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From:  Stefan Woehrmann
Date:  Sat Mar 4, 2000  9:21 am
Subject:  Re: SignWriting as a gateway?

Dear Ingrid,

I enjoy reading your comments so much. Thank you for sharing. They are so
helpfull to look at my own situation at school.

Congratulations ! Itīs amazing how fast your pupils accept to work with

Within my classes there is a big difference between the young and the elder
pupils. First grade pupils donīt analyse the signs . Zhey simply pick the
sign up as whole "Gestalt". And amazingly they can read this way lots and
lots of different signs . They love to read short sentences which say what
they are supposed to do. They read and sign at the same time - short brake
- big smile - and then they run to to whatīs to be done. That is fun.

The pupils of the 7 th grade ananlyse the signs. They are able to read signs
they have never seen before in there lifes. So slowly putting all the pieces
together handshape, orientation ( gap vs. no gap) movement ( right, left,
both which direction,) ...
After all they try to figure out what this sign could mean - trying to move
their hands several times.

And then they ask me to rewrite it. - (another facial expression, dynamic
index, two different orientations (beginning and endposition) . Sometimes we
discuss the differences between their ways to sign it ...
Itīs helpfull. With them we use SW as a tool to learn German vocabularies
very much. Itīs so helpfull to write a sentence all in SW in present tense
or past tense and ask them to translate these sentences into German. I can
not thing of a more supportive tool for this process. Itīs like the hearing
people learn foreign languages. Based on a fundament in their first language
we can add a second set of vocabularies without too much effort. But with SW
its much more. Now we are able to show in a very clear way the contrasts and
differences of grammar etc. I like that and my pupils as well.
The point is that being so crazy about this I would like to learn to write
SW much faster. But Iīm doing my homeworks every day.
And thanks to the email -lessons I get the feeling of improoving slowly -
step by step. That is good. Thank you Valerie for your excellent work.

Love to hear from you soon again
Stefan ;-)

Iīm interested in everything that helps your pupils to use SW as a tool for
enlarging their abilities to deal with written materials.

Iīm looking forward to your next messages

>Reply-To: SignWriting List
>To: SignWriting List
>Subject: SignWriting as a gateway?
>Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000 09:40:13 +0200
>Hi everybody....
>I hit upon an interesting revelation yesterday at school. However, I would
>like to share some background first. At a recent lecture on Deaf Education
>and Wits University in Johannesburg, the following statistics were
>revealed: In South Africa, the average Deaf school leaver has the general
>knowledge of what is thought to be 'normal' at 8 years old and writing
>skills of what is thought to be `normal' at 10 years old. This is a very
>sad fact of Deaf Education in South Africa (if there is any true form of
>that!) and it shows what a disservice education has done to Deaf people in
>this country. Much of this results from past historical realities of
>education in South Africa: separate learning, the Bantu Education Act,
>oralism, etc. It is also widespread that many Deaf people in South Africa
>are functionally illiterate: they can read words, word for word, but are
>unable to group the words together to understand what the words as a group
>are saying (i.e. comprehension skills). This does not mean, however, that
>they do not have anything between their ears! The main means of expression
>is Sign Language which often reveals the person to be having a deep sense
>of understanding about the world and very knowledgeable. However, present
>assessment methods to not allow for these Deaf kids to be fairly assessed:
>assessment methods are done through written English. We are trying to make
>it recognised that a precentage of exam marks be allocated to an `oral'
>(i.e. Sign Language) component to allow the children to express themselves
>and what they know through a mode with which they are comfortable and which
>more adequately reveals what they know than written English.
>The point is: some of those kids at school who are desperately weak in
>written English skills and who find this means of expression virtually
>impossible have taken to Sign Writing much more enthusiastically than those
>kids who do have the writing skills to express themselves (not to say that
>these kids are not enthusiastic!).
>I realised that there must be something very important in this! Those kids
>who find writing English virtually impossible might be able to rather write
>in SignWriting??? Exams, tests, worksheets, etc in SignWriting as a
>percentage of the whole exam? This is a very interesting insight. One
>boy, Glen, who is functionally illiterate (he missed YEARS of schooling)
>has already taken to jotting down SignWriting in his other subjects:
>maths, biology, english, etc. The present lack of having a book that
>serves as a `dictionary' to what ALL the symbols in SW mean (e.g. the big
>black dot, the 'number' symbol #, etc) has not deterred Glen at all -- he
>has independently worked his way around this by attaching his OWN meanings
>to symbols. I have not encouraged this otherwise he might end up with his
>own SW system that no one else understands. HOwever, for now it is working
>for him and I told him that when we receive more SW materials, we will work
>on substituting his own SW symbols with the more `universal' ones. Hope
>that this is the right thing to do?
>Anyway, watch this space -- more to come.
>Yours in SignWriting
>Ingrid Foggitt

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