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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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Using Signing Savvy to learn sign language

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, August 12, 2012

By Jillian Winn

Signing Savvy is a great resource to use when learning sign language – whether you are taking a class or just trying to learn on your own. 

Using Signing Savvy while taking a class

When you are taking a class, you can use Signing Savvy as a sign reference, build your own wordlists related to what you are learning in the class, and practice your vocabulary using the flash cards and quizzing features.  Like using a textbook, Signing Savvy is a great companion to classroom learning.  At about the same cost of a textbook, our site currently features more than five thousand signs – that’s about three times the number of signs in most sign language books.  But Signing Savvy isn’t a textbook and is so much more than just a sign language dictionary, the site is always changing… we’re always adding more signs, content, and features.  It’s really the features of the website, not just the vocabulary, that help people practice and learn sign language.

Teachers that use Signing Savvy will often create wordlists for each lesson plan or for the week’s vocabulary and then share those wordlists with their students so that they can use the Signing Savvy wordlists they have created to practice and test themselves with flash cards and quizzing.  Teachers with younger students will often share the wordlists they’ve created with their student’s parents as well, so the parents can know what is being taught and try to learn the sign language vocabulary along with their child and help them practice it at home.  Students and/or parents can also try to incorporate the signs from the current lesson’s wordlist into their activities and discussion for the week.  Utilizing Signing Savvy’s wordlists, flash cards, and quizzing features is a great way to practice vocabulary and extend lessons from the classroom into the home.

Using Signing Savvy on your own

Signing Savvy users include people from all backgrounds and people interested in sign language for all types of reasons – from parents, friends, family, and neighbors of someone that uses sign language to communicate to students interested in learning a new language, those that have or are beginning to experience hearing loss, those that are deaf and hard of hearing, parents teaching their baby and young children sign language, people who sign songs and sign in church, teachers, interpreters, and more.

The way that most people use Signing Savvy to learn sign language is by creating wordlists and viewing wordlists created by others and then using the flash card and quizzing features to practice and test themselves.  Full membership lets you have unlimited access to all of the Signing Savvy features including wordlists, flash cards, quizzing and more.

Whether you are new to sign language or a seasoned veteran, a few ways to use Signing Savvy include:

  • Start with the pre-built wordlists that we have (you can see some of our pre-built wordlists at the top of every page next to the search box, where it says "browse signs by...").  Test yourself on each of the wordlists using the flash card or quizzing features.  Sign Language books are often organized into chapters by topics, such as numbers, colors, and animals.  Using the Signing Savvy pre-built wordlists is similar to studying the vocabulary in a chapter of a sign language textbook.
  • Create a word list of words you want to start learning.  There may be a specific topic that you’re interested in learning vocabulary for or there may be certain words that you find you would like to be able to sign regularly.  Signing Savvy gives you the flexibility to create your own custom wordlist.  After you have built your wordlist(s), use the flash card or quizzing feature to test yourself on those words.
  • View wordlists already created by other people and test your self on those words using the flash card or quizzing feature.  You can view all wordlists that other Signing Savvy members have created and made public by clicking on the "Shared Lists" button, which is just under the "browser signs by..." box.  There are thousand of wordlists that you can browse and search.  For example, if you want to learn signs related to behavior, just type “behavior” in the search box on the shared wordlist page and click “Search for list”.  It results with several lists from you to choose from, including wordlists about behavior and manners (that is just one example).  Once you’ve found a wordlist that you would like to use, you can bookmark it so you can easily find it again and use the flash cards or quizzing features with the list.
  • Additionally, any sign or list of signs can be printed if you want to print signs, create a hardcopy of flash cards, or paste printed signs into story books or art projects.



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Kaos Signing Choir and Deaf Percussionist Evelyn Glennie are highlights from the Olympic Opening Ceremony

General Interest   |  Sunday, July 29, 2012

By Jillian Winn

What was our favorite part of the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games? It had to be the Kaos Signing Choir for deaf and hearing children and Deaf Percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children

Kaos Signing Choir at the Olympic Opening Ceremony

If you saw the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games, you probably caught the children in pajamas singing and signing the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen."  The children were from the Kaos Signing Choir for deaf and hearing children - the only integrated deaf and hearing children's choir in Britain.  The choir includes 200 children from 4 to 18 years old, both deaf and hearing children who sing and sign together.  The children's choir, from North London, signs in British Sign Language (BSL).  Note: British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL) are different forms of sign language and use different signs.

Deaf Percussionist Evelyn Glennie

Deaf Percussionist Evelyn Glennie at the Olympic Opening Ceremony

What you may not have realized watching the opening ceremony was that the lead percussionist has been profoundly deaf since the age of 11.  Award-winning Dame Evelyn Glennie, arguably one of the best percussionists in the world, was born in Scotland and plays internationally.  She owns over 1800 percussion instruments from all over the world and also plays the Great Highland Bagpipe.

Glennie believes that "Deafness is poorly understood in general. For instance, there is a common misconception that deaf people live in a world of silence." She says, "Deafness does not mean that you can't hear, only that there is something wrong with the ears." She explains that hearing is a specialized form of touch that includes hearing sounds, feeling vibrations, and seeing items move and vibrate. She uses parts of her body, other than her ears, to hear. She detects vibrations and has learned to distinguish notes by where on the body she feels the sound and how thick the air feels - low sounds she feels mainly in her legs and feet, while she feels high sounds on her face, neck and chest. She also observes how items move to detect sound. She often plays barefoot in order to feel the music better.

To hear music by the talented Evelyn Glennie, you can find her CDs on Amazon, such as Her Greatest Hits.

To learn more about Evelyn Glennie, watch the documentary about her: Touch the Sound - A Sound Journey With Evelyn Glennie.

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Kim's Story: A mother's perspective of raising a deaf child

General Interest   |  Tuesday, June 12, 2012

By Kim Martinez

This article is by guest blogger Kim Martinez. We often hear from parents of young, newly identified deaf children with questions about their child's future and communication concerns. Because of that, we thought a guest blogger that can tell their story, from a mother's perspective, would be a great addition to the Signing Savvy blog. This is "Kim's Story"...

My Daughters

HI! My name is Kim Martinez, and I am proud to say, I am a mother of a deaf child.  She is now 26, and I would not change the way she is. I know most mothers say this, but this is so true for me. When God gives you something special like this, you do one thing…..PUNT!! 

I am not going to say this has been easy, it has been really hard actually, but because of the gift of a deaf child, it shaped her sister, my husband, myself, and most of all, OUR FAMILY!

We found out Lizzy was deaf when she was 18 months old. I have to admit, I felt guilty for not recognizing it earlier. God knows it was overwhelming, to say the least, to hear that our daughter was not "perfect."  What’s perfect anyway???? 

I would say she was pretty darn perfect.  As for overwhelming, let’s just say I went through a whirlwind of emotions. Sad, happy, shocked, concerned, worried, but I really had to go through all of those emotions, to be the mom that I became, because of her. I literally sat on the kitchen floor and cried for 3 days while the world went on around me. Thank the Lord my husband was there.  I think I just needed to “process” what “our” future would be like. 

The next question was, “what do we do now?”  In 1986, there was no Internet, very little information, like there is now, so, MOM and Dad’s, thank your lucky stars, and jump on that Internet!  If I had the information then, that there is now, it would have been easier, to say the least.  But what does not kill us makes us stronger! 

I was very fortunate to have a Center Based Total Communication School near us.  I did hear about a School for the Deaf, but after some calling around, there is NO WAY, I could leave my child in a dorm, and see her on the weekend.  Not my cup of tea! It may be good for others, but not us.  And that’s ok, different strokes for different folks.

School was FUN!!  She was a sponge and I have to say, she made it EASY!  So receptive to sign, and loved communication. As soon as she was given a language, she TOOK OFF!  She made us love the language. Sign Language was “our language” in our home. 

My daughter came home with SO many new signs. I thought we had given her a "base," but wow, there was so much out there that we still had to learn, and putting her in a deaf and hard of hearing program was the way to go.  She taught us more than we taught her.  Matter of fact, I am still learning. She would come home from college, and teach me a “slew” of new vocabulary.  Still to this day, when she comes home for a visit, I am still learning.  Keep your eyes open to the deaf world, they can teach us so much and we will never stop learning. It’s their language, "listen to them." No pun indented!

Elementary school was pretty smooth sailing, even though I am pretty sure that I drove the teachers crazy. Communication books were my saving grace.

We were able to "keep in touch" between the happenings of our household and the school.  I guess I didn’t take into consideration that the teacher was trying to teach my child, and they didn’t have time to write me a "journal" like I did to them.  Communication is the key!!  Remember that.

Middle school was very trying, to say the least.  It doesn’t matter if your child is hearing or deaf, they still have hormones, feelings and MIDDLE SCHOOL DRAMA!  YUCK!!

We had a lot of struggles, a switch of home district schools, socialization issues, and did I mention hormones????  There were a lot of concerns, which I hope my daughter will tell you about later in a personal blog of her own.

I am really proud to share with you "the normalcy" of High School. Lizzy was mainstreamed into all her classes with ALL of her hearing friends. She went into the Deaf Education Classroom for English and minor support.  She maintained an A-B average grade through all of her high school years. She was a pitcher on a varsity softball team for 4 years, played volleyball, and socialized "nonstop."  She had an enormous amount of hearing friends along with her deaf friends. ALL of her hearing friends knew sign.  I feel that was the MOST important part of her education!!  She was "included" in all events, conversations, and "gossip."  All of her friends were considerate of how much she was missing if they didn’t sign to her.  She was very lucky to say the least.  I was lucky!

Lizzy graduated and we were very proud, TIRED, but proud.  I will be completely honest with you. It’s not easy at all!  There were many nights of homework, probably every night. Sitting with her, helping her, and if she didn’t get it one way, we would find another way for her to comprehend it. She was very smart, but with a language deficit sometimes you have to find another way to explain it. Drawing it out, acting it out, standing on your head… whatever it takes.  There were many times that I became frustrated, and she became frustrated with me, so we either had to take a break, or my husband would take over. In the end, she "got it," and that meant a successful child. 

Lizzy attended Gallaudet University for 5 years and graduated with her teaching degree in Education.  Wow, my child is a Teacher!  That is certainly a very proud thing to say!  She always said she wanted to be a teacher because she wanted to give back to deaf students what she received in her schooling. 

You know, in the end, it took a lot of work, a lot of laughs, a lot of tears, but most of all; we treated her like any hearing child. She never used her deafness as an "excuse." She was expected to do and act like her hearing younger sister; there was nothing different about her.  We use to say, "your ears are broke, big deal."

I would not change her for the world, and I could not imagine her any different. I have become who I am today, because of her. I am working in a school district with deaf and cognitive students and love my job. I didn’t wake up and say, "I want a deaf child."  I was given this gift, and I un-wrapped it and shared it with the world. Now I am here to share with you, "my gift."  My overall suggestion, as a mom of a deaf child is, COMMUNICATE.  Learn sign language or whatever mode of communication you use, explain to them everything, never leave them out, foster independence, protect, and most of all LOVE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE!

My Family


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About the Author

Kim Martinez is a wife and mother of two girls. Their family found out that their first born was profoundly deaf at 18 months old. Now both of her girls are very grown up, but Kim continues to be passionate about deaf education. She currently works in the public schools with students that are cognitively impaired and also use some sign language in their education. She loves her job, always learning new sign language from her grown daughter who now lives in Washington D.C. She knows that she is who she is today because of the experience of raising a deaf child.

More about Kim  |  Articles by Kim

A perspective on deaf education: Dr. Joseph Valente's "Hearing the Unheard"

General Interest   |  Monday, May 7, 2012

By Jillian Winn

Our recent blog article on Education Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing covered the various educational options available. We did not specify any one option as being "the best" option because every child, family, and situation is different and education is a very personal decision. However, one of our suggestions was to connect with deaf adults who can provide advice based on their own education experience.

We found a TEDx video by Dr. Joseph Valente that talks about his education experience. With the slogan "Ideas worth spreading," TED is an event where speakers share their thoughts on a variety of topics.  Dr. Valente's talk was at a TEDx event locally run by Penn State University.
Dr. Valente is deaf and touches on his experience being mainstreamed.  He discusses how deaf and hard of hearing students aren't disabled and shouldn't be in special education; they are bilingual and need a bilingual education. He feels deaf schools are great for students because they use both spoken language and signed language.  He also talks about not meeting other deaf or hard of hearing students as a child and feeling alone.  He believes deaf schools are great in socializing students and exposing them to Deaf culture. 
Watch Dr. Joseph Valente's TEDxPSU video "Hearing the Unheard" to hear his story and perspective on deaf education:

NOTE ON CAPTIONS: We wish this video was available with a view of the interpreter, but at least full captions are available.  If you aren't seeing the captions, scroll onto the video, click the "CC" and then select to turn the captions on. 



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Education Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

General Interest   |  Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By John Miller

We have received questions from parents, family and friends of newly identified children with hearing loss asking about what we know about educational options. Let me begin by saying that making educational decisions for you child is a very personal decision and takes a lot of thought and discussion with professionals that have specific knowledge of the services available in your area. There are many different education options to explore. You need to determine what is the best fit for your family.

Educational Options

Early Intervention / Preschool Programs

Early intervention / preschool programs are typically for children from birth to four years old. They aim to develop early language and communication skills, as well as provide support and resources for parents. These programs may be provided by a variety of local organizations, such as public schools, government (health and human services departments), residential schools, and private organizations.

When researching what types of programs are offered in your local area, find out who the programs are intended for and who teaches them. Some programs may be for a more inclusive group of children with a variety of special needs or they may be specifically for children that are deaf or hard of hearing. Teachers may have a degree in special education or have training specifically in deaf education. These distinctions may not reflect on the quality of the program, but are important to understand when evaluating your options.

Residential Schools

A residential school is an institution where students typically go and live full time while attending. These can be private or state schools. All the students in the school are deaf or hard of hearing. They are often educated by deaf teachers or teachers who are trained in deafness. Some residential schools offer day-only options for students that are able to commute from home.


  • Students will be around other deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • Education is tailored to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Schools often incorporate sign language.
  • Most schools offer a variety of extracurricular activities, including sports and clubs, where the students interact with other deaf residential schools.  These activities can help foster a larger Deaf community for the student.
  • Students build relationships and are involved in Deaf culture and community.
  • Often there is access to strong deaf role models.


  • Students are usually away from home and their families for long periods of time.
  • Children can feel isolated from their families.
  • There may be expenses involved in this type of schooling.

You can find a list of Schools and Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the United States on the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center Website.

Oral Day Schools or Sign Day Schools

Oral Day Schools or Sign Day Schools are schools that provide education for deaf or hard of hearing students, but they are day schools and the students return home each day. Oral Day Schools focus more on auditory and oral skills and do not incorporate sign language. Sign Day Schools do use sign language.


  • Students will be around other deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • Education is tailored to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing.
  • There may be additional pros, similar to those of residential schools.


  • The availability and location of these types of schools may eliminate them as an option for families who don’t live near one. They are often located in higher populated areas, like metropolitan cities.
  • There may be expenses involved in this type of schooling.

You can find a list of Oral Deaf Schools in the U.S. on the Oberkotter Foundation Oral Deaf Education Web Site

You can find a list of Schools and Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the United States on the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center Website.

Mainstreaming (Public School)

"Mainstreaming" has a long history of being a controversial topic in deaf and hard of hearing education. Mainstreaming is when a deaf or hard of hearing student attends a local public school with hearing students. The experience can vary greatly depending on the support services the school has to provide and the needs of the student.

The best way to find out what the services are in your local area is to contact the local public school district or regional service district and see what they have to offer. Because deafness is considered a “low incidence disability” by government education code (meaning there isn’t a large number of deaf children in a concentrated area), there is limited funding available and every school district handles it differently.

Having a general understanding of how the educational system is structured can help you understand how to navigate it. Typically a group of individual schools will make up a school district, and in parts of the U.S. there are also intermediate school districts that manage multiple school districts. Because there isn’t always enough funding for individual schools to have their own deaf or hard of hearing program, many times the programs will be controlled at the district or intermediate school district level and students are bused to one central location for education.

Here are some examples of how mainstreaming can vary:

  • Regular Classroom
    The student is in a regular classroom with hearing students and all instruction is from the classroom teacher(s). There are little to no additional support services provided for the deaf or hard of hearing student.
  • Regular Classroom with additional support services
    The student is in a regular classroom with hearing students, however, there is some support in addition to the classroom teacher(s). The support may come from an additional teacher, teacher consultant, teacher of the deaf, speech/language specialist, or interpreter. The support may be provided within the classroom, where the helper would co-teach or work with the deaf or hard of hearing student in conjunction with the main teacher addressing the entire class, or the student may meet with the specialist after class, outside of the classroom.
  • Resource Room
    The student is in a regular classroom with hearing students, however, they leave the classroom for designated periods to receive special instruction. Some students may be with other deaf or hard of hearing individuals during this period, or they may be with other students with special education needs, such as physical or cognitive disabilities – that is an important distinction to be aware of.
  • Self-Contained Classroom
    The student is in a class, separate from the regular classroom, with a teacher for the deaf.


The pros and cons of mainstreaming and the quality of that education vary greatly depending on the environment and type of support provided for the student. Mainstreamed students can feel isolated if they are the only deaf or hard of hearing student and may lack access to deaf role models. One advantage is that mainstreaming allows students to stay at home with their family, opposed to living away for schooling.  With resources being shared across school districts, students are often bused to one central location where they are with a group of deaf and hard of hearing students as well as hearing students, yet they may also have a self contained classroom that they can go to throughout the day for additional support. This allows the deaf and hard of hearing students to participate in any of the school's extracurricular activities, such as sports or clubs.

Homeschool Environment

Homeschooling is when students are educated by parents or tutors outside of the formal setting of a public or private school (like at home).


  • Parents have the opportunity to tailor the education experience specifically for their child.
  • The student doesn’t need to live away from home for schooling.


  • The student may feel isolated from peers.
  • When there is only a single education provider for an extended length of time, there may be less variety in teaching methods and perspectives that a student would receive in a typical school setting where they have a new teacher every year.
  • There may be significant costs associated when a tutor(s) are hired or a parent leaves their job to do homeschool instruction full time.

Making Education Decisions

Again, making education decisions for your child is a very personal decision. Some things to think about:

  • The best thing you can do is research your options and be an advocate for your child’s needs. Every child is different – with different learning styles, different personalities, different strengths, and different levels of hearing loss.
  • Education quality varies from school to school. No matter the type of education you choose to pursue, make sure that you learn what you can about the specific school and talk to other parents with children there if possible.
  • There is not one education option that is best for everyone. Every student and family is different and has different needs.
  • Hearing parents might want to connect with deaf adults who can provide advice on their own education experience.
  • Try to build positive relationships with school administrators and teachers. They may be able to help increase the options and opportunities available with the education system.

Please feel free to share your own experience by leaving a comment.


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