answers to my questionnaire "SW and litteracy"

Marc Girod / Anne-Claude Prélaz girodmarc at VTX.CH
Wed Aug 27 20:51:00 UTC 2003

I am the director of the Deaf school in Bluefields, Nicaragua, where we
been incorporating SignWriting in our curriculum for several years.  As
school in an impoverished region, we lack the financial and personnel
resources to even think about hearing aids or speech therapy.
because we are open only several months each year, we do not have the
to debate whether or not we should be teaching spanish.  I can tell you
the full time schools in other parts of Nicaragua devote substantial
time to
teaching spanish reading and writing, but with no real success.  In the
process, little time is left to teach general world knowledge, math,

We use SW a very great deal and most students are comfortable with
FORMAT.  We do not have computers in the classroom, and no student has
access to a computer at home.  However, we have worked with a few
in working with the SW computer program.  Our experience is that they
develop writing skills fairly quickly.  In addition, because of the use
the glossary program (some 1800 entries so far), these students have a
better command of spanish vocabulary than their peers in those schools
emphasize spanish.  Nevertheless, we do not use SW to teach spanish
and syntax, and our students cannot effectively read in spanish.  (After

many years in Nicaragua, I can't read too much spanish, either.)

We do teach classes devoted to the grammar and syntax of Nicaraguan Sign

Language, and our ability to write sentences on a chalkboard is of
immeasurable value.

The biggest drawback to SW is the lack of reading lessons.  We have
over fifty, filling two volumes.  It took us several years to do this
because all material must be developed by a team that includes NATIVELY
FLUENT signers -- otherwise the final product will not be grammatically
correct.  Production costs were high, but many of our students are
 (If one defines literacy as the ability to read a foreign language,
then we
fail.  If one defines literacy as the ability to read and write
sophisticated material in your native language, then we have had some
impressive results.)

Our books are cherished by our students in Bluefields and in our

Hope this is helpful to you.

James Shepard-Kegl

Dear friends ,

the reason that you have not get an answer so far is a question of time
resource -
GebaerdenSchrift as we call SW here in Germany is time consuming -
day by day by day (Monday to Sunday) I spend several hours in order to
prepare bilingual documents for my students!
I am not kidding!! This is true.
In addition to that - it takes time to create all these graphics and
things that should assist to understand the idea of movement-writing
There is no competition going on about who is the most active - but
me - the amount of documents, files, booklets - that I have already made
huge - I mean almost incredible - ha -crazy about SW - well
Once you have seen the eyes of young deaf students you are infected by
Sutton - virus ....

So - if people show up - and believe me - I get lots of questionaires -
just started to become aquainted with the idea of movement - writing I
tired and sometimes exploited ...

On the other hand there have been people who showed that much interest
they visited me, took part in the workshops which I offer at the evening

school here in Osnabruck, and made visits to my class in order to get
hand impressions.

I really hope that you have had the chance to look at my website which
all in all a pretty nice impression about the situation at my class -

You are invited to visit me here in Osnabruck - no question! Just write
my headmaster to give things an official impression (ha - sometimes they

want it this way - no problem ;-)) )

Summer holiday will start on July 11th and school starts again on August


I do not know wether you are informed that Penny Boyes Braem invited me
visit Switzerland at Basel and Zurich in order to give an introduction -

course in SW to the Swiss - team ?

Well - if you are going to start your own SW - project I can highly
recommend to get some kind of instruction - course. If you want to
concentrate on teaching deaf students with the help of GebaerdenSchrift
is a must to feel secure and competent in working with the computer

Unfortunately there has not been one single sign from German
typed with SW44 so far when I started - and believe me - it would have
much, much easier if there would have been any person around that would
offer a complete introduction in such a short time.

Now colleagues of mine learn to read GebaerdenSchrift within a three -
days - workshops!  Afterwards it takes some practice - just with
that is a new thing - and of course you need to have an idea what you
it for ...

After a few weeks my colleagues learn to  use the SW44 Program within a
three days workshop -

Wow with the asistance of my German dictionary "retiam" which contains
than 9000 entries you are able to create your own SW-documents within a
minutes - but of course it takes some time to become an experienced user
all the options which are offered by this "old-fashioned " but wonderful

working DOS - program.

The need for good graphics asked for new solutions and so I started to
create more and more TT - fonts which can be enlarged - just as you want
.. These wonderful graphics allow already very young children or even
retarded children to understand the "Gestalt" of many GebardenSchrift -
signs. (The DOS - pixel are a proble if you want to enlarge the signs
flashcards - one sign-  one paper)

I would like to ensure you that there is nothing better but
to support deaf children to learn the spoken language of their region
because now we can offer bilingual materials that are not bound to
you can draw. In contrary - every idea that can be understood by your
students while you are signing to /with  them can be written down - and
there is no big jump to make them understand the complexity of the
subject :
Signlanguage is the comon form for life comunication - exactly signed
is the way of signing hearing teacher prefer because of their lack of
knowledge or because they try their best to clarify an idea that is
spoken/written in German ( or any other spoken language) and in the end
is their task to become competent to distinguish between the two systems
to translate/ transxribe the written GebaerdenSchrift-Document into the
written spoken language of their region which asks for vocabulary
as well as for grammatical - structures.

Most of my little deaf students are able to read out loud (with voice) a
of GebaerdenSchrift-Documents so that you would not know that they are
reading a document that is written in German!

Last not least - I invented a new additional writing system which I
"Mundbildschrift" This is pretty much a tool to inform the deaf students

about the articulation of German words. It is very, very supportiv and

So all in all - I would like to invite you to start your investigation
get to know this wonderful revolution in deaf education -

>>From my point of view Valerie Sutton deserves a Nobel Price  - we will
that in our work!

-----Ursprungliche Nachricht-----
Von: Marc Girod / Anne-Claude Prelaz [mailto:girodmarc at]
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 19. Juni 2003 12:47
An: Stefan Woehrmann
Betreff: litteracy project Deuschland

Dear stefan

I desperatly need your help!

Thanks for your personal contact!

I sent a questionnaire a few month ago on
SW list and received only one answer from James Shepard Kegl...  and I
need more answers!!!
I'd love to come and visit you sometimes in your school if it's
possible... before starting our litteracy project here in the french
speaking part of Switzerland, but I don't know if you have time...

I do !!! for projects like this !

when it would be possible!! Your summer hollyday will probably start
soon (if it hasn't already started!)... so I bet nothing's possible
before this autumn!!

Depends on you!!

Before having the opportunity to meet you in Germany I'd like to ask you

just a few questions on your litteracy project.


-Since when did you (you and your tema) introduce SW in your class(es)?

Well - me and my team (?)  - ha - I introduced SW here in Germany in
1999 -
there is a long story about this in the documentation "reports" of the
literacy project on the   website !!!

- How long did it take for your team (the professionnals) to get used to

SW before introducing SW to che children ?

I am not sure - have to look it up - but I remember that I spent my
summerholidays on trying to get used to the program, lots of emails,
phonecalls, translation and creative work with graphic programs ....
Without any additional introduction it is not easy and I am sorry today
I confronted my students with many typing - mistakes in the beginning.

So I tried to learn to use the SW44 program with the manual and Valeries

tips and messages ... and then we started
- at first with students at age of 14 but later first grade - students
even younger children (my son Gordian learned to read signs at age of 3

(or did the professionnal
learn and developped it at the same time children were learning it ) did

you organise courses for the teachers?

(Yes I offer courses for teacher -  some of them on weekends, some of
during extra-training sequences over a year )

- Did you prepare specific teaching material before introducing SW to
the children or did you only use Valerie Sutton's material (after having

translated it into your sign language)?

- well of course I translatedt the Goldilocks stories in the beginning -
then I created lots and lots and lots ... of my own materials ....
The most important first step has been ( and I recommend that very
much)  to
write the signnames of the students in GebaerdenSchrift -

afterwords - some color - signs, personal pronouns, some animal
other nouns with a good GebaerdenSchrift Gestalt (lion, tree, hare,
cat, traffic lights, bus , car )  some Adjectives, Satzzeichen   (?,.!)
And within minutes ( that is  t r u e ) your deaf students will be
happy that they can read with such an ease !!!

- Do any deaf child take part in the project or do you only select some
of them ? (if so what are your criterias?)

Everybody  l o v e s  to learn to read GebaerdenSchrift! So I teach them

all -
Ha - just everybody who is part of my courses - even hearing ...

- Do you use SW for particular lessons (maths, grammar, ...)?

the attache  "mal sieben)   1 mal 7 = 7, 14,21, 28 ... is a nice example
there are many more ...

no - it is a all day all lesson tool - music, religion, maths, biology ,

german, german, german,  Every subject that offers spoken language
incorporate GebaerdenSchrift!  At least from my point of view !

- how many hours a week is SW used in the class (approximately)?

(about 4 hours every day - in maths it is used not as often but the
is available all the time ... )

- Do you have the feeling that children who used SW are able to transfer

these skills to writing and reading english?

 A   B    S   O   L   U   T  E  L   Y          (It is almost a
miracle!!! )
Students who did not learn to read and write find their way now.
that learned much to slow are speeding up -- and the good thing is - the

level of the texts and documents is higher - The students get the chance
understand the idea of questions - and transfer /extract this knowledge
the documents that are written in the spoken language

I'd be really thanfull if you'd take some of your precious time to
answer those quesitons...

well 90 minutes of my precious time - ;-))

You don't have to wrtie 10 pages...

hm - ok

but I just
need a few informations to make summaries on the different litteracy
project experiences around the world
I hope to hear from you very soon

hope this is soon enough
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    ;-))

Till then... take care

Yours truly


  Well  if you look at the website   You will

find a lot of more information ;-))

OK Anne - Claude - have a wonderful day and hopefully you will be able
start your SW - project in your area !!
Beware of the SW - virus - but once you are infected there is no cure
but an
heart - attack ??

All the best

Stefan ;-)   heart and soul for GebaerdenSchrift

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