An ASL Dictionary

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

And Much More!

Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

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Blog Articles in Category: Teaching Tips

Using a Swiss Cheese Folder to Plug Holes in Education

Using a Swiss Cheese Folder to Plug Holes in Education

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, July 14, 2014

By John Miller

Being an educator of deaf children for over twenty years, I know the frustrations that occur when you are working with a student and continue to find gaps in their understanding of certain concepts. It’s shocking to find out that your second grader doesn’t know something like their middle name or their address. It’s easy to say to yourself, “Why didn’t the parents or the teachers before me teach this child this information?”  

Instead of pointing fingers, there is a simple way to keep track of these gaps - it's what I call a “Swiss Cheese Folder.” Anyone that interacts with the student can document information gaps and record them in one easily accessed folder.  The teacher or parents then help provide the information to fill in these information gaps, then ANYONE (teachers, parents, interpreters, therapists, social workers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, grandparents and families) who has interactions with the student can open up the folder during their time with the students and help “fill in the holes in the Swiss Cheese.” Much of the information isn’t hard to learn once the child understands what the concepts are about, and often times many students are struggling with some of the same concepts.

Some very common things found in some student’s Swiss Cheese folder:

  1. Full Name
  2. Birthday
  3. Address
  4. Telephone Number
  5. Family Member’s Names
  6. Pet’s Names
  7. Days of the Week
  8. Months of the Year
  9. How many minutes in an hour?
  10. How many days in a year?
  11. How many items in a dozen?
  12. Telling Time
  13. Seasons
  14. Weather
  15. Colors
  16. Shapes
  17. Numbers
  18. Letter identification and matching upper and lower cases
  19. Emergency Information
  20. Answering questions about favorites…(what it means to have a favorite color, food, sport etc…)

These are also great topics that parents can work with their kids on over the summer.

When people work together, good things happen. “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Do you have other ideas of topics that would be good for a "Swiss Cheese" folder? Share your ideas in the comments below.

 

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Teaching Young Children to Sign

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, February 25, 2013

By John Miller

I have had several questions about how to teach young children to sign recently, so I wanted to repost an article I wrote back in 2009 (with a few modifications), which answers many of the questions.

Research has shown that a child's muscles in the hands and fingers develop at a faster rate than those in the mouth and jaw. This shows us that a child is better equipped at a young age to sign before they can speak. And children certainly can understand language long before they can speak. Because of this many people are choosing to teach their infants to use sign language as an early form of communication, oftern refered to as "baby signing". It has been known to cut down on the amount of frustration on the part of an infant trying to communicate with their parents/caregivers.

Many people's questions then are: "How do we teach a young child to sign (deaf or hearing) in a way that is fun and productive?"

My answer: Through play! I had the pleasure of watching a young, 3-year-old, deaf child play yesterday while I met with her teacher and parents during a yearly meeting for the child's education. I watched this cute little preschooler interacting rather naturally with the toys in the dramatic play area (toy kitchen, doctor kit, etc…). She was using the play microwave and placing the plastic food on a plate and "warming it up" for us. Using one hand to punch the keys on the keypad as she counted off the numbers with the other. Then she took the spaghetti out of the microwave telling us to be CAREFUL and to wait because it was HOT. The teacher prompted the child to tell us what the food was that was on the plate, to which the child answered SPAGHETTI rather matter-a-factly!

The child went to play for a good 30 minutes giving us each SHOTS from her doctor kit and telling us not to CRY, etc…. The language used and expressed by this child was amazing and it was all done through play!

Signing Savvy can help with this educational/play experience by using the printing options to create word cards for you to use at home during your play with your child. By having the food signs printed on cards that can be exchanged when you "order your food" and having the child match up the sign to the food, a child will become familiar with the signs for the toys they interact with daily. Create a menu that not only has the food signs on it but some common phrases like, "Can I take your order?" or "Thank you, please come again".

Another playful activity is to play "sign and seek", where you first introduce a few objects and the sign for the objects to your child. Then you scatter the objects around the room.  After which, you show the sign for an object and ask your child to bring it to you.  If you are learning sign language yourself, the Signing Savvy Member App on a mobile device, such as an iPad, is a great way to quickly look up sign videos while playing this game. You could even make a word list of all the objects in your room prior to playing, so you have quick access while you play.

Have fun with it….you'll be amazed how quickly your child (and you) will be using sign throughout your playful day!

 

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Writing a great research paper

Teaching Tips   |  Thursday, October 20, 2011

By John Miller

Challenge: Often times when a Deaf student is at the high school level, they have been using the language for so long that they are very fluent in it and great storytellers using their language, sign language, yet they still struggle with putting that great ability into a written form. This is where this next lesson idea can be a helpful tool.

Activity: Research a topic, present findings in a video, then write a report

Most students have times where they have to do reports, such as a report on a famous person or present an argument/cause. They can do a good job at the research part, and can even tell others about all the information they have gathered and learned about, but converting that into written word is still a struggle. Allowing the students to put their knowledge first into a video format is very beneficial because of this. It allows the students to use sign language that is rich in dramatic expression to convey their thoughts and knowledge without limiting them to the English words that they may struggle with.

Have the students make a video first, then use the video as a guide to translate the ASL presentation into a great written paper. This idea allows for freedom to communicate in a Deaf student's own language, without stifling their creativity. It also allows a very teachable moment for you as the teacher to help translate their signed words into written expression, with the ability to start and stop and revisit if needed. The end product will be an amazing expression of the student's actual knowledge and creativity...and a lot of fun too!

Activity Summary

Grades: 6 - 12

Materials Needed:

  • Video camera or phone with built-in video camera
  • Video editing software (iMovie, for example)
  • Computer (for researching; for making video; for writing paper)

Activity:

  1. Research topic
  2. Create a video to report findings
  3. Use the video as a guide to translate the ASL presentation into a great written paper
  4. Revise paper after receiving feedback from teacher (and parents)

Common Core Standards:
As a reference, you may want to refer to the English Language Arts Standards for Grade 6-8, Grade 9-10, and Grade 11-12, many of which could be intergrated into this assignment.

 

Home Extention: Fostering communication between school and home

Of course both the video and the paper are excellent tools to send home to help foster communication between school and home. You could even send the video home and have the parent help their child in translating the sign language into written English. That way, both the student and their parent will teach each other and learn a lot along the way.

 

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Fostering communication between school and home at the middle school level

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, September 19, 2011

By John Miller

This blog is part of a series of Teaching Tips for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. However, many of the ideas would work well in ANY teaching situation where you are working with children and parents (families).

The last article in this series was aimed at elementary education, now it is time to move on to the Middle School age students and continue our work on literacy skills. (Remember our goal is to improve reading, writing and communication skills.)

Classroom Activity: Create a Newspaper
Grade: Middle School

This idea builds on the concept that at this age, what these kids like best is to hang out, be a part of a cool group and talk about things that are of interest to them. What better time to have them create their own newspaper!

This will allow the students to choose topics of interest to them, which hopefully will also allow them to have more comfort in their writing. Because of the high interests and feelings of confidence surrounding the topics the students will also feel more comfortable sharing this writing with others which is an important part of writing - publishing! You may need to be push the students at times to venture into areas out of their comfort zones as well, but once the ball gets rolling with a class newspaper, it will take on a life of it’s own.

One purpose of this project remember is to improve communication between home and school as well, so topics and articles should be something that the student’s parents and families will also enjoy reading.

Example Articles could focus on:

  1. Features about various mystery classmates (where students try to guess who is being written about)
  2. Features about places families have traveled over their summer break
  3. Movie Reviews
  4. Fashion Trends
  5. Latest Technology
  6. Gossip about Television shows/stars
  7. Etc….

Once students complete their paper, have them practice a presentation of their paper at home with their parents before presenting in front of the class. This is an opportunity for the student to share sign vocabulary from their paper that maybe their parents wouldn’t know. There are many topics that the students would like to cover that may not be common vocabulary in their home settings and this assignment is a great opportunity to increase everyone's vocabulary at home. Have students and parents use Signing Savvy as a resource to expand and understanding new vocabulary for the assignment. We have many signs on Signing Savvy and continue to add more all the time.

 

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Fostering communication between school and home at the elementary level

Teaching Tips   |  Wednesday, September 7, 2011

By John Miller

This blog is part of a series of Teaching Tips for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. However, many of the ideas would work well in ANY teaching situation where you are working with children and parents (families).

We will begin at the ground level with an elementary level suggestion for improving literacy and work our way up to other grade levels in later blogs.

This suggestion works on the basis that children learn better when they are involved in the process. They also love to talk about themselves and especially when it involves taking pictures of themselves and including them in the decision making.

Classroom activity: Transferring daily classroom events into a written form in order to promote literacy as well as teach vocabulary to parents using signs and photos.

Grade: Elementary

Supplies needed:

  • digital camera (or good cellphone camera)
  • ability to print digital photos after you take them
  • large white construction paper (for mounting the photos to)
  • Signing Savvy membership for printing and wordlist creation

Instructions:

  1. Take photos
  2. Begin by snapping a few photos throughout your day of different activities. Later you can even put the camera in the hands of the students and let them decide what to photograph.

  3. Print and mount photos
  4. Print out the photos and have them mounted on a large sheet of white construction paper ready for your "floor/circle time" (when everyone gathers together in a group and focused).

  5. Add photo captions from students
  6. Now add descriptions to your photos. You can do this a variety of different ways, choosing just one author, or taking suggestions from a couple students, but the point is to have the students give you captions for the activities displayed in the photographs.

    This is a great way for the students to put into written language what they all just shared together as a common classroom experience. They will be making a connection between the signs used and the written words on the paper.

  7. Students pick favorite words
  8. Then have the STUDENTS choose five words that you have just written on the paper that they feel would be good to show their families at home the signs for. Maybe it is a word that they have not used before, or one that you will be using a lot in the class in the near future, regardless...let them help in the choosing and emphasize that THEY will need to be the teachers at home to show their families these signs and teach them how to produce them. (They love to be in that role.)

    Print the signed words from Signing Savvy and add them to wordlist Then simply underline the five words they choose to focus on and print them from Signing Savvy. Add them to a shared wordlist so that the families that have memberships can refer to them and even create online flashcards or quizzes from home.

  9. Send copies home
  10. The five printed words are then attached to the bottom of the photo page in the space you provided and copied and sent home with the students. This can either be done using a photocopier (you may need to scale the page down to fit on a regular piece of paper) OR just taking a digital photo of the paper. In either case, you can actually create a hard copy that actually goes home everyday, OR in a digital file that is emailed. Regardless, the families become use to the fact that on a daily basis, at least 5 new signed vocabulary will be coming home from school, along with great photos of their children involved in activities at school. Parents will love it and they will see their students excited to tell them what they did at school that day and TEACH them the signs!

* I know it sounds like a lot of work but once you get into the routine of doing this on a daily basis, you will be able to do the whole process in about ten to fifteen minutes and you will wonder why you didn't do it years ago!

 

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