Albuquerque Public Schools, Fall, 1999
SignWriting List, October 26, 1999
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
"I had a group of 4 Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing kids (ages 5 and 7) together talking about 'feelings' happy, sad, surprised, angry etc. A highly predictive activity with character illustrations of those feelings, I held up a small flashcard with the SignWriting symbol for those feelings (one at a time) and the 5 year old (Deaf of Deaf) and one 7 year old..read the symbols...signed what they saw on the card and matched the card with the illustrations. I did not offer any explanation regarding the symbol parts....and they read them pretty quickly...SAD and AFRAID. We're talking one 'sign' reading at a time. When the 'surprise' SignWriting symbol flashcard surfaced from the pile...I did do some modeling of the two different handshapes...the same two kids placed their hands on the card and completed the sign including movement. While the recognition of the SW symbol interests me, my inquiry will focus on an affective response to reading/writing signs. I've been doing this 'off the cuff' introducing of SignWriting in the counseling context the kids and I create."
"I remind myself of those faces...the ones of little kids that immediately recognize SignWriting...."
"There are a lot of positive things happening...Another parent called me fearing she was too late with the consent form... I told her to send it in...she commented that her daughter brought home the paper and started to copy the SignWriting from the page...(I sent a one page sample of Goldilocks). Mom wanted to know where she could go to learn more Sign Language...her daughter has a cochlear implant but Mom now knows how successful communication will happen between her and her daughter with signs and SignWriting."
"I've taken the collaborative approach to teaching/learning SignWriting. I too have seen very young Deaf students and even the very 'cool' middle school Deaf and Hard of Hearing students 'take to' SW very quickly. Some 'read' it without any hesitation....others stare awhile...look at their hands...then sign what they see....others give it a 'blanch of a look-see' shrug their shoulders and say either...'don't know', 'what's that?', 'that's weird!' These 'off the cuff' responses continue to motivate me to keep 'learning' SW and helps me maintain my conviction that Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids...know more about the language they use for everyday communication than we have yet to acknowledge."
"I think I've sparked an interest in SW for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students literacy development in the three schools where I have established relationships with kids, teachers, parents and administrators. Some teachers express similar responses to those of the kids...'oh this is going to be fun'...or...'wow this is a lot of stuff to remember'...'this might be too hard for some of our kids'....and still more....'you take the lead and we'll follow'!"
"From Zuni pueblo, an 8 year old deaf student...he was one of the youngsters who seemed to read SW symbols real quickly when I was 'playing unoffically' with SW...I made some flash cards with SW symbols for 'feeling words'. I selected the movie clip from a 30 minute video I took...my first SW session with two kids on one computer. He had such confidence using the computer (if only I had 1/10th of that confidence)...the sentence was...'My name is.....'. It's the way he signed his name that caught my attention...such confidence...just before he attempted to generate his name sign, using SignWriting symbols."
"The computers (with SW installed) are right there in the room next to the 'writing' center. There will be 2 primary age kids, 5 &7, and 6 secondary, ages 9,10,11."
"I still wonder sometimes if I'm getting in 'too deep' with SignWriting but all I need to do is remember some of the elementary and middle school Deaf and Hard of Hearing students initial responses when shown SignWriting flashcards, ASL stories written in SW, and the SignWriter word processing program which usually renews my courage to get 'deeper' into the learning/teaching/exposing SW into Deaf Ed programs. Per usual, their opinions are mixed; "Cool", "What's that?" "That's weird", "What for? Already know Sign Language", "Too hard", "This is fun", "Can we use the computer today (SW programmed)"? "I want to show my Mom this". It's their faces that make it even more motivating: wrinkled brows, staring eyes, head nods with blinks, puzzled expressions, and those 'smiles' when they recognize even just one written sign. "Oh, yeah....I see it", a poor attempt at translating those emerging minor smiles that evolve into big bright cheeked smiles.
All this encouragement came from just the preparatory initial stages of a school year (1999-2000) ethnographic inquiry: How do Deaf and Hard of Hearing students experience learning to write using SignWriting, a way to read and write signs? I'll keep you posted."
"After a pretty 'stressful' week...my last session with these two students made it all worth it. I used an older camera I have so it's recorded data now. I got my first genuine smile from one of these students. At this session...their classroom teacher joined us at the table. It was really her first time 'inspecting' the level 1 coloring book. The kids were helping 'her' how to read the signs. It was great! We got more didactic this time...explaining what the asterisk meant, the arrows (left and right hand), and the wrist twisting symbol. Once I pointed it out...one student went looking for those symbols in other signs in the book. He could explain that two asterisks meant touch two times...in the sign 'hot'...he slowed down the articulation showing the twist part of the sign...that's when he grinned big time. It might have been in response to my 'big grin' in affirmation of his learning...shared smiling is the best, yes?"
"Well this Friday...we're making 'dirt pie' with primary kids...the theme has been 'ants' for the past few weeks. It's going to be some combination of 'look-alike-dirt' foods...chocolate pudding, oreo cookie crumbs. I'm going to type out some vocab for the activity on the SW...the kids will sequence the activity using the SW typed vocab. Should be fun....I'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile...we were doing some 'copying' of the symbols on the flashcards...used dry erase markers and white boards...then we used some tracing paper. Funny to see the variety of approaches the kids take...we haven't discussed the specific parts of the SW 'signs' yet. Some kids start at the top of the symbol...others with the arrows. One girl copied the SW for 'house'...then added some more arrows to make paths to and from the house...'cute'. They did watch the ASL version of Goldilocks...attending was pretty strong. Some kids started, stopped, then started to 'shadow' Darline's signing. Others just watched intently..you know...with drooping chins...mouths slighlty opened. One girl said to her 'chair mate'...where's the pictures? Next step is to give out the books...they've handled them briefly before but now they get to claim 'ownership'..."
"If you've been wondering about the students' reaction to the colorful materials Valerie has produced...I have one Deaf of Deaf six year old who commented to herself at first then more 'outloud' to me after I asked for clarification...during her first SW book inspection. 'W-O-W', a two handed loan sign while pointing to a SW picture dictionary."
"I have one video shot of my 'earliest' reader of SW... (6 yrs) I think I told you about her last year. She has 'strong' deaf family background, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunts and Uncles, cousins...etc. I had a great session with her yesterday...we worked on the SW that matched the 'pudding' making sequence from last week. She also got her first three SW books...her comment....#WOW! She was kind of commenting to herself...but when I asked her for clarification...she pointed to the book and repeated it more 'out loud'...W-O-W! You've seen that fingerspelling loan sign before yes? Blew me away!"
"Yesterday...Lorraine, the classroom teacher, showed me something very exciting. Two students included some signwriting (their version) on a spelling list folder for the class bulletin board. Her comment was that the two came up with this on their own...they don't sit near each other so it wasn't a 'shared agreement'. Who knows though...there probably was some 'un-noticed'communication that occured. I hope to make a copy of it and send it to you...when I get their OK of course. We have some 'inventive' SW spelling happening....it's great!"
"One of my students amazed me too...just jumped up to the dry erase easel and started to 'write'. I knew there were some 'errors' in 'our' signwriting.....The kids seem to see the whole thing...and they just go for it! Adults hesitate if they are not in the 'full know', but kids...their 'go for it' guts...it's wonderful!
We had an ice-cream cooking (?) lesson last Friday with all the kids at Chaparral. I got to be 'involved'. There were two groups...one followed the directions...the other left out a step. The end product....ice-cream for real....and something that looked like a malt. The bottom line...cause and effect...if you don't follow the directions...you'll get something you didn't expect. At any rate....I wrote up the ice-cream making steps in sequence using SW. I got to use my new laser printer at home...it worked! I too forgot a step...unintentionally. So...I went to school and started a contest...I asked the kids to read the SignWritten steps and tell me which one I forgot...if they can figure it out...they win a free ice-cream sundae. Not all of them are involved in the SW sessions... but I encouraged them to work in teams to figure out the missing steps. I think I might be putting out for 9 or 10 ice-cream sundaes!"