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.