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

Sign of the Day - COOK
(as in verb, to cook)

All Articles

Living Loud: Heather Whitestone - First Deaf Miss America

Living Loud: Heather Whitestone - First Deaf Miss America

General Interest   |  Tuesday, September 16, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous deaf people and their impact in the world.

Heather Whitestone was the first deaf Miss America and the first Miss America with a disability. She competed for the Miss Alabama title three times before winning it, which finally sent her to the Miss America competition. She won Miss America in 1995 in Atlantic City.


Heather was born hearing in 1973. When she was 10 months old, she got sick with a high fever, which left her deaf.

Did you know?

Fevers burn off the hair receptors in the inner ear (cochlear); without those receptors, sound isn’t recognized or processed by the ear.

Communication and Education

Heather started out at her local school, using speech and hearing aids, but by 4th grade, she wanted to meet other deaf kids. She attended the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, which focuses on developing speech and speechreading skills as the primary form of communication. She went back to her local school for high school.

Did you know?

Deaf students can go to schools that teach different methods for communication, including sign language, lip reading, speech, and fingerspelling. Some schools use a mix of methods, some primarily focus on just one. Deaf students can attend the local public school, some go to day schools that have programs specifically designed for deaf students, and there are residential (boarding) schools where deaf students live during the school year and go home during breaks and vacations.  Read more about Educational Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Learning the Ropes

Heather's first experience participating in the Shelby County Junior Miss program (now called the Distinguished Young Women program) gave her confidence to begin entering pageants. She started competing in pageants, including Miss St. Clair, Miss Jacksonville State University, and Miss Alabama. She won Miss Cullman Area in 1994, which sent her on to the Miss Alabama competition and she was also crowned Miss Alabama in 1994. Each pageant helped her to figure out how to communicate with judges and make an impression.

There she is, Miss America!

Heather Whitestone crowned Miss America in 1995
Heather Whitestone signing "I Love You" in ASL after she was crowned Miss America in 1995. (Photo Credit: Tom Costello, AP Photo)

Heather said, “The first time I stood on the stage in Atlantic City and looked out over the empty convention about a year before I won the Miss America title, I was amazed not at its size, but at the fact that I was there. The journey to the Miss America Pageant did not begin four years ago when I first competed in a local pageant. It began when I was eighteen months old, when I lost my hearing.” She explained that when her mother was told she was deaf, she was also told that a normal life would be impossible for her because of her deafness. However, her mom had faith and was determined for Heather to have the life she wanted. Heather said she was molded by parents, teachers and speech therapists. When her mom struggled to explain the concepts of rhythm and pronunciation, she enrolled Heather into a ballet class in hopes she could better understand rhythm. She soon developed a love for ballet and danced all the way to the Miss America competition.

The Miss America pageant rules do not allow contestants to have any help (like coaches or interpreters) while competing. For her talent, she did a classical ballet en point to Sandi Patti’s “Via Delarosa.” She had spent two years preparing it, counting the beats with her hands on the stereo speakers. Once the music started, she did every move according to the memorized count in her head.

Watch Heather’s dance:

During her year as Miss America, Heather introduced her five-point STARS program: “Success Through Action and Realization of your Dreams.” She traveled to every corner of the country speaking to corporations, non-profit organizations, churches and government, including the FBI and CIA.

Heather Whitestone
Heather Whitestone, after becoming Miss America, in 2012. (Photo Credit: Heather Whitestone [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

In the Spotlight Once More

In 2002, Heather elected to get a cochlear implant for her right ear. She had depended on some residual hearing in her left ear in conjunction with the implant, but lost that. In 2006, she got a second implant for her left ear. Her decision to have the implants was big news, and she was featured on several news programs.

She said she decided to get a cochlear implant because she wanted to hear her family’s voices, make further strides in achieving her goals, and experience the hearing world.

After the Crown

Heather has traveled nationally and internationally as a motivational speaker and has been a spokesperson for the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation, the Cochlear Implant Company, and the Helen Keller Foundation.

Heather is an author of four books - Listening with My Heart, Believing the Promise, Let God Surprise You, and Heavenly Crowns

She has volunteered her time for Republicans causes and spoke at the Republican National Convention for both Senator Bob Dole and George W. Bush.

She met her husband, John, in Washington, D.C. during her year of service as Miss America when he was working as a Legislative Aide to Speaker Newt Gingrich at the Capitol. They now live in St. Simons Island, Georgia and are raising four sons.

Related Books (by Heather Whitestone)

Listening with My Heart

Believing the Promise

Let God Surprise You

Heavenly Crowns



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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Remind students to “Ask the Teacher for Help” with our two minute WonderGrove animated Lesson

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, September 9, 2014

By Jillian Winn

Help students get back into the swing of the school year by showing them our 12 special "Back to School" instructional WonderGrove animations featuring sign language. The "Ask the Teacher for Help" animation is great to encourage students to ask for help when they are confused.

Watch the “Ask the Teacher for Help” instructional animation:

Watch Ask the Teacher for Help

Accompanying the animation, there are extention lessons for Pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade, all which have been crafted by educators and align to the common core standards.  Download the extension lessons and use them at home or in class for easy activities that reinforce the lesson.  

In addition to talking about the lesson in the animation, it’s a great idea to talk about the signs used with your students.  The signs featured in “Ask the Teacher for Help” are: 

You can also use our pre-made Signing Savvy Ask the Teacher for Help word list to go through the signs in the same order that they are shown in the animation.

Get free access to all of the "Back to School" WonderGrove instructional animations featuring sign language while you still can!  We are offering 30-day free trial promotion, but you have to sign up by September 12, 2014.  Register for the free WonderGrove trial and find out more.


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Prepare Your 10-Second Interpreter Elevator Pitch

Prepare Your 10-Second Interpreter Elevator Pitch

Interpreter Tips   |  Thursday, September 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.

Interpreters often have just seconds to explain what we do to professional people who don’t really care. Say you just entered the elevator with the doctor of the deaf patient on the way up to the appointment.  What would you say? What’s your “elevator pitch?”

Try it out. Time yourself. Can you get it out in 10 seconds?

Here are some examples:

  • Hello, I am a certified Sign Language interpreter and I’m here to assist in communication between the hospital staff and the deaf patient. I look forward to working with you.
  • Hello, I am (your full name), a certified American Sign Language Interpreter. My job is to facilitate communication between you and the deaf patient.
  • Hello, I’m (your full name), I’m a certified Sign Language interpreter.  You can think of my role in facilitating conversations similar to a phone line. Anything I hear will be signed to the patient and anything they sign will be voiced to you.
  • Hello, I’m (your full name), I’m an interpreter. Anything you say to the client I will interpret into Sign Language. Go ahead and look directly at the client and I will make sure the message is conveyed.

You will want to tweak your elevator pitch for different audiences – always think about who you’re talking to and how you will be helping them so you can describe what you do in terms they will understand and in a way that relates to them.

Do you have your 10-second interpreter elevator pitch down pat?  We'd love to hear it!  Share it 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

Start the School Year off Right with "Back to School" Animated Lessons!

Site News   |  Sunday, August 24, 2014

By Jillian Winn

Getting back into the routine of a new school year can be a challenge, but we’ve created 12 special “Back to School” instructional animations featuring sign language to help students make a smooth transition into the new school year. Crafted by educators, the “Back to School” lessons are designed for Pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade and include common core extension lessons, active learning tools, and practice exercises to provide a comprehensive tool to teach 12 vital school behaviors during the first 4 weeks of school.

We are so confident that you will be successful with these “Back to School” instructional animations that we are offering a free trial for 30 days! (offer expires September 12, 2014) Register for the free "Back to School" program today.

Learn about the "Back to School" program:

The 12 “Back to School” lessons include:

  • Pay Attention When the Teacher is Teaching
  • Keep Your Hands to Yourself
  • Raise Your Hand and Wait to Be Called On
  • Know Which School Supplies to Take Home
  • Line Up Quietly
  • Always Tell the Truth
  • Respect Other People's Stuff
  • Know How to Handle Bullying
  • Be Quiet When Walking in the Halls
  • Respect Others On the Playground
  • Use Polite Words
  • Ask the Teacher for Help

Research shows:

  • Teaching and reinforcing appropriate proper behavior in children during the first weeks of school encourages better behavior throughout the entire school year.  
  • Children form emotional relationships with animated characters and children’s feelings about characters improve their learning.
  • American Sign Language (ASL) is the language created and used by the Deaf in the United States, Canada, parts of Mexico, and some other parts of the world.
  • Signs help everyone! Signs help children and adults understand and remember the concepts represented by words. Signs make learning a new word or concept easier.

Start your school year off right with the WonderGrove Learn "Back to School" animated lessons featuring sign language by Signing Savvy! The animations are a fun way for children to learn and practice sign language vocabulary, while specifically designed to fit well with an Early Childhood Curriculum - they are perfect for daily use in the home or classroom.


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Signing Savvy Announces New Sign Language Advisory Board Members

Site News   |  Tuesday, August 19, 2014

By Jillian Winn

We’re happy to announce the addition of two new members to our Sign Language Advisory Board.

The growing Sign Language Advisory Board is made up of thought leaders who have a deep subject manner expertise in sign language and are leaders in their respective fields. Our goal is to have a diverse advisory board with various backgrounds and experience to provide a wide range of advice and expertise. Our new advisory board members include:

Donalda Ammons

Donalda Ammons

Donalda Ammons, born to all deaf family and raised in Washington D.C., is Professor Emerita at Gallaudet University. She has a doctorate in higher education/foreign language education and taught for 31 years at Gallaudet. She continues to contribute as an author of numerous articles on Deaf culture and sports, published in various professional journals and books. Dr. Ammons has traveled to present papers and conduct workshops relating to human rights for deaf people, deaf sports, and political and educational leadership. Learn more about Donalda...

Diane Morton

Diane Morton

Diane Dyer Morton, hearing of Deaf parents, has been using American Sign Language on a daily basis for over 50 years in various settings within the Deaf community.  She was a School Psychologist and Administrator at the California School for the Deaf, Fremont, and later a full professor in the Counseling Department at Gallaudet University. Certified by RID in 1980, she has also served as an interpreter in local, national and international settings. Learn more about Diane...

Together with these thought leaders we will continue improving Signing Savvy.  Watch for future blog articles from our advisory board members and for upcoming announcements from us on improvements being made to Signing Savvy based on feedback from them. As always, we welcome suggestions and feedback from you, our members and users.


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