For a while now I have been wanting to provide some simple lessons in American Sign Language (ASL) on this blog. My interest in doing this is to perhaps provide other educators, who may have an interest in teaching ASL to their students, with an easily accessible venue for sharing this information in their classrooms. I also hope that it may be helpful for hearing parents with a deaf or hard of hearing child. Many times hearing parents with deaf children are afraid to sign with their son/daughter because they are told not to do so because then their child will never learn to speak or they are too overwhelmed with the daunting task of undertaking another language. I say to you...please sign with your child. Any effort you put forth greatly matters to your child and to the relationship you are building together.
I knew that I wanted to enlist the services of my darling co-teacher Lauren in this project. Not only is she easy on the eyes but her signing is so clear and articulate that she is a great representation of ASL in action. But I was unsure how to best utilize my resources and how this whole project would unfold.
Yesterday I finally decided on a format. Lauren and I would introduce some basic signs associated with a specific topic. She would sign and I would voice. This would be followed by a brief signed conversation that would use the signs we just introduced in a meaningful context so that you could see it in action. The conversation is not captioned because a) that is more work than I can get into right now and b) it keeps the focus on the signs. My challenge to you is to look for the signs we introduced in the first clip while watching the second clip.
So here is the first snippet.
In American Sign Language gender is given a specific placement on the head of the signer. As you can see from the picture of the sign for 'boy', signs referencing males are made on the upper portion of the head. Many people remember 'boy' by thinking of scooping the hand down the bill of a baseball cap. Above you saw Lauren signing father, grandfather, brother and son using signs that originated from this area.
Signs indicating females are made near the mouth or chin. It is said that the sign for 'girl' is derived from the bonnet strings that were worn back in the day of Laura Ingalls. Lauren signed mother, grandmother, sister and daughter using signs that issue from this area.
Pictures are taken from A Word in the Hand: An Introduction to Sign Language (Book One) by Jane Kitterman and S. Harold Collins, published by Garlic Press in 1984.
The conversation in the second video (presented below) is as follows:
Gary: Who is in your family?
Lauren: I have a mother, father, 3 sisters, 2 grandmothers, and 1 grandfather.
Gary: Oh, I see. Nice.
Lauren: Who is in your family?
Gary: Mother, father, 2 brothers (but one is a twin brother), and 1 sister.
Lauren: Do you have grandparents?
Gary: No, they died. I don't have any.
I am sure that the format will change as we become more adept at this and to that end I welcome your feedback on both presentation and topics. We are thinking about school signs, those related with feelings and emotions and some basic actions and/or needs.