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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Thu Aug 20, 1998  10:06 am
Subject:  SignWriting Reading Levels

Dear SignWriting List Members:
I hope you all are doing well and have enjoyed July and August. Yes, the
summer is almost over!

In fact, Texas School for the Deaf started back to school August 17th. So
for many children, the school year has begun.

That is why I had no choice but to focus this summer on developing the
materials for the SignWriting Literacy Project. There was so much work
involved, I had to stop everything and do nothing but the layout and final
printing of the books for the fall. Since July 27th, I have been burning
the midnight oil, working 16 hour days. It has been a very interesting
process.... I am a book designer and layout artist, so I have always done
all our publications, but this job was particularly difficult and
intriguing. It has been very good for SignWriting. Let me explain...

Before July 27th, our materials were not set up for children. We had not
established any "reading levels". For 25 years, I have worked with Deaf
adults, not children. Other countries have placed SignWriting in their
schools, such as Denmark, Norway and Nicaragua, but they all did this on
their own, and in their own way. I was not involved with the development of
their curriculums. I supplied their groups with any materials needed, but
then the teachers in each country worked with their own signed languages
and their own students as they saw fit.

Here in the USA and Canada, it has been different. There are so many
schools in North America that "coordinating" an experiment with a new idea
is not easy. Of course, that is the very reason why we started the
SignWriting Literacy Project. I know with everyone's feedback we can
improve our materials and hopefully inspire others to work on curriculum

But...I wanted to give the teachers the best materials we can RIGHT NOW,
so, back in June, I asked Darline Clark Gunsauls, who is Deaf and native to
ASL, to sign four ASL stories on videotape. Darline is an excellent
storyteller and did a great job. We now have a video entitled: "The
SignWriting Children's Stories Series, Four ASL Stories", which includes
Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White.

Then, I decided to transcribe Goldilocks frame by frame from the video, to
capture the pure ASL. I have a high-8 video player connected to my
Macintosh, and it plays the video on my Macintosh screen. And I can capture
each frame, and create still photos. I captured the entire story of
Goldilocks frame by frame. There were a lot of frames!!

I then wrote each frame in SignWriting. This is advanced SignWriting. The
ASL is rich with classifiers. You know Goldilocks...there are bowls of
different sizes, beds of different sizes and chairs of different sizes.
Darline was extremely expressive in her telling of the story and there are
classifiers galore. The transcription into SignWriting turned into an
advanced reading lesson, which will serve as an excellent lesson in how to
read and write classifiers in SignWriting. It is Reading Level 4.

After I created Reading Level 4, I worked backwards, creating Reading Level
3. It is a manual called "Learn to Read ASL, Goldilocks, Reading Level 3",
in which I print each frame from the video with an analysis as to why I
wrote the SignWriting as I did. These two books, "Goldilocks, Reading Level
Four" and "Learn To Read ASL, Reading Level Three" will probably be used
for years to come, by teachers, researchers and advanced level students.

Once I had the first drafts of these two books completed, I took a look at
the stories we have posted on our SignWriting Web Site. Those stories were
not transcribed from videotape. They were written directly in SignWriting
in ASL by Darline Clark Gunsauls. They are not as advanced and I determined
that they are Reading Level 2. So I created a book called "Goldilocks & the
Three Bears, Reading Level 2", based on Darline's story, but I also decided
to add a small ASL-English dictionary in the back of Reading Level 2,
including the vocabulary from the story, so that students can look up a
sign if they do not know what it means.

I then wrote Reading Level 1, which is really a basic workbook and coloring
book teaching very basic symbols and signs. Students write rows of symbols
for practice. The lessons are based on the vocabulary needed for Reading
Level 2.

So...for the first time, we now have four "Reading Levels" in ASL in
SignWriting. I am sure, as the students use these books this fall, we will
all learn more about how to determine reading levels.

I will now post a second message with a listing of the new publications.

All the best -

Valerie :-)


Visit the SignWritingSite:

Valerie Sutton at The DAC
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
(619)456-0098 voice
(619)456-0010 tty
(619)456-0020 fax

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