SignWriting In USA Directory

Plant City, Florida

Michele Lewis
Covenant Christian Academy

  Confirmation Letter

Web Report #1:
Why Do You Want To Use SW?

Web Report #2:
What Do You Think of SW Publications?

April 14, 1998

Michele Lewis
Covenant Christian Academy

Valerie Sutton
Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
P.O. Box 517
La Jolla, California 92038-0517

RE: SignWriting Literacy Project

Dear Valerie,
After speaking to you via E-mail and examining the information packet that you sent me, I would very much like to participate in the SignWriting Literacy Project.

I have been teaching my oldest two children ASL as part of their homeschool curriculum. My two oldest children are age five and four. My third child, who just turned two, isn't formally homeschooling yet but is already picking up ASL signs. My youngest is only eight months old so he is exempt for now!

I understand that in exchange for the teacher and student materials, we will complete progress reports as required.

Thank you so much for your consideration and I look forward to participating in this very interesting project!

Michele Lewis

Web Report #1

From: "Michele Lewis" <>
To: "SignWriting" <>
Subject: Re: Web Report #1
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 09:50:23 -0400

1. Why do you want to learn SignWriting?
I consider ASL to be a true language and I feel that using English gloss is an inadequate way to express ASL in writing. I was very excited to find a writing system that is truly ASL!

2. What have been some of your past frustrations when teaching?
I really haven't encountered any problems thus far since I do have the advantage of teaching ASL to hearing children.

3. Are you hoping that SignWriting might help? If so, in what way?
I want to show my children that ASL is a true language, complete with it's own writing system. I also believe that there will be less confusion than there would be if I were to use English gloss for writing ASL. My children do not read and write English well enough for me to use a lot of gloss anyway. For example, they can sign the word elephant and understand what it means but they cannot read the word elephant in English.

4. How would you like to use this web page?
I would probably use the page to encourage the parents of hearing children to teach their children ASL along with SignWriting for a more complete instruction. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of homeschooling parents wanting to teach ASL as a "foreign" language. Many of the parents who do chose to teach a second language like to start instruction very early on. SignWriting can really help the child read ASL when they do not have the English skills to read English gloss.

5. Please write any other information about your group.
I have four children, Kelly (5), Kaitlyn (4), Kristin (2) and Jimmy (8 months). I started homeschooling Kelly when she was two years old. When my children were very young and just starting to talk, I noticed that they used ASL grammar! They would say, "Ball, red" and "House, big" They would also topicalize their sentences like, "Park, me go" and "Hot dog, I eat it" This reinforced my belief that ASL has very natural and logical grammar. I didn't start teaching the older three ASL until about six months ago. If I had to do all over again, I would have started much sooner. Katie, the 4-year-old, is especially good at signing! She tells me all the time to only sign to her. She loves watching sign language videos and she loves Linda Bove.

A little bit about my background; I learned ASL while working as a registered nurse in the emergency room of Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida. (This was back in 1982, before I got married and had children). There was another nurse there that was a certified RID interpreter. I was immediately fascinated with ASL and deaf culture. She taught me ASL one-on-one. I then began working as a volunteer at the Tampa Deaf Service Center. Since I was working at a large teaching hospital, I had frequent occasion to use my ASL with deaf patients and visitors. I did a lot of studying at home as well. I was set to take the Florida RID exam but then started having babies! (Four in five years!) Needless to say, I wasn't able to devote the time necessary to prepare for the exam. About six months ago, I told my husband that I wanted to take the RID exam. I told him I would take one year to prepare. (I wanted to go for a level 3 certification so I didn't want to go in there unprepared and embarrass myself!) I really hadn't thought much about teaching the kids ASL but when they saw me signing to the cat they immediately got interested! (My poor cat is my sign language guinea pig). Right after we got married seven years ago, we moved way out into the country and there are no deaf people for me to sign with. I am a full-time, stay-at-home mom now.

April 14, 1998

 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.

From: "Michele Lewis" <>
To: "SignWriting" <>
Subject: Re: Web Report #2
Date: Sun, 01 Nov 1998 10:09:03 -0500

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

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

Yes, they liked the book. They are very enthusiastic about their school work in general! They completed the book exactly as it was presented.

The only problem I am having is teaching them the individual parts of the signs. They were not making much progress learning Sign Writing until I figured out that they do much better learning the sign as a whole. (The flashcards are what helped me come to this conclusion! They could remember the signs with no problem after working with the flashcards.) I think that they are too young to understand the mechanics of how Sign Writing is put together. I plan on focusing more on them memorizing the individual signs first, and as they get older, I will start breaking the signs down into their parts. Maybe I need to explain that a little better. When I show them a new sign, I do show them the individual parts but I am not drilling them on the individual parts. I think what I am trying to say is that I am having more success teaching them to read Sign Writing than I am teaching them how to compose Sign Writing. I hope this makes sense.

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

The the one thing that I would suggest is written lesson plans. I think I would be doing a better job if I had a teaching outline to go by; what should be covered, how much time per session, what sequence etc. Since I am learning Sign Writing as well, I would benefit from an experienced Sign Writing teacher's guidelines and suggestions.

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

Yes! The flashcards made all the difference in the world. They have an easier time remembering the signs as a whole. They were having a hard time remembering the individual parts of each Sign Writing word. I would highly suggest MORE FLASHCARDS! By the way, I am planning on making up my own flashcards of sorts using the Sign Writing computer program. I have been sort of a holding pattern because I have been hoping for the release of the Windows version! (DOS and I just don't get along very well!) Do you know when the Windows version will be released?

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

No. My other two children are not old enough yet :)

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

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 them?

Actually, they are doing better with this book than the first! I think it is because the signs are written in sentence form and they are no broken down into their individual parts.

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 was not difficult. It made more sense to them than dissecting the individual signs.

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

They do not understand how to look up the signs by the Sign-Symbol-Sequence method yet but the dictionary is short and they were able to skim through to find the word. Most words they could phonically decode. There were only a couple they could not figure out.

At SW Level 2 we gave you 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 would like a workbook. My kids seem to do better if they process information in a couple of different ways, (reading and writing). However, my children are still having problems with breaking down the signs into it's individual parts so I don't know if they would be ready for that type of workbook.

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

The only thing that I would suggest at this point is teacher lesson plans. The student materials themselves are excellent.

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

I only need one for our family.

3. Sutton's American Sign Language
Picture Dictionary For Children

Did your students like this dictionary? Were they eager to open it and use it?

They did much better with the dictionary because it presented words in it's entirety. I think I made a mistake by trying to teach them the individual sign parts instead of whole words. They did like going through it and figuring out the signs!

What did they think of the pictures? Did the pictures help?

I think the pictures helped a lot. My children are quite young. They are on a 1st grade reading level so the pictures were more meaningful to them than the text.

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

It took a while to get the hang of it but I'm okay now :) The kid's don't get it yet though.

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?

Yes of course! As far as what signs......... I would probably include words that occur during the course of every day conversations, words that are high frequency words and words that are of particular interest to children.

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

Since we are one family, one dictionary is enough for us.

4. Lessons In SignWriting
Video Series & Booklets

Did teachers and parents view these videos? What did they think? Was it useful for them?

I enjoyed the videos. They were very clear. It made it easier to go back to the book and understand what was presented.

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

It would be nice for the series to be expanded to cover all of the lesson in the SignWriting Manual.

5. Lessons In SignWriting

Have you referred to this textbook to answer specific technical questions?

Yes. I am working my way through it to learn everything but I also refer back to answer specific questions.

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

I am in the process of learning how to fine tune the signs, adding the appropriate facial expressions.

What part of the textbook have you referred to most?

Now that I have the basics down, I would say I refer to the facial expressions part the most.

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?

I really can't think of any improvements. The book is very thorough and it is easy to understand. Yes, it is VERY useful.

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

Yes, now that I have figured out how to teach Sign Writing to the kids, they are learning it faster!

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

___1st___Cinderella, SW Level 1 (Beginners)

___2nd___Cinderella, SW Level 2 (Beginners)

___3rd___Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 3 (Intermediate)

___4th___Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 4 (Advanced)

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

I only need 2 copies as my two younger children are too young yet. I am ready whenever you 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?

I am very impressed with the quality of the materials! The student materials are colorful, interesting and well done. The Sign Writing Manual is very thorough and easy to understand. My kids absolutely love the Fairy Tale video tape. They have watched it many, many times!

Michele Lewis

November 1st, 1998
Covenant Christian Academy
Homeschool, Plant City, Florida