SignWriting in Albuquerque Directory

Teacher Cecilia Flood with Deaf students Amelia Sandoval and Andy Sheji

Classroom Experiences
Albuquerque Public Schools: Part Two

Email Excerpts
November, 1999 - February, 2000

Cecilia Flood

Teacher & Counselor for the
Deaf and Hard of Hearing


Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 17:41:48 -0600
From: cmf <cmf@GATEWAY.NET>
Subject: Re: From Linguistics to Animation...

I can think of two examples of DHH kids reading SignWriting in parts and in whole units.
I'm working with elementary school kids in two different schools. This is an example of reading 'parts of signs'.One 3rd grader...age 9...was working with the SignWriter program...she was looking up in the SW dictionary the English word 'girl'...when the Signwritten entry appeared...she cocked her head to one side and started to sign 'sad'. I accepted her 'guess' then started to articulate the sign 'girl'. She paused a moment then giggled out loud....'oh yeah, girl'!

After I thought about her 'guess'...I'm 'guessing' that she first looked at the face symbol with the semi-circle showing where the sign is made on the face....I think she read only that one part of the sign and that probably looked like a 'sad face' to her. (ie the tilting of her head).

The second example of reading signs as whole units with not all that much attention to all sign the repeated 'reading' of a sign that occurs in the SW materials about Goldilocks and the three bears' 'walking ventures'! Several students read the sign 'walk' but articulate that sign with the two handed 'three' handshapes rather than the closed palms as the sign is written. They don't seem to be bothered by the handshape difference signed and printed. Some mis-reading of signs like 'run' and 'friend', 'hot' and 'mad', also demonstrates reading 'parts'...handshapes and placement but no attending to movement or contact symbols yet. There is one 6 year old Deaf of Deaf young SW reader who reads the SignWriting materials, the beginning levels, with such speed and automaticity that I can't imagine she is reading sign parts. Her family and teacher report that this little one loves books and is 'reading' English already. Perhaps the reading 'whole words' was simple transfered to reading 'whole signs'.

As for the 'movie' like feature of SW...there was a middle school student last year during our 'pilot' SW literacy project who followed the directives and opened the SW dictionary. Once he was in the dictionary, he kept his finger on the page up and sometimes the page down keys and watched all the sign entries 'flash by'. He seemed to enjoy the 'movie-like' scroll and kept it up for quite awhile, giggling with amusement at his 'find'!

Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 15:17:49 -0700
From: cmf <cmf@GATEWAY.NET>

How much time does it take to write a word/sign?

I have the opportunity to observe some elementary aged DHH students 'writing' both words and signs as we progress in our SignWriting Literacy project. Writing signs is new for these students (new for me too!) so there will understandably be more time and effort required initially, particularly with handwritten SignWriting.

I've done some dictating of English word 'spelling' to some of these same students as per their request. Depending on their individual strategies to 'hold in memory' fingerspelled dictation, they might write one letter at a time (most common), word syllables, or the whole word at once. A classroom task of copying English notes from a black board presents similar 'time and effort' challenges to some students.

We have been 'writing' signs using a few techniques to become more familiar with reading and writing the parts of signs ie.copying and tracing them from printed materials (SignWriting books, flash cards, SW printed dictionary) using the SignWriter computer program to 'search' for signs in the SW dictionary and to generate or 'write' sign names and
other new signs.

One student who generally uses that one English letter at a time strategy surprised me with her 'writing' of a single sign.....'hot'. She was using one of the SW books to copy the sign onto a dry erase easel. She wrote (from memory) the facial features of the sign including the
eyebrow and mouth manual markers and the handshape. She returned to the material to copy the remaining portion of the sign...the twisting movement symbol. Did this all take time...yes, but it was what she stored in memory before she referred to her source that impressed me.

Another student wanted to write (using SW) his plans to play football. He was using the SW printed dictionary to locate the lexical items he needed for his sentence. He was not able to locate the printed SW sign for football (wasn't sure of the English spelling or maybe just did not want to extend any more time to the search). He looked at his hands and articulated the sign, 'football'. As he generated the written symbols he did seek out accuracy confirmation from me. He wrote the handshapes, the palm orientation shading, position of the two hands and the contact symbol, the asteric or 'star' symbol as we describe it. We took this opportunity to learn one more contact symbol...added two parallel lines to the 'star' for the inter-locking of the open hands. What continues to 'inspire' me, if you will, is the genuine smiles that emerged as this 10 year old 'wrote' about his most favorite past time (football) in his language of signs. Did this all take time, yes. Did he complain about how long it took? No....not yet!

Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 21:45:06 -0700
From: cmf <>

We had some SignWriting of regionally different signs for Thanksgiving as an activity today. I was directing the kids to 'handwrite' their 'read' of the sign illustrations from a book called...'Signs Across America'....all at once...all four....asked to use the computers. They really like generating signs with the SignWriter Computer Program. After they wrote a few signs for Thanksgiving...they did move over to the computers to do 'their own thing'!

Meanwhile...another SignWriting Parent Newsletter went home today with the kids.....that's two so far this year. We wrote holiday greeting cards in SignWriting:


It really is exciting to hear about SignWriting expanding it's potential all over the world. Actually, it's more like SignWriting is enhancing the linguistic potential of all language
learners....I think!

Cecilia Flood

Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 16:26:32 -0700
Sender: SignWriting List <SW-L@ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA>
From: cmf <cmf@GATEWAY.NET>
Subject: Re: Shorthand

Yes, I've thought about this computer/handwriting access myself as I've been introducing SW to students here in Albuquerque. We do have the computers available...they are old and out dated but we make do... the SignWriter program is accessible as a teaching/learning tool. None of the students have the SW program at home though I did get one request for a copy of the program from a parent.

I've guided the lessons so that there would be opportunities to do SW 'writing' by hand and SW typing on the computer. Most of the kids have a pretty strong preference to use the computers but they do 'handwriting' too. One classroom teacher has mentioned several times that handwritten SW appears now and then during English spelling activities. The other day, one student was writing a 'memo' to himself to complete a handwriting exercise in one of the SW literacy books for homework. He requested the English word 'homework' be dictated to him. After he slowly wrote out the dictated spelling for 'homework', he decided to reinforce his 'reminder' by writing the SW sign 'home'. He didn't ask for dictation....he went about writing the sign as he knew it, the face symbol, two sets of raised eyebrows, two asterisks for touch. He hesitated with writing the handshape. That's when he looked at me...I modeled the handshape...he wrote the handshape as he saw it. Now the question might be....did he do the homework? Not yet!

It's too soon to predict whether these students will deem SW practical for their life's literacy needs...but when they take even the smallest initiatives to 'write' the signs they have seen in both the SW books and on the computer monitors it warrants some attention.

Cecilia Flood

Albuquerque Public Schools
Special Education-Aztec

2611 Eubank, NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87112

SignWriting in Albuquerque Directory