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From:  Ronald Zapien
Date:  Wed Sep 16, 1998  8:30 pm
Subject:  Re: SW for Second Graders

The Kegl's are right. When a child is learning a language, if he has good
models, he is always exposed to more complex language than he can presently
produce. Usually in 2nd grade, there are two kinds of books. There are books
the kids read which are at grade level and then there are usually other books,
more complex both in vocabulary and language structure that the teacher reads
to the children. In addition, parents are encouraged to read, read, read to
their 2nd graders (can you tell that my daughter just finished 2nd grade???
*smile*) A book which comes to mind is Charlotte's Web. It is far too
difficult for the average 2nd grader to read, but is often read to the children
during the break after lunch. Cheryl Zapien

Judy Kegl wrote:

> The problem, in my humble opinion, is not that the SW ASL material is too
> complex for second graders. Rather, it is all too simple. If you want to
> teach kids to read , then you have to be able to read to them. The stuff
> teachers read to hearing second graders is pretty sophisticated stuff. The
> books the second graders themselves read are vastly more sophisticated than
> anything I have seen in SW ASL so far, with the excpetion of occasional
> newsletters.
> There is no overnight solution. Instead, there needs to be an intensive
> effort to produce the literature -- not ten sentence basic adaptations of
> stories that merely gut them, but truly complex stuff. Educators and
> storytellers should be assisting ASL speakers in producing SW adaptations.
> (I appreciate that much of the SW material thus far is intended as
> demonstrational.)
> The advantage of SW -- the real miracle of SW -- is that the system
> potentially puts Deaf kids at a par with their hearing peers when it comes
> to learning to read and write in their native language. But, you have to
> level the rest of the playing field for this to work. That means the Deaf
> kids need the same quality stuff, in SW, that hearing kids get in English,
> etc.
> So, there should be stories with adjectives -- lots of them --, similes,
> metaphors and so forth. Sure, you need basic sentence structures, but you
> need relatives and conditionals, too. ASL uses all this all some form of
> grammatical equivalent. And, you need stories with depth -- stuff that
> really peaks the interest.
> Produce these, and read them to kids everyday, and they will be truly
> motivated to want to read. Combine this with really basic stuff for
> beginner readers to learn to read and write. Flash cards have their place,
> but children learn to read by recognizing whole words in context. SW is
> visually phonetic -- that's why it's so valuable. But, phonetics alone are
> not enough.
> To adapt a story from English to ASL, you need: 1) a fluent reader of
> English who can teach storywriting; 2) a fluent ASL signer ; and 3) an
> adept user of SW. Also, respectfully, the notion that Deaf people's
> judgment in producing SW stories is inherently superior to that of hearing
> people whose culture revolves around putting spoken thoughts to pen is
> crap. (Well, now there, I've said it. But, then I'll bet you no one has
> produced as much literature in SW as I have. Alas, it's all in the wrong
> sign language for y'all in the States. I have been at it with a team for
> two years now, and that's why we have as much as we do. Still, we have
> just scratched the surface (one of those metaphors even second graders
> know.)
> So, if you want to contact me to assemble a team -- I'm in the USA 7 months
> a year.
> -- James Shepard-Kegl, director, Escuelita de Bluefields (Nicaragua)

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