April 26, 2000
Web Report #1
For Participating Teachers
Wed, 29 Mar 2000 14:50:18 EST
From: Nancy Cole, Teacher
Hillrise Elementary School
Las Cruces, New Mexico
1. Why do you want to learn SignWriting?
It is the best news I've heard regarding education for Deaf/HH
students. I am Deaf myself, and a teacher also, and I'm very tired of
the old ways of Deaf Education. The students I have are not
achieveing past 4th grade literacy in my class (best to say-still not
achieveing). SignWriting, I believe would be using their language and
helping them learn a second language (English).
Also, many kids that enter my class do not know ASL, nor even
English, and even after they are exposed to signs because they come
from hearing parents who do not use sign, and if they do, it is a
mixture of home signs and English. SignWriting, I believe uses what
they already know to learn what they don't know. Therefore, I want my
students to benefit from this and start learning something instead of
bombarding them with something that has become such a struggle for
Also, from what I saw at CASA Deaf/HH conference kids really enjoying
SignWriting, so after that workshop I just have to try it with my
students. That's why I want to use SignWriting.
2. What have been some of your past frustrations when teaching?
My frustrations are teaching English to Deaf/HH children. They hate
to read. They love to see ASL stories, but it's hard for me to get
them to read and write. Written language is especially a struggle for
them. As a Deaf educator I could not explain why "a" and "an" go
into a sentence the way they do, because it's a phonical language and
not visual. But they love to see the stories signed and they even
have stories and ideas themselves, but it is so hard to get them to
put all of that on paper.
Also, many of the kids use a mixture of sign language. One of my
students has Deaf parents, but from Mexico. She uses ASL/MSL, and
some teachers have exposed her to signed English. She doesn't know
which sign is correct. On the otherhand, I have 5 other students
from hearing parents who use home signs, English and ASL. These kids
have very low reading levels. They have come from other classrooms
where they are taught to read word for word, but they have no
comprehension of the text they read. It is very fustrating to see
such smart kids have such a hard time with written language. They
also have a very low opinion of themselves since they can't read the
same as "hearing" students. There just has to be a better way to
3. Are you hoping that SignWriting might help? If so, in what way?
Yes. I have very high hopes in SignWriting. I use ASL in my
classroom, but many of my kids don't know ASL grammar structure and
also they have been exposed to different sign methods. I feel
SignWriting will help because I can use what they already know to
learn printed English. They are visual learners, and SignWriting is
a visual way to teach English. I think it will help alot! Anyways,
it's time for a change!
4. The SignWriting Teacher's Forum has a free web page for you and
your students, to use in anyway you wish, just as long as it relates
to SignWriting. How would you like to use your web page?
I would like people to see the progress of my students. It would be
their page, and something they could be proud about. I'm hoping that
it will make them even more enthusiastic to write, and even convince
more teachers to use SignWriting!
5. Please write any other information about your group that you would
like to share.
I have one Hispanic student in particular that I know SignWriting would
greatly improve his progress in reading. He is diagnosised with ADHA and
diabetics, and is eleven years old. I just recently started working as a
Teacher for the Deaf, and he is one of my students. (I have 2 students I
work with all day- but I have a total of 6). Anyways, no one wanted to work
with him because he didn't have any language skills and had to have 100%
attention. He gets upset and fustrated very easy....at least he was that way
when I first met him. Within the two weeks that I have had him, he has
improved so much in his communication skills, but he is still lacking in
written language, and he loves to draw. Drawing helps when he cannot think
of the sign to tell me. He usually draws the facial expression or the action
to explain himself. He can read some books in English sign ( his teachers
used signed exact English with him), but he doesn't have any comprehension of
what he is reading. He remembers the stories if I first sign it in ASL. But
from what I saw at CASA D/HH conference, one of the students independently
created sentences on their own using SignWriting. This student I have is a
very bright young boy, and I'm not ready to give up on him, I believe
SignWriting will give him a chance to express himself on paper as well as in
Also, I should mention that my 4 of my students within the classroom are
Hispanic. Two of them are white One of the students has Deaf parents from
Mexico and uses ASL/MSL at home. Her mother is involved in the Deaf
Community here and uses Mexican Sign Language and uses ASL occasionally. Her
father uses MSL, but he is trying to learn ASL. She also has a baby sister
who is Deaf. The young boy I mentioned before has hearing parents, but the
mother signs to him often. His father does not sign at all.
We have 2 computers in our classroom, and also a computer lab. All of the
students go to the computer lab 3 times a week and I either work with them or
the computer teacher works with them. All of the kids love to use the
computer, and I use it often as a positive reinforcement. Also, one of my
students has a Cochlear Implant, and he is 11 years old. He was mainstreamed
last year, and didn't do too well, so now he is back in the Deaf/HH room.
All of my students are within 3 to 5th grade. Two hispanic students are
being held back from going to middle school next year. The only student I
have that is close to her reading grade level is the one with Deaf parents.
Her reading comprehension is great, but her written vocabulary is very poor.
I'm hoping that SignWriting will help all of my students with their reading
and writing skills.
6. We agree, as a group, to complete three Web Reports in return for
the SignWriting materials and technical support you donate to us. We
understand that this report and all other reports will become public
information and will be posted to the SignWriting Email List and
posted on the SignWriting Web Site. You have our full permission to
use the information as needed.
Thank you for considering us for your project.
Nancy A. Cole
Teacher for Deaf/HH
Hillrise Elementary School
Las Cruces, NM, 88011