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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun Sep 27, 1998  10:01 am
Subject:  Re: Literacy Data

Dear SW List Members - This message was sent privately to me last night by
mistake, and now the author has requested that I post it to the list. Here
it is:

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 21:44:58 -0400 (EDT)
To: SignWriting
From: Judy Kegl
Subject: Re: Literacy Data

Colleen Hardman wrote, in pertinent part:
>>I found a brochure lying on a table in the entry way of the
>>library of the Oregon School for the Deaf. Even though they displayed
>>the brochure, educators I talked to cringed at the thought of teaching
>>the method. They said, "Every thing is written in English, not sign
>>language." And, "It's hard enough teaching written English without
>>confusing children with another method." As an educator I want the
>>oportunity to teach deaf children who have failed to learn to read English
>>a chance to read in their own language. In order to do this I will need
>>data to prove Sign Writing increases literacy in deaf children.

I suspect that what hearing educators are really saying is that it's hard
enough teaching ASL without confusing teachers with a written system, as
well. Anyway, my real concern is Colleen's suggestion that SW is an option
for deaf children who have failed to learn to read English. I think it is
very important to believe that SW is NOT for children who FAIL, but an
opportunity for deaf children to learn to read and write and understand a
second language with the SAME ADVANTAGE that hearing children enjoy when
they tackle a second language. We do not teach French (written or spoken)
to hearing students until AFTER they learn to write English, their first
language. So, why do we persist in demanding that deaf children learn to
write English -- a second language -- before they write ASL? The answer is
that SW is not taught to educators (for whom, generally, ASL is a second

SW is not for deaf children who fail. SW is for everybody. Through it,
students learn to criticlly analyze the grammar and syntax of ASL, their
native language. Through it, they learn punctuation, editing, paragraph
writing, storytelling. Through it, they learn decoding skills and critical
thinking. And, as the literature grows , through it they can have access
to history, culture and stories presently unaccessible by many. Like ASL,
SW is a key to empowering Deaf teachers and students.

I submit that a student who knows the grammar rules of his native language
is better equipped to learn the grammar rules of a second language. For
all hearing children, our entire educational system already adheres to this
principle. Only Deaf children are excepted. I submit that Deaf children
who can read and write ASL will learn English quicker and to a higher level
than their Deaf peers who never learn to read their native language.

I further submit that for Deaf children who are late ASL learners, they
will achieve a higher level of language sophistication if they are taught
ASL in conjunction with SW. Again, the reason is that through SW we can
teach grammar analysis. Children may acquire grammar and syntax through
some intuitive ability, but teenagers have to reason it out. The research
in Nicaragua bears out the desirability of teaching grammar and syntax
through SW to late language learners.

SW also is a tremendous tool for teaching ASL to hearing parents,
especially those who have trouble seeing the signs. There is surely a lack
of literature and ASL grammar training texts in SW -- BUT THE POTENTIAL IS

-- James Shepard-Kegl


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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