AW: [sw-l] SignWriting in Sign Language classes

Stefan Wöhrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Tue Oct 2 20:23:50 UTC 2007

Hi Val and SW List members, 

reading all your comments I would like to add some thoughts to the
Most of you know that I am a teacher for DEAF students and that my students
and me started to incorporate SW for almost 6 years. 
It is almost impossible - at least from my point of view- to promote any
best syllabus/curriculum or method if it comes down how to begin the SW -

The reason is that we are dealing with such a variety of different students,
teacher, (political) circumstances and goals - 

Almost four  weeks ago I started a new class with 4 deaf students. 
It took the less than a week to understand the advantage and the principles
of how to read GebaerdenSchrift after they learned to identify the
SpeechWriting-symbols and some easy to grasp handshapes and movement-arrows.

We all know this for some years now. 

What is new to me is that I have to accept that it is so tremendously more
difficult to master the principles of SW as a scribe. So this seems to be a
higher level task.

Although my first group students are exellent SW-readers they have a hard
time to create new documents from scratch. They even show difficulties to
write down rows of handsymbols with different fills at different planes and

I bet that this is part of the fact that we (in Germany) do not allow them a
tenth of time to play around with SW-software  and to develop handwriting
skills compared to learning to write the Spoken Language letters. 

(There is still - 2007 - a long way to go to overcome the fear and prejudice
connected with DEAF Education and Sign Language)

On the other hand - I am not talking of just a few signs. How many signs in
a document would we teacher accept to be an reasonable achievement? Well the
beginner should be happy to create a single new well written dictionary
entry - smile. 

But then - compared to the documentes they are accustomed to - new
vocabulary, transcribed texts from the blackboard, ... they feel frustrated
to watch themselves how time consuming this can be to create a two pages
document - As an adult we can motivate us to become successfull autodidacts
and we do have an idea about the reason for all the struggle - ...

What I love to see is that they developed their own ideas on how a sign
should be written, if I offer different variations, or that they ask me to
write down a different performance of a given term. They understand to use
the SW-documents to improve their bilingual competence. 

So I myself would support your idea Valerie to hand out SW-documents from
the very first SL-lesson. You can learn (even if you do not understand the
background and our 1000 reasons) to read the SW-symbols like meaningfull
symbols that shoul remind you how to perform a sign ( fingerspelling and
counting is a wonderful introduction with lots of "Aha", "I understand" - "I
got it" - and I guess that nothing offers more motivation but success. -

It will take a   l o n g  time until the students will be able to develop a
feeling of being able to take notes in SW.  But there is nothing bad just to
support their SL- development with SW-documents that are so easy to "read" 

I am curious. I started  a new method with this second group. ... and I will
keep you informed. 

All the best 

Stefan ;-)

-----Urspr√ľngliche Nachricht-----
Von: sw-l-bounces at
[mailto:sw-l-bounces at] Im Auftrag von Valerie Sutton
Gesendet: Dienstag, 2. Oktober 2007 16:08
An: SignWriting List
Betreff: [sw-l] SignWriting in Sign Language classes

SignWriting List
October 2, 2007

Dear SW List members!
Recently I have had several questions from teachers wondering how to  
teach SignWriting in their school...They have asked for "course  
outlines". I actually do not have a course outline for teaching  
SignWriting as a separate subject...I just follow the Lessons in  
SignWriting textbook format...

But that is the OLD way of teaching...

I would like to suggest a NEW approach as well as the old way...

Maybe it is time to start using SignWriting as a part of Sign  
Language classes, without necessarily having a separate course in  

Of course there is nothing wrong with a separate course in  
SignWriting! But separating it as a separate subject can confuse the  
students too...

When we learn French or Spanish in school, we learn to speak French  
or Spanish in class, and we also learn to read it and possibly write  
it in class too...all in the SAME class...

So when you are teaching Sign Language courses, provide the students  
with the signs they are learning in class, written in SignWriting on  
paper, which they can take home with them, to study with...

So although SignWriting can be taught as a separate subject, I am  
suggesting that it might be best to just use it during classes where  
students are using Sign Language...we write complete books in Sign  
Language now, in what is really needed is more  
reading material in the Sign Languages of the world...

This week and I am putting a book together using SignBank DocumentMaker:

SignBank is the ASL Bible, Chapters 1-7...a very large document!

I hope different religions will also start writing translations of  
their religious texts into SignWriting too...

After the book I am working on right now, I will do the layout for  
Cat in the Hat and Sleeping we are slowly getting  
literature to read...

Many thanks to all of the writiers!

Val ;-)


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