Friday, March 28, 2008

School Signs

Two weeks ago I gave a talk to a group of teachers at Fordham University to discuss the issues and challenges they might encounter if they suddenly found themselves with a deaf or hard of hearing child in their classroom. 

It is a topic I have spoken about before and every time I present I am asked the same question "Why did you choose this field of education?"  I tend to go on about my interest in Deaf Theater and my early fascination with American Sign Language but I have found that what people really are curious to know is if I have someone in my family who is deaf. And this is an understandable question. 

My answer to that however is "No, I don't".  I did not grow up bilingual (yes, ASL is a true, living language and being able to communicate in both English and ASL does make an individual bilingual) but since I can remember I have wanted to learn how to sign.  I took basic sign language classes when I was in Junior High School but it ended up being a case of "If you don't use it, you lose it".  

I started taking classes again when I was 26.  My first formal class used the Vista Signing Naturally program with workbooks and videotapes (now DVDs).  This is a terrific program that I found very supportive in helping this fledgling signer develop his skills.  You may be able to find them in your local library if you want to check it out without investing the money.

Those early classes solidified for me the importance of practicing a small but growing number of signs and reinforcing what I had just learned by using them in different contexts. Creating dialogues with other students, watching them while they conversed so I could see if I was catching the signs I knew and giving it a go myself were the cornerstones of my early learning experiences.

So, in creating these instructional posts I have used the tenets of effective learning practices - things I have found useful anyway. Below Lauren and I show you some basic signs related to school: teacher, student, book, homework and study. These words are followed by a brief conversation. Watch the video and see if you can pick out these words. A transcript of the dialogue can be found below.

Lauren: Are you a student or a teacher?
Gary: Really both. I am a student of life. And you?
Lauren: Me, yes, I am the same. I am a teacher and a student.
Gary: Do you like homework?
Lauren: Sometimes but I like to study and I like to read books.
Gary: Me too.
Gary and Lauren: Now, go practice!

For more video of the lovely and talented Lauren in action please check out her video blog or Vlog here.


ciara said...

i love all the signing videos. i've always wanted to learn sign language. maybe someday i will. as for the use it or lose it thing...i know it very well. still can't speak german after 3 or 4 years of it lol

btw...the photo of you and lauren was really adorable :)

Joy Keaton said...

That was a good one! I love how the TEACHERS came out and the end: Go and practice! lol

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

I think it's awesome that you wanted to do what you're doing - it makes it very meaningful. Sounds to me like you are the best you can get when it comes to teachers, too.

marxsny said...

I've known a number of people who could speak other languages in addition to English and I have to say I've always been a little envious of them. I can't imagine tackling another language at this point though. Perhaps I'll save it for retirement.

Florecita said...

Hello Gary, I got this info, so you are closer than me Im gonna paste it here, cause I dont have your email, mine is

Workshop Announcement for Teachers!
Creating Global Understanding, Sparking Compassionate Action
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 4:30 PM

Seattle Center - NW Rooms - Lopez Room
Capacity: 300

Seattle, WA 98109 USA

FEE: Free - no tickets required - First come first served.

NOTE: Doors will be closed once the maximum number of participants has been reached.

CREDIT: Teachers attending will be provided with Continuing Education Credits and Clock hours (through The Heritage Institute) for Washington State. Please visit The Heritage Institute table at the events to register.


Seeds of Compassion is a 5–day gathering to engage the hearts and minds of our community by highlighting the vision, science, and programs of early social, emotional, and cognitive learning.
Science, philosophy and the world’s wisdom traditions have shown us that we are one humanity, one Earth family with a common destiny. It is the perception and experience of this interconnectedness that brings a profound change in human consciousness toward the realization of a compassionate, just and sustainable world. In this 90-minute workshop for educators, parents, community leaders and youth, we’ll explore some creative examples of how schools and other learning communities can instill a sense of global unity and compassionate action. Co-hosts Voices in Wartime, Yes! Magazine , Compassionate Listening Project, and The Heritage Institute will showcase several projects that open the mind and heart to the sense that we are all part and responsible to a larger community of life in which our individual lives gain greater meaning. You’ll be enriched by music, writing, story-telling and group discussion.


Merna Ann Hecht -- Teacher, Writer in the Schools, Story Teller
Mike Seymour -- President of The Heritage Institute
Andrea Cohen -- trainer and facilitator, Compassionate Listening Project
Marilyn Turkovich -- Curriculum Director of Voices in Wartime Education Project
Andrew Himes -- executive director of the Voices in Wartime Education Project
Gina Sala -- teacher, performer, and healer

For more information...
>> Event page at the Voices in Wartime Education Project

Upcoming conferences...

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Hey Gary!

Well, I could recommend ME! ;-)

Seriously, not sure exactly what you are looking for, but Google Michael Shadow or Annette Simmons - who both focus on words and stories and are fabulous authors, speakers and trainers. Also, Jean Aitchison.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Really I was kind of joking with ya - but if you think it would be a fit, then I'd be game. You can read my whole dissertation on the web:

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I'd be interested in hearing more about what motivated you to learn ASL and become a teacher. Hearing why people chose a particular path, or how it chose them, is always interesting.

By the way, I really like the facial hair! I've been thinking about going clean shaved again.

lettuce said...

i love these vids. - you both make it seem so easy.
Some of the signs are great, aren't they? i love the one for student - is that based on the fact that students are picking things up? or that they are dropped in it!

Gary said...

Ciara - Thanks. I should have certainly picked up some German as my paternal grandparents were from Germany and spoke it all the time. I remember looking at them with a blank expression when I was very little because I had no idea what they were saying...and they were speaking English (with that thick accent). To this day I am not very good with accents - doing them or understanding someone with a thick one. What's wrong with me?

Joy - yes, that was my idea - but she caught on quickly.

J.DZ-S - Ahhh

Mark - I also like the comment you didn't post :)

Florecita - Thanks for the information. It is still a bit far for me however.

JT - It seems the facial hair is getting only positive reviews this time around. I almost shaved it off this weekend but changed my mind while the razor was in my hand. We'll see how long it lasts. As you yours...go for it!

Letty - I have some favorite signs of my own and you have given me an idea about posting those. Student is a two-part sign; the first is taking knowledge out of a book and bringing it to the head (when I first learned it the hand went from the book all the way to the head but in practice it makes a shorter trip) and the second part is the person indicator. FYI - one of my favorite signs is also one of my favorite words: ADORE. What a fantastic word/emotion.

WAT said...

Oh Lauren is so pretty! I adore watching her as always!


I was jealous not too long ago as I watched people signing at the coffee place, and I only wished I could understand and do ASL. Gosh they were fast and it seemed like an active and intriguing conversation.

Wasn't all this sign language invented in France by the way?

Gary said...

Correct you are my dear Wat! American Sign Language has grown out of French Sign Language. There is lots of history there which I find fascinating but as I am not sure anyone else would I shall spare the details. Although I was quite enamored with Alice Cogswell for a while.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Am I allowed to tell you how cute you are?

Gary said...

JDZS...uh, of course. And this is a good time to do so as I am feeling rather out of shape and unattractive. So thanks!


Related Posts with Thumbnails