those faces...the ones of little kids that immediately
recognize SignWriting...."


"There are a lot of positive things happening...Another parent called me
fearing she was too late with the consent form... I told her to send it
in...she commented that her daughter brought home the paper and started to
copy the SignWriting from the page...(I sent a one page sample of
Goldilocks). Mom wanted to know where she could go to learn more Sign
Language...her daughter has a cochlear implant but Mom now knows how
successful communication will happen between her and her daughter with
signs and SignWriting."


"I've taken the collaborative approach to teaching/learning SignWriting. I
too have seen very young Deaf students and even the very 'cool' middle
school Deaf and Hard of Hearing students 'take to' SW very quickly. Some
'read' it without any hesitation....others stare awhile...look at their
hands...then sign what they see....others give it a 'blanch of a look-see'
shrug their shoulders and say either...'don't know', 'what's that?',
'that's weird!' These 'off the cuff' responses continue to motivate me to
keep 'learning' SW and helps me maintain my conviction that Deaf and Hard
of Hearing kids...know more about the language they use for everyday
communication than we have yet to acknowledge."


"I think I've sparked an interest in SW for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
students literacy development in the three schools where I have established
relationships with kids, teachers, parents and administrators. Some
teachers express similar responses to those of the kids...'oh this is going
to be fun'...or...'wow this is a lot of stuff to remember'...'this might be
too hard for some of our kids'....and still more....'you take the lead and
we'll follow'!"


"From Zuni pueblo, an 8 year old deaf student...he was one of the
youngsters who seemed to read SW symbols real quickly when I was 'playing
unoffically' with SW...I made some flash cards with SW symbols for 'feeling
words'. I selected the movie clip from a 30 minute video I first
SW session with two kids on one computer. He had such confidence using the
computer (if only I had 1/10th of that confidence)...the sentence was...'My
name is.....'. It's the way he signed his name that caught my
attention...such confidence...just before he attempted to generate his name
sign, using SignWriting symbols."


"The computers (with SW installed) are right there in the room next to the
'writing' center. There will be 2 primary age kids, 5 &7, and 6 secondary,
ages 9,10,11."


"I still wonder sometimes if I'm getting in 'too deep' with SignWriting but
all I need to do is remember some of the elementary and middle school Deaf
and Hard of Hearing students initial responses when shown SignWriting
flashcards, ASL stories written in SW, and the SignWriter word processing
program which usually renews my courage to get 'deeper' into the
learning/teaching/exposing SW into Deaf Ed programs. Per usual, their
opinions are mixed; "Cool", "What's that?" "That's weird", "What for?
Already know Sign Language", "Too hard", "This is fun", "Can we use the
computer today (SW programmed)"? "I want to show my Mom this". It's their
faces that make it even more motivating: wrinkled brows, staring eyes, head
nods with blinks, puzzled expressions, and those 'smiles' when they
recognize even just one written sign. "Oh, yeah....I see it", a poor
attempt at translating those emerging minor smiles that evolve into big
bright cheeked smiles.

All this encouragement came from just the preparatory initial stages of a
school year (1999-2000) ethnographic inquiry: How do Deaf and Hard of
Hearing students experience learning to write using SignWriting, a way to
read and write signs? I'll keep you posted."


"After a pretty 'stressful' last session with these two students
made it all worth it. I used an older camera I have so it's recorded data
now. I got my first genuine smile from one of these students. At this
session...their classroom teacher joined us at the table. It was really her
first time 'inspecting' the level 1 coloring book. The kids were helping
'her' how to read the signs. It was great! We got more didactic this
time...explaining what the asterisk meant, the arrows (left and right
hand), and the wrist twisting symbol. Once I pointed it student
went looking for those symbols in other signs in the book. He could explain
that two asterisks meant touch two the sign 'hot'...he slowed
down the articulation showing the twist part of the sign...that's when he
grinned big time. It might have been in response to my 'big grin' in
affirmation of his learning...shared smiling is the best, yes?"


"Well this Friday...we're making 'dirt pie' with primary kids...the theme
has been 'ants' for the past few weeks. It's going to be some combination
of 'look-alike-dirt' foods...chocolate pudding, oreo cookie crumbs. I'm
going to type out some vocab for the activity on the SW...the kids will
sequence the activity using the SW typed vocab. Should be fun....I'll keep
you posted.

Meanwhile...we were doing some 'copying' of the symbols on the
flashcards...used dry erase markers and white boards...then we used some
tracing paper. Funny to see the variety of approaches the kids take...we
haven't discussed the specific parts of the SW 'signs' yet. Some kids start
at the top of the symbol...others with the arrows. One girl copied the SW
for 'house'...then added some more arrows to make paths to and from the
house...'cute'. They did watch the ASL version of Goldilocks...attending
was pretty strong. Some kids started, stopped, then started to 'shadow'
Darline's signing. Others just watched know...with drooping
chins...mouths slighlty opened. One girl said to her 'chair mate'...where's
the pictures? Next step is to give out the books...they've handled them
briefly before but now they get to claim 'ownership'..."


Val ;-)


Valerie Sutton

SignWritingSite...Lessons Online

Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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