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From:  Judy Kegl
Date:  Wed Sep 16, 1998  4:18 am
Subject:  Re: SW for Second Graders

My recommendation is to teach Deaf children to read and write SW as you
would teach hearing children to read and write English. The whole point of
using SW is to put Deaf kids at a par with their hearing peers when it
comes to learning literacy in their native language. SW potentially
succeeds at this because it is "visually phonetic" and therefore children
have a fighting chance at decoding the system.

Now, how do we teach hearing second graders to read? First of all,
hopefully, we have been reading to them all along, so they have a pretty
good idea what a story is. Children do not start by learning the alphabet
or by reading super basic beginner books. Rather, parents and later
teachers read stories to them -- and by second grade, some of these stories
are pretty sophisticated. Certainly, the grammar is highly sophisticated.
The kids themselves first start to read and to write on a minimalist level.
teach Deaf kids any differently? The answer, realistically, is that at
this juncture in the development of SW literature, there just ain't much
stuff -- really nothing that I have seen in ASL SW that amounts to a real
story (maybe "Cinderella" comes a little close.) This is one reason there
remains so much resistance to SW. Actually, there are lots of reasons for
resistance to SW, but this is the only legitimate one.

So, a team needs to be assembled to get cracking on rectifying this
situation. More correctly, a good number of teams are needed. Anyway, I
think each team should consist of: 1) a fluent reader of English (probably
a hearing person); 2) a fluent ASL signer (preferably a native signer) and
3) someone adept in SW. Why do I think a hearing person is necessary?
Well, and I mean no offense, but putting spoken thoughts to pen is inherent
to hearing culture. You can be a fantastic storyteller in spoken English,
but writing it takes experience. For hearing people, this is much of what
their education has been about. On the other hand, a Deaf ASL storyteller
does not have the experience of putting the ASL story from hand to ink --
where would he or she get that experience anyway? (We learn by doing,
under the auspices of those who have done.)

What I am talking about, of course, is a monumental task -- indeed, I can
appreciate the tremendous effort that Valerie and her team have exerted to
produce the material now available.

I have run teams like this for two years now, which is why the SW reading
material in Nicaragua , so far as I know, is so much richer than anywhere
else -- but alas, none of it is in ASL.

So, who wants to be the first to volunteer?

-- James Shepard-Kegl (New Jersey & Bluefields, Nicaragua)

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