Private Tutor, Ontario, Canada

Kathy Akehurst

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998

Hi Valerie! Things are going well. What a nifty Project!!

I had rather an interesting experience with the flashcards so I wanted to let you know about that. My group has just returned to it's regular sessions so we're still a bit disorganized from the summer. We just decided to get together as I wanted to explain all the particulars of the Project, etc. What I DID do for that gathering (it was very informal), however, was to set the flashcards up around the room. Some were with the picture showing, some with the SW showing. I also put the two introductory videos (Lessons In SW Videos) on to play on a small TV we have in the meeting room.

Our purpose in gathering was really just to organize our sessions for the next part of the year, but I wanted to see who would be drawn to the materials and when. It was most interesting to note that everyone, adults and children, sooner or later (adults...after we had finished the 'official' discussions and were down to the tea and cookies part, children...whenever the mood took them...) wandered over and watched the videos (or parts thereof) and all the students took turns working with the flashcards. This really whetted their appetite to start the Project and we did that at our next meeting by having everyone watch the two videos and, afterwards, working with the flashcards.

I found it best to have everyone (adults and children alike) see the two introductory videos as they all seemed to get different things from them and then, as a group, were able to help each other remember the handshapes. I was surprised at how much the younger children (like my four-year old) seemed to remember from the videos and it was most successful for us to do it this way. The smaller flashcards (showing the separate handshapes) were invaluable after the tapes were turned off as reminders when we got a bit mixed up.

As we are not a formal group, we have the freedom to display materials as we like, when we like, etc. I have noticed vast differences in the students learning styles and being able to allow them access to the materials like this with me there to answer questions (or remain silent) for them seems to really be working out well. I noticed that a few of the children took new signs and attempted to draw what they thought would be the corresponding SignWriting. They wouldn't let me keep their attempts (I did try, Valerie!) but it was fascinating to note that, basically, they were on the 'right track' as to how the signs might be written.

Another truly interesting development has been that one of the adult students is really a sloppy signer (sorry, I haven't another word for it, initially I had the dickens of a time trying to receive from him!). Again, to remind you, they were raised orally and the school they attended actually punished them for signing - hence, he picked up what I can only assume is the basic equivalent of street slang for his signing. The nice thing that has happened now, (and I think even he is pleased) is that, in an effort to help his children understand and "learn to write their language", he must slow down and actually THINK THROUGH the components of a sign. This has helped him to sign more clearly (because he knows he's being watched and because he is now more aware of the correct placement of his hands, etc.). I, of course, am very grateful for this turn of events (:), but it's also nice to see him feeling better about himself and knowing he's helping the others while at the same time improving his own ability.

Well, enough for now. Just wanted to let you know the latest. Am pleased to hear that the reports will be placed on-line and we'll try to fill ours out as soon as we can. Take care, and thanks again for all your work in setting up this Project and in SignWriting in general!

Kathy Akehurst
Private Tutor, Tara, Ontario, Canada

Kathy Akehurst is a participating teacher in the
SignWriting Literacy Project.

Click here to read Kathy's reports on the project.



Please feel free to write if you have questions.

Valerie Sutton


Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
P.O. Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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