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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun Nov 8, 1998  7:02 pm
Subject:  Teacher Report Kathy Akehurst

From: "Akehurst"
To: "Valerie Sutton"
Subject: Web Report 2
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 09:30:29 -0500

SignWriting Literacy Project
Web Report 2
SignWriting Publications

We want to improve our publications. We need your feedback and suggestions.
The following publications were donated to your classroom. Please give us
your opinions, which we value. Write as much as you wish.

1. Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 1, Workbook & Coloring Book

a. Did your students like this book? Were they eager to open it and use it?
Did they color in it? Did they write rows of symbols and signs?

The students were very pleased with the book although it took some talking
to get them to believe they were free to mark and color as much as they
wished in such a nice book. Some of the children started into it as soon as
they got it in early October and then we went through it methodically as a
group. The children really enjoyed the coloring part, and even colored the
signwriting symbols. Everyone did their best to write rows of symbols and
signs although we all agreed it (quite naturally) made our hands tired!
Still, done in a group it was fun and interesting and some of the more
diligent ones practiced on their own until our next meeting.

b. Was the information clear? Were there specific questions that were hard
for you to answer?

Yes, it was very clearly presented and easy to understand. There were no
questions presented that were hard for me to answer, only questions for
which it was hard for me to remember the answers! I found the Textbook and
Workbook to be really comprehensive and it was just up to me to know it well
enough to be sure of where to go to find the answer to a student's question.
The answers were always there.

c. What improvements would you suggest? Would you add or subtract anything?

I think, for a basic SW course, this is a wonderful way to proceed. I found
it best not to actually show the students how detailed SW could get (in the
workbook I had) because I could see that might seem a bit overwhelming - not
so much for the children, but for the adult students.

d Did you use the accompanying flashcards and what did you think of them?

They're great and we did use them. It was an interesting, low-pressure way
to expose all of us to this new writing system. They helped jog our
memories at various points in the lessons. I think we could make use of any
amount of these cards.

e. Do you want more copies of this book, and the flashcards, for your
future classrooms?

Yes, please.

2. Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 2, Basic ASL Storybook

a. Were your students ready for this book, when they finished SW Level 1?
If not, what was lacking in their knowledge, that made it too advanced for

I believe, considering the range of ages in this group, that they were as
ready as could be expected. The only thing (and I wouldn't call it
'lacking', I'd just say we hadn't dwelt on it much...) was that they had
some difficulty with the facial expressions in the story. The hand shapes,
etc. they could dissect and decipher (if they didn't remember them at first)
but we all rather got mixed up on the faces. That will come with practice.
Actually, it was interesting to note that some of them weren't even aware
that they MADE facial expressions when they signed certain things,
underlining the point that when one begins learning to write, one becomes
much more aware (or should do) of how they are actually 'speaking'.

b. How did the students react to reading complete sentences in ASL? Was it
hard for them, or was it an easy experience for them?

It wasn't hard for my students to read complete sentences, and they seemed
to enjoy it and get a good deal of satisfaction out of the experience. It
was hard for the adult students to remember to read down the page (they were
raised orally), and not across, however. They liked it once they got the
hang of it, though.

c. Did your students use the dictionary in the back? Did they have problems
finding a sign in the dictionary?

They all used the dictionary and did not have problems finding the signs.
It was very helpful.

d. At SW Level 2 we gave your a storybook with sentences, but we did not
give you a workbook. Would you like a workbook at Level 2 as well? Would a
workbook teaching the writing of sentences in ASL be useful?

Yes, I think a workbook would be helpful. Depending on the learning style,
some of my students do best with a cumulative approach leading to a complete
sentence while others seem to approach it from the other end and decode a
complete sentence into it's individual parts.

e. What improvements would you suggest? Would you add or subtract anything?

None. No. It's astonishing the amount of work and detail to which you have
gone in this writing system.

f. Do you want more copies of the storybook for your future classrooms?

Yes, please.

3. Sutton's American Sign Language Picture Dictionary

a. Did your students like this dictionary? Were they eager to open it and
use it? What did they think of the pictures? Did the pictures help?

Yes, the dictionary was well received. We ALL found it helpful. The
pictures helped a lot and having the cross-references of SW, picture,
English made it really easy to find either the symbol OR the word you for
which you were looking.

b. Was the Sign-Symbol-Sequence clear? Did you have problems finding a sign
in the dictionary?

Yes, it was clear and we had no problems in finding the signs. Again, at
times we had to stop and actually examine how, precisely, the sign was made
so we could get the proper symbol but that's good. As I said before, it's
improving the quality, in general, of the signing of the group.

c. Would you want us to expand this dictionary to include more signs? If
so, what are some of the signs you would like us to add?

I'm sure we would like that and find it helpful, simply because it's good to
have as comprehensive a reference as possible. For some reason, we got hung
up on the word 'hope' at one point and couldn't quite figure it out. A lot
of the other words we were looking for we did find in your other
publications, though.

d. Do you want more copies of this dictionary for your future classrooms?

Yes, please.

4. Lessons In SignWriting Video Series & Booklets

a. Did parents view these videos? What did they think? Was it useful for

Everyone (children and adults) viewed the videos. The parents kept them and
viewed them again on their own after we started the lessons, as a reminder
of what was what. They were very useful. Easy to follow, well put

b. Did the teachers view these videos? What did they think? Was it useful
for them?

The videos are really well done, and having voice-over, captions and signing
made them really easy to undertand and accessible to everyone everywhere.
Nice music, too!

c. Do you have any suggestions for improvements of this video series?

No. The videos were excellent.

5. Lessons In SignWriting Textbook

a. Have you referred to this textbook to answer specific technical


b. If so, what were some of the questions you needed to answer?

"What's that squiggly line mean?", "Why is that arrow bigger near the body
than away from it?", things of that nature. Mostly having to do with
movement and dynamic markers.

What part of the textbook have you referred to most?

Axial movement, dynamics and punctuation, facial expressions and head and

c. Do you have any suggestions for improvements of this textbook? Do you
feel it is a useful tool for the school to have for reference?

To date, I can't conceive of how to improve this textbook because I'm so
amazed at the detail you've come up with in the first place. It is
extremely useful and very well-thumbed by all. I don't think we would
really have been able to proceed on this project without it. At times,
questions would be asked and it was important to have an answer to them
right then in order to hold the interest of the group and keep the flow.
Even though the question might not have had any relevance to the specific
lesson we were on, being able to find the answers in the textbook really

6. Do you want to receive new, different materials?

Yes, please.

a. If your answer is yes, what would you like to receive first, second,
third, fourth?

___1___Cinderella, SW Level 1 (Beginners)

___2___Cinderella, SW Level 2 (Beginners)

___3___Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 3 (Intermediate)

____4__Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 4 (Advanced)

b. How many copies of the above publications do you need, and when will you
be ready for them?

Four copies and we'll be ready when they are!

7. Overall, what is your general impression of our materials? Do you feel
they have been a positive influence on your students and their parents?

Very. The concept of SignWriting is so new and different for my students
that they needed to be able to grasp some aspect of it quickly in order to
hold their interest and motivate them to continue. The layout of the
materials did that. Some are more motivated than are others, of course (as
is true of learning to write any language) but all in all the materials are
well, laid out, easy to understand and not so complex that people new to the
idea despair that they'll ever get it.

Please feel free to express your feelings about this. SignWriting is a new
idea and sometimes new ideas can be complicated. Did our publications give
a positive and optomistic impression about writing ASL? What issues, if
any, came up? Any suggestions for making the road smoother in the future?

The concept of writing ASL seems to take many people by surprise. My group
seems to enjoy learning it (I think it makes some of the children feel like
Harriet the Spy writing in code, which is fun!)(me too, actually!) and it
impresses other people who don't understand it but can see that it is a
viable writing system. The publications do present it in a positive and
optomistic light and underscore that anyone could learn it and would find it
useful for many things (not just ASL). In my group, the only issues that
came up were that my rebel, sloppy signer (I say it with all fondness!)
feels the facial expressions and dynamic markers should be 'understood' by
the context so he doesn't have to bother learning them. I imagine that
would be a choice he could live with (or not) just as many people who write
English opt out of grammar and punctuation at whim and must bear the
consequences of not being understood as well as might be possible if they
would apply themselves to learning the intricacies of their language. I
think what proves to me that SW is as real a writing system as is that of
any other language is watching people's responses to it. As with any other
language, some are very good at it and very interested, some are eloquent
and some don't make any sense at all! Your cause is alive, Valerie! It's
got all the ups and downs and quirks of a real, living written language.
Keep up the good work and thanks from all of us.

Kathy Akehurst
Private Tutor
Tara, Ontario

Valerie :-)

Valerie Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee for SW


Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

  Replies Author Date
578 2 Teacher Reports Posted Valerie Sutton Mon  11/9/1998

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