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.

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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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Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Learning Tips   |  Friday, February 27, 2015

By John Miller

The Importance of Reading with Children

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 53 percent of children ages three to five are read to daily by a family member.1 Yet, children are significantly better at reading comprehension when parents read with them and encourage reading.2  Children who are read to at home do better in school.  Research shows they are better at knowing the alphabet, counting, writing their names, and reading.3 Additionally, the more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students are in reading proficiency.4

Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.

For more information on Children's Literacy visit the National Education Association website.

Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Over 90% of deaf or hard of hearing children are born to hearing families and there is often a lack of communication between hearing parents and their deaf child.  Using sign language when reading increases comprehension, which helps children become more engaged in the story being read and more interested in learning to read themselves.

Parents can use the word list feature on Signing Savvy to create a custom word list of signs that go with a book they are reading.  The Signing Savvy quizzing and digital flash cards features can be used to practice the signs from the word list and, of course, it is best to sign while reading the book.  This is a way for both parents and children to practice signing together and learn new signs.

Teachers can also create custom word lists of signs that are used from books read at school and then share those word lists with parents.  Then parents have great recommended books for signing and reading at home that align with the classroom curriculum. 

Some great tips for reading to deaf and hard of hearing children were outlined by David R. Schleper in the publication Reading to Deaf Children: Learning from Deaf Adults. The tips were developed through research of what deaf parents do when reading to their deaf and hard of hearing children.

Schleper's 15 Tips for Reading to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

  1. Translate stories using American Sign Language. Focus on concepts and use lots of fingerspelling.
  2. Keep both languages (ASL and English) visible. Make sure children see both the signing and the words and pictures.
  3. Elaborate on the text. Add explanations about the text to make it more understandable.
  4. Reread stories on a “story telling” to a “story reading” continuum. The first few times, make sure the student understands the story. Then, slowly, focus more and more on the text.
  5. Follow the child’s lead. What does the child wants to read? What if the child wants to read just one part of a book, then move to another? Follow the child.
  6. Make what is implied explicit. Make the hidden meaning clear.
  7. Adjust sign placement to fit the story. Sometimes sign on the page. Sometimes sign on the child. And sometimes sign in the usual place.
  8. Adjust the signing style to fit the story. Be dramatic. Play with the signs and exaggerate facial expressions to show different characters.
  9. Connect concepts in the story to the real world. Relate the characters to real events.
  10. Use attention maintenance strategies. Tap lightly on your child’s shoulder, or give a gentle nudge to keep his or her attention.
  11. Use eye gaze to elicit participation. Look at the child while reading.
  12. Engage in role playing to extend concepts. Act out the story after you have read it.
  13. Use ASL variations to sign repetitive English phrases. If you are using the same phrase over and over, vary the signs.
  14. Provide a positive and reinforcing environment. Encourage the child to share ideas about the story and support the child’s ideas.
  15. Expect the child to become literate. Believe in the child’s success and read, read, read!

These tips are from:



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Voice Contestant Signs the Team She Wants to Be on

General Interest   |  Tuesday, February 24, 2015

By Jillian Winn

When it was time for The Voice contestant Treeva Gibson to choose which coach’s team she wanted to be on, she responded, "I’m going to sign this, so my parents can see who I pick." Her parents were anxiously waiting backstage with an interpreter and her mom burst into a huge smile when the interpreter told her Treeva said she was going to sign. Her mom switched her focus from the interpreter to the monitor and watched Treeva sign (and voice), "I PICK" and fingerspell "C-H-R-I-S-T-I-N-A."

The 16-year-old from Frederick, Maryland started singing when she was 11. Both of her parents are deaf and Treeva learned to sign before she could speak or sing. Her mom is a teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf and her dad teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. As a teenager, Teeva discovered she had a mild hearing loss. She can not hear mid-tones, which makes it difficult for her to hear an artist singing on a track, yet she can hear the instrumental part.

Treeva Gibson on The Voice
Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton both turn their chairs for Treeva Gibson during the blind auditions on The Voice. Pharrell Williams and Adam Levine are also pictured. (Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC, "Blind Auditions" Episode 801).

Treeva sang Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” in her blind audition on Season 8, Episode 1 (801) of The Voice, which aired on February 23, 2015 to 13.97 million viewers. Coaches Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton both turned their chairs for her before she reached the chorus. After choosing Christina for her coach, she went on to sing the Florence + The Machine song “Addicted To Love” against Katelyn Read in the Battle Rounds on March 10, 2015 and Christina declared Treeva the winner of the round. She was eliminated from The Voice during the Knockout Rounds on March 30, 2015 after performing “Chasing Pavements” by Adele against Rob Taylor.

You can watch Treeva Gibson’s “Young and Beautiful” blind audition at the Daily Motion website.


  1. Franklin, Mark. (2015, March 1). Meet Treeva Gibson of The Voice Season 8. Idol Chatter Voice News. Retrieved from

  2. Golden, Tyler (2015). "Blind Auditions" Episode 801. In The Voice: NBCUniversal Media. Retrieved from and

  3. NBC (2015, February 23) Blind Auditions (Season 8, Episode 1) [Television series episode]. In The Voice

  4. The Voice Wiki: Treeva Gibson. (n.d.). Fandom. Retrieved from


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Practice Signing at Home While Making Your Favorite Holiday Treats

Practice Signing at Home While Making Your Favorite Holiday Treats

Teaching Tips   |  Friday, December 19, 2014

By John Miller

One really fun idea for teachers to do for their students’ families for the holidays is to assemble a virtual cookbook filled with recipes to create at home.  We all know how important it is for children to be communicated with at home, as well as school, but many times parents are reluctant to do some activities at home because they don’t have the sign vocabulary to do so.

Like with any lesson plan or our favorite children’s books, teachers can create Signing Savvy word lists of their favorite, easy, sweet treats’ recipes.  After creating a word list for a favorite recipe, teachers can email the link to parents so families can checkout these recipes on Signing Savvy and be able to see the key signs to be able to recreate some great treats at home!

If you also make the goodies as part of a classroom activity, the children will be very excited to make something at home that they have already done at school.  It will give them the opportunity to become the expert and actually work as a teacher with their families.

One thing parents need to remember though, is that some of the actions that they will be doing while cooking or baking may be more miming rather than actual ASL signs.  One example of this would be the word SPREAD.  If you look at SPREAD in the Signing Savvy website, you'll find the sign for something spreading or spilling across a table or the floor, which would not be the same kind of action you are talking about when you are spreading the frosting on a cake.  Instead, to sign that you want to SPREAD frosting, mime the motion you would make in real life to indicate spreading. This is one of the most common mistakes non-fluent signers make.  They look for an exact sign to go with their English word when really they would just be better going with their instinct and miming the action of frosting a cake.

So dig into your favorite holiday recipes and start creating word lists that you can share with your families this holiday season. They will really enjoy them, I am sure!

I have included links below to word lists for two of my favorite recipes to get you started.

Word List for Angel Bark or Peppermint Bark Recipe

Angel Bark or Peppermint Bark
(Photo Credit: A Taste of Koko)

Word List for Christmas Wreath Recipe

Christmas Wreaths
(Photo Credit:


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Guidelines to Help Interpreters When Doing Pro Bono Work

Guidelines to Help Interpreters When Doing Pro Bono Work

Interpreter Tips   |  Thursday, December 4, 2014

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

By offering pro bono services, interpreters are enriched professionally and personally. This is something interpreters should all do on a regular basis.  Pro bono work is an important part of professional development and it is a great way to help others in need, provide a gift to thank others, and give back to your community.

Interpreters provide a specialized skill and it has monetary value.  Interpreters are trained professionals who have and continue to invest a lot of time and money in being an interpreter. Additionally, quid pro quo, the deaf community has invested time in interpreters. It is important to avoid giving the impression that interpreting services are “no big deal.” This is an important conversation to have with our clients and among other interpreters. If clients do not understand the value of our services or that we interpret to earn a living, the gesture of pro bono work will not be valued.

By following some ground rules, you can set better expectations and have better working relationships with your clients (and friends) when doing pro bono work.

1. Establish the relationship.

Pro bono work is usually a one-time occurrence and the next interpreter will reasonably expect payment.  Before agreeing to a job, consider how/if doing this will affect the next interpreter who follows.

Evaluate the interpreter services required.

  • Is it going to be an ongoing situation or a one-time occurrence?
  • Is this a way to avoid paying for services that others customarily pay for?
  • Is it a gift (for example a wedding gift)?

Be willing to discuss the job and the client’s expectations bluntly so you are in agreement of what services you are providing. Is it a gift, a favor, or are you giving back to the community?

2. Define your services.

When a client knows up front that there are fees but that you are providing them pro bono, it is less likely for misunderstandings to happen.

Use the term “pro bono” as opposed to “volunteer.” Volunteers donate their time and are not necessarily trained professionals in a specific field, while pro bono work, short for pro bono publico, is when a professional provides their skills as a public service, typically to people who cannot afford their services.

There are many fields where it is common for professionals to engage in pro bono work, most notably lawyers, but also professionals in medicine, technology, architecture, marketing, and strategy consulting firms.  Sometimes a comparison between lawyers doing pro bono work and interpreters doing pro bono work helps clients understand the concept.

3. Determine and share the value.

Determine what you would normally charge for the services you provide and share that information with your client.

Fill out an invoice to show the amount it would have cost and then put $0.00 as the total due to show the true value.

Optionally, you could charge for your services and then donate that amount back to the organization. (However, if you choose this method, communicate that when establishing the relationship and defining your services).

Sharing the value will help the client to respect you as a professional, understand the value of the services you provide, and appreciate the pro bono work you provide.

If you have your own tips about taking Pro Bono work, we'd love to hear them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

Happy Thanksgiving!

General Interest   |  Wednesday, November 26, 2014

By Jillian Winn

We hope that you have a very happy Thanksgiving! 

Did you notice the theme of our Signs of the Day for the past week?  Leading up to Thanksgiving, all of our Signs of the Day have been Thanksgiving related: 

We also have a Thanksgiving Coloring Page from our partners at WonderGrove Learn Animated Lessons with Sign Language that you can print out and color.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Coloring Page


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