Writing by Hand...Message from Cecilia Flood in New Mexico

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Fri Dec 5 14:48:42 UTC 2003

SignWriting List
December 5, 2003

Dear SW List Members:
I asked Cecilia to comment on our discussion of Deaf students writing
SW by hand, versus typing by computer...Thank you, Cecilia, for this
excellent discussion, that highlights that students use SignWriting
daily in Albuquerque, just as they do in Germany, but they also usually
type, rather than write by hand, because learning to write by hand has
never been scheduled as an official subject...and there is not enough
time in the school schedule for it...The school would need to schedule
it, before SW handwriting would become a priority is my guess....Val

Cecilia Flood
flood_c at aps.edu

Cecilia Flood wrote:

> Valerie,
> I haven't been able to access my email for a week now....something's
> wrong
> and I haven't had the time to trouble shoot yet....glad you are using
> my APS
> account to connect.You can pass this response onto the list if you
> want. Oh,
> by the way, Dorothee did receive your package and said she sent you a
> confirmation. You are terrifically generous! thanks.
> The use of SignWriting is so varied here at Hodgin school. Everything
> depends on the teacher...except of course when I show up. I've had to
> cut
> back on the time I spend in classrooms because of my counseling duties
> in
> the school. We are fortunate that two new staff members have 'taken' to
> SignWriting pretty readily. Both comment that it was the DHH students
> themselves and their ability to work independently with SignWritiing
> that
> 'got them on board'.
> In general, our signing students write signs using the SignWriter.
> They have
> not been directed to write signs by hand for the most part. There may
> be a
> spontaneous handwritten sign once in a while but it seems not to be a
> student preference. We have used the board to hand write basic
> handshapes
> for numbers to guide the generation of number stories which the
> students
> really enjoy creating together. The transcription of those number
> stories
> into SignWriting is usually done using the computer. Creating
> representation
> of those number story signs (not real signs, modifications of signs to
> fit
> the number handshape), students do a lot of experimentation and
> manipulation, of SignWriting symbols. It is often a joint task, two
> students
> working together. We have observed serious dialogue between the
> co-writers
> about how symbols need to be arranged, in which direction arrows need
> to go,
> accurate handshape symbol etc., accompanied by  a lot of giggling by
> the
> way!
> In all other writing events, for example daily journaling, there is a
> lot of
> pasting of signs from dictionary to document .There is also student
> writer's
> critical evaluation of sign choice and sign spelling happening. The
> students
> are no longer surprised that the sign they use or want to use to
> express
> their ideas are not in the dictionary. They simply proceed to write
> the sign
> they want to use by using the keyboard card as a guide.
> I do see the time that primary classroom teachers spend on writing
> English
> letters. In the intermediate grades the focus shifts to learning
> 'cursive'
> writing. We even have a program called 'writing without tears'. The
> name
> alone should give you a hint about how some students experience those
> tedious copying of letter symbols. But if teachers invest that much
> time and
> 'encouragement' in learning to form letters by hand, then why do we
> not give
> value to practice writing drills for SignWriting symbols. My reflective
> response to this question usually turns toward the 'writer'/ 'learner.
> I
> want to maintain the student centered approach we have used to initiate
> SignWriting experiences for our DHH students. That's hard to do for
> some
> classroom teachers pressured to have documentation that demonstrates
> their
> students' achievement in academic skills including learning to read and
> write in the dominant English language. A teacher's thought...there is
> some
> much English I have to teach! My hope that learning to write in two
> languages, ASL and English, will contribute to students' linguistic
> identity
> as well to their overall academic achievement.
> I admit, there are times that I give into the temptation to produce
> worksheets that will prompt students to hand write signs. The response
> to
> these 'handwriting' experiences does not match the observable
> enthusiasm and
> motivation students exhibit when they are engaged in producing
> SignWriting
> documents using the SignWriter. As each new primary group enters our
> program
> and SignWriting experiences are begun, DHH students continue to show
> preference for computer writing, 'pasting' if you will. Learning the
> keyboard commands and searching for signs, producing whole page sign
> documents, continues to be an enjoyable task. The careful search, the
> going
> back and forth between English letter symbols and SignWriting symbols,
> the
> head nod yeah or nay, the re-try commands, the editing of sign
> symbols, the
> spatial arrangement of strings of signs and most significant to
> me....student proclamations, "I know, I know", "I want to do it myself,
> "move please", all seem to be collective experiences that fosters
> independent writing. There is no doubt that the coexistence of a
> dominant
> English literacy environment and SignWriting literacy experiences
> creates
> tension. I know the teachers feel this tension which understandably
> influences classroom literacy learning environments. The one factor
> that
> teachers use to justify the amount of SignWriting activities they plan
> for
> is, time...ususally meaning, there just isn't enough time to do
> SignWriting
> and all the other things that need to be accomplished. The paradigm
> shift
> from mono literacy to biliteracy remains 'in progress'.
> Cecilia Flood
> Valerie Sutton wrote:
>> Cecilia - Do yo have anything to say to this thread on the SW List? I
>> think Stefan and Ingvild would like to hear about whether your
>> students
>> write by hand or not, and how important is that in your classes?  Val
>> ;-)

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