SignWriting in Sign Language classes

Valerie Sutton dac at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Tue Oct 2 20:52:45 UTC 2007


SignWriting List
October 2, 2007

Hello Stefan -
Thank you for this wonderful, thoughtful message...

Everything you wrote is totally understandable for your classroom of  
Deaf students...

There is a phrase I love, that says:  "Energy flows, where attention  
goes"...which means that wherever we focus our attention...we become  
skilled at that....so wherever we direct our energy, that  
expands...gets better...gets highlighted..is successful...

So naturally, if the school does not allow the Deaf students, to put  
equal focus on learning Sign Language and SignWriting, along with  
learning to read and write German spoken language, then of course we  
cannot expect them to become good writers of Sign Language. They need  
"permission" to focus on writing SignWriting. They need to practice  
writing rows and rows of SignWriting symbols, just as in school, I  
was taught to write rows and rows of A, B and C when I was in first  
grade...that is how I learned to write...it took years of writing  
rows of symbols and then more years of learning to write term  
papers...I mean...no one learns to write in ten minutes...no matter  
what the language we are writing!

So you are creating miracles, Stefan, within the restrictions of a  
difficult job with difficult restraints on your teaching of the  
students...

But imagine for one minute, that you are teaching a Deaf child  
outside of the school system...and that Deaf child was given all the  
software needed, and all the time in the world, to learn to write by  
hand in SignWriting...

You would have a Deaf poet, a Deaf author, a Deaf journalist, writing  
directly in SignWriting with no spoken language, and on top of that,  
his or her spoken language would improve as well, because he or she  
would be so excited to translate the material from DGS to German to  
show his parents and friends...that has been our experience in other  
cultures...there are Deaf and hearing people who do become scribes,  
or writers, and it is not hard, if the child feels supported in the  
freedom of it...but Deaf kids do pick up on it, if the hearing adults  
think it is hard, or think it is not worth their time...I am not  
referring to you...I know you support them all the way...I mean the  
other kids in the school, and the other teachers who do not choose to  
sign...

I never forgot there was a darling Deaf child in New Mexico who LOVED  
SignWriting and was skilled at it, until one of her parents scoffed  
at it, and she stopped using it immediately... That shows you how  
smart Deaf children are...they can sense what they are not supposed  
to learn...

So yes, I would hand out reading documents immediately if I am  
teaching SignWriting...not because I do not believe they cannot  
write, but because I know they can learn to read quickly...maybe not  
in a deep knowledge, but good enough to give them a feeling as to why  
it is important to write signs and give them a feeling that it is not  
hard to learn...

I am glad you agree (I knew you did ;-))

Thanks for your great message once again -

Val ;-)

---------


On Oct 2, 2007, at 1:23 PM, Stefan Wöhrmann wrote:

> Hi Val and SW List members,
>
> reading all your comments I would like to add some thoughts to the
> discussion.
> 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 -
> course.
>
> 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
> orientation.
>
> 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. -
> smile
>
> 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 majordomo.valenciacc.edu
> [mailto:sw-l-bounces at majordomo.valenciacc.edu] 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...
>
> http://www.signwriting.org/lessons/lessonsw/
>
> 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
> SignWriting?...
>
> 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 SignWriting...so 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
> http://www.SignBank.org
>
> ...it 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 Beauty...so we are slowly getting
> literature to read...
>
> Many thanks to all of the writiers!
>
>
> Val ;-)
>
>
>
>
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Valerie Sutton
dac at signwriting.org


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