forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Priscila
Date:  Mon Nov 22, 1999  11:33 am
Subject:  Re: Silent News Article Nov. 99

----------In English----------

Hello Valerie, I am finding a little of difficulty with the messages in
English, I find that first I go to study English, and later I will come back
to enter in contact,
one I hug,

Oi Valerie,
estou encontrando um pouco de dificuldade com as mensagens em inglês, acho
que primeiro vou estudar ingles, e depois voltarei a entrar em contato,
um abraço,

----------Mensagem Original----------
>>On Tue, 16 Nov 1999, Valerie Sutton wrote:
>>> Because I did the posting on our SignWriting Site, I have the "English
>>> text" right here to paste into an email message if you wish...
>On Thursday, November 18, 1999, a request from a SW List member:
>>I would appreciate a copy by email if it's readily available. If not, no
>>big deal. (SMILE)
>November 18, 1999
>OK. Here is the complete English text written by Alexandra Han. The
>article with the diagrams can be read on the web:
>Silent News Article
>TITLE: "A New Controversial Approach to Literacy: SignWriting: Will It
>A controversial way to read, write and type one's sign language,
>SignWriting (or SW) is an 'alphabet', or a list of symbols, that can be
>used to write one's sign language. Like the Roman alphabet, used to write
>many different spoken languages, such as Danish, German, French, Spanish
>and English, SignWriting can also be used to write many different sign
>languages. After all, if many spoken languages can have written versions,
>why not sign languages?
>Resistance Against SignWriting: Why It Is Controversial
>Yet even within the Deaf communities, Sign Writing has been controversial
>from the first time it was invented in 1974: either dismissed, laughed at,
>or scorned.
>"Historically, new ideas that create "social change" are always met with
>resistance in the beginning, and SignWriting is no exception," points out
>Valerie Sutton, creater of SignWriter.
>Among reasons listened why SignWriting "should not" be accepted:
>1) Signed languages are not supposed to be written
>2) Deaf people will become isolated and never learn to read and write English
>3) You have no right to write our language if you are a hearing person
>4) If I learn it, no one else can read it, so why bother?
>5) I had trouble enough learning to read and write English, why should I
>learn something new now as an adult?
>6) I refuse to learn SignWriting unless other Deaf people back it first!
>Yet as SignWriting continues to evolve, it is gathering greater acceptance,
>and its many uses, including a possible educational advantage for Deaf and
>hard or hearing students, is slowly beginning to be sensed by others.
>Interestingly, while both Deaf and hearing adults struggle with their
>reactions to SW....
>Deaf Children: Their Reactions
>....Young children respond differently. They're drawn to it, get excited
>about it, and will do this 'school work' harder, and for longer periods.
>According to their teachers, they tend to take about six months to learn
>the basics of SignWriting, a relatively short time in their long academic
>education. They also learn it more quickly than adults, being younger,
>unbiased, and more linguistically flexible. Research is currently being
>undertaken to determine whether SignWriting helps, or doesn't help, these
>children's ability to read and write English - and, perhaps more
>importantly, their self esteem.
>>From an elementary Albuquerque, New Mexico school, this eight-years-old
>young student,Desi Baca, chortles: "It's FUN!.....My favorite thing is to
>learn SW" Asked if she thought it will be hard for deaf people, she signed
>emphatically (In ASL), "No, it's easy for Deaf people" (because they
>already know signs).
>About the SignWriter program, in which one can type in the symbols for SW,
>she signed emphatically,."I admit I like to use the computer! It's a lot of
>fun to make up stories, and it is beautiful". When asked to clarify what is
>beautiful, she pointed to the instructional manual with the signs and SW
>symbols illustrated in color, and signed, "I like (the symbols)....they are
>Another young student, Jazmine Martinez, reminded of the occasion when she
>found the sign for 'girl' in the SignWriter dictionary and became very
>excited at finding it, giggled, and commented '(That sign) 'girl', yes, you
>are right!', then proudly demonstrated some other signs she found using the
>SignWriter dictionary, such as 'bug' and 'cat'.'
>As to her favorite book, "I read it at home. I sit and look at the signs
>(written in SW) and then write the word.....I will work for a long time in
>my room when my mom goes to the store".
>Other teachers have reported similiar reactions.
>Implementing SignWriting Into Education
>Cecilia Flood, a school counselor who works with 50 students in small
>groups in two elementary school and one middle school in Albuquerque, New
>Mexico, has been implementing SignWriting into her curriculum for the past
>year. The quotes from the students (above) were videotaped by her.
>When asked, "Have you been told 'But SignWriting takes too much time in the
>classroom, and we have to teach these students so much already'?", She
>responded: "When I first approached classroom teachers about this
>SignWriting project, (I heard comments such as) 'Oh, that's too much to
>learn, I don't think this student will be able to handle learning
>SignWriting as well as learning how to read English'....I have gotten
>several responses from individual parents....These concerns range from
>taking away time spent learning English, to a concern that not enough
>members of the Deaf community use SW, to a concern that SW will interfere
>with already developing literacy skills"
>Dealing with Resistence: Just Listen
>Asked how she dealt with this, Flood replied: "My response...generally, I
>don't respond. I just listen. I'm not trying to convince educators,
>parents, or even Deaf community members that SignWriting is the only way to
>"I do believe that Deaf and hard of hearing students are indeed smart
>enough and capable enough language users and learners who can and do
>organize linguistic information into two separate and distinct languages,
>ASL and English.
>"My hope is that the ethnographic recording (that she is currently doing)
>of Deaf and hard of hearing students' experiences as they learn to write
>using SignWriting, will provide significant evidence which will promote
>greater interest in the investigation of a potential bi-literacy tool. That
>tool would be the use of SW in bilingual education models for Deaf and hard
>of hearing students in the U.S."
>So Why Should We Use SignWriting To Teach Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students?
>Asked why Flood wanted to introduce SignWriting to her students, this is
>her response:
>"To capitalize on language abilities, not language problems. To provide a
>medium, (SignWriting) that potentially may enhance linguistic and cultural
>identity and self-empower Deaf and hard of hearing students.
>"To record the experiential stories of Deaf and hard of hearing SW learners
>that will significantly inform perspectives on the academic literacy learning
>experiences of Deaf and hard of hearing students,'in their own words'.
>"As the lead instructor of SignWriting, I will attempt to neutralize power
>relationships that exist in the everyday school literacy learning
>environment and hope to promote shared power, one that will encourage
>students and teachers to alternate between teacher and learner roles."
>Having taught SignWriting for a year now, Flood now recounted how quickly
>her students took to it:
>Younger Children's Ability To Read SW:
>"Two of the younger students (5 & 8 yrs) took to these SW symbols (on flash
>cards) rather quickly. We were matching the (SW) sign vocabulary with some
>pictures and illustrations of events that might evoke some of those feelings.
>"The two students seem to recognize the symbols as a whole and 'read' these
>signs quickly: SCARED, EXCITED, SAD, HAPPY. The others (older ones) in the
>group took the lead of the early SW 'readers', and continued with the
>activity signing what their peers saw on the flash cards.
>"Even (when I) was ready to move onto another activity with the other three
>students, the two students wanted to continue the activity on their own,
>sorting out the SW flash cards that was piled between them matching them
>with the illustrations provided." Flood and her students continued
>discussing, creating and sorting out SignWriting symbols.
>Middle-School Students' Reactions
>"The middle school students initially were more skeptical when I showed
>some samples of SW to them. I did get some comments like; 'That's weird!',
>'But that's hard
>to learn', 'Why should I learn Sign Writing? I already know and have a lot
>of experience using ASL'! and 'I don't want to learn that stuff, it's too
>"I didn't stop there....though I was tempted. I introduced some of those
>very same skeptics to the SignWriter, the sign language word processor
>program. They were more
>interested then and took to using the computer to generate individual
>signs, then strings of signs, then whole signed comments.
>"Typical of young adolescents, their comments focusd on what they had done
>with friends over the weekend, their boyfriends, school special events. The
>students pecked away at the computer keyboard with confidence and
>"Prior to using the SignWriter, I don't think these students paid much
>attention to how they were signing. Watching two 8th graders at the library
>computers discussing the palm orientation of a sign not in the dictionary,
>negotiating.....was evidence enough for me to pursue the formal initiation
>of an ethnographic research project. This project will document the
>experiences of deaf and hard of hearing students, ages 5- 14, (yes and even
>the skeptics among them) learning how to write using SignWriting, a way to
>read and write signs.
>What The Future May Hold:
>Flood predicted, based on her observations and current research: "Using a
>yet-to-be-tapped resource, signwriting, deaf and hard of hearing students
>will not only become better signers, but also better readers and writers,
>plus they will attain membership in the growing club of bilingual readers
>and writers in the U.S.A."
>Teachers can write or call for a free packet of information on SignWriting:
>The SignWriting Literacy Project
>The DAC, Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
>P.O. Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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