forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Fri Feb 5, 1999  4:41 am
Subject:  Re: Children Learning SignWriting

February 4, 1999

Talking about children learning SignWriting....

I have lots of questions through private email. Here is one of them:

QUESTION: Some of my deaf students learned how to read English and then
later, they began studying SignWriting, and it was difficult for them.
When they write in SignWriting the sequence of their sentences are like
written English. Some of them are unable to write their thoughts correctly
in SignWriting. I'd like to know how your students learn?

ANSWER: This answer could go for pages and pages! So to summarize...

1. Reading and writing are two different experiences. Reading seems to be
more intuitive, but writing has to be taught. Writing correct grammar and
structure seems to be harder for students.

2. If a student signs in ASL, but reads and writes in English, then the
student has "connected" reading and writing with English grammar and
structure. And they were given no choice, since before, there was no way to
write ASL.

3. When people sign, they cannot see themselves. For example, they may not
realize the facial expressions they make. They most likely have never
analyzed their own grammar.

4. Then.... we give them SignWriting. They can read SignWriting quickly.
But when they try to write, they place the signs in English word order.
Why? Because they are still connecting writing to English structure, since
they know nothing else. Writing the grammar and structure of ASL needs to
be taught.

5. How do my students do this (grin)? students are the teachers
and researchers who then have the courage to try it in the classroom. They
are the ones that have to tell us how to teach it! We do not have enough
data or experience yet to truly give the teachers the techniques they need.

However...I am slowly publishing the "Writing Grammar Lessons" in

Writing ASL Grammar
Lesson 1: Topic Markers

Writing ASL Grammar
Lesson 2: Writing Spatial Comparisons

...and I hope that will help a little. We plan to post more grammar lessons
in the future.

So give us a year or two...the answer may be much better understood by then!

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

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