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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Short Film from CNN Highlights a Deaf All-American Family

Deaf Culture   |  Monday, November 23, 2015

By Jillian Winn

With Thanksgiving this week, this short film from CNN does a nice job of highlighting what many of us are most thankful for - family. The short film, called “All-American Family” shares the story of the Pedersen family, a deaf family with deaf parents, two deaf sons, and one hearing son. It gives a glimpse into Deaf culture and what living in a Deaf family and Deaf community is like. If you’re a football fan, you will also like seeing the boys’ passion for football. If you have 15 minutes, watch this short film.

Watch the short film All-American Family on CNN

Link to video: Watch the video on CNN's website.


Unfortunately, the film does not currently include captions. We’ve typed up a transcript for you below:

Captions for CNN’s short film “All-American Family”

0:12 - 0:22 [Cheering]

0:27 - 0:56 Singing: And the rockets red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there
oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

1:06 [Cheering]

1:08 That’s a tails and that’s a heads. What’s your call?
The call is tails.
Ok. It is a tails.
You won the toss.
You want to differ.
So they want the ball?
They want the ball.
Ok, they want the ball.

1:24 [Cheering]

4:36 I don’t think I’ve ever wished that they could hear.
I think more, I’d wish that I could be deaf.
It’s like I feel like the odd one out.
I just didn’t get why I wasn’t like them.
It’s all they’ve ever known,
and they’re such like a community here.
And they like, they have a lot of pride.


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Cooking Up Language with Signs: Frozen Fruit Popsicles Recipe

Cooking Up Language with Signs: Frozen Fruit Popsicles Recipe

Teaching Tips   |  Wednesday, November 18, 2015

By John Miller

This article is part of our “Cooking Up Language With Signs” series, which features a recipe and accompanying sign language wordlist to get you started on an interactive cooking activity that is great for spicing up language learning at home or in the classroom.

Why is cooking a good language learning activity?

Children find creating things with their own two hands very motivating. They get excited to see how they can be directly involved in the whole process. There is so much that can be taught through cooking activities in your classroom or home - from the choosing of the recipe, the shopping for the products at the grocery store (or a pretend grocery store), the prepping of the food, the actual cooking/baking, the sharing of the creation with others, and the debriefing (talking about what and how they made something).

You don’t have to make anything fancy or complex. In fact, using very simple recipes allows the focus of your cooking activity to be on language learning - sequencing and following directions, learning new vocabulary, describing and recalling information, and asking questions. Cooking activities are great one-on-one or as a group activity where everyone takes turns.

"Cooking Up Language with Signs” activities provides teachers and parents with amazing language opportunities through teachable moments. Teachable moments are everyday moments that happen throughout the day that open up prime opportunities for you to teach your students/children valuable language lessons. Hearing people learn so much through incidental learning (just overhearing conversations or discussions), but deaf children don’t have these opportunities because of the lack of hearing so we need to use teachable moments to directly teach these types of things.

What’s cookin’?

Today I’m cooking up Frozen Fruit Popsicles. These are so healthy AND tasty, kids will LOVE them! The recipe is simple to make and very easy to adjust to your personal preference and allergy/diet needs - just choose any fruit you like, add coconut water, and freeze. Viola! SO sweet, yet SO healthy!

If you want to make these for a baby or young children, but are concerned about the chunks of fruit in the popsicles, you can use the same recipe, but just toss the fruit and coconut water mixture in a blender to create a puree before freezing. You can use mini popsicle molds to make small popsicles that are great for snacks or desserts for little kids or relief for teething babies.

Cooking Up Language With Signs Recipe: Frozen Fruit Popsicles

Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.

Teachable Moments

Using Sign Language

Sign throughout the cooking activity. Sign the steps and pick up and sign the ingredients and tools. Because the recipe allows you to pick your fruit, the signs you will use will vary.  See the Frozen Fruit Popsicles Recipe Wordlist for the list of signs highlighted from this recipe. Use the wordlist to review the signs and steps of the recipe. You can also use the wordlist to print out the signs as a reference, or have your computer up with the wordlist while you are cooking. After the cooking activity, you can also have the children use the digital flash cards or quizzing option to review the signs from the wordlist. Additionally, you can create your own wordlist if you want to customize the signs for the recipe based on the types of fruit you choose to use.

Health Benefits

Why make your own popsicles? Talk about how regular store bought popsicles have added artificial flavors, coloring, and excess sugar and discuss what that means. Here are a few talking points:

  • Many store bought popsicles have little or no nutritional value because they contain artificial flavoring instead of real fruit. Making popsicles using real fruit is better because fruit contains essential vitamins and minerals that are good for you.
  • Many store bought popsicles have lots of added sugar in them to make them extra sweet. Excess sugar isn’t good for you and also increases the amount of calories in the popsicles.
  • Sugar-free store bought popsicles are often sweetened with artificial sweetener instead of fruit juice.
  • Many store bought popsicles have artificial dye in them to make them bright, bold colors. Artificial dyes can be unhealthy and may also stain your teeth (or clothing).
  • Many store bought popsicles contain many ingredients that you may not even recognize - Sorbitol, Maltodextrin, Glycerin, Polydextrose, Sucralose, “gums” like Carob Bean Gum and Guar Gum - what are all these things? By making your own popsicles, you can make your favorite flavor and you know exactly what’s in it.

Making your own popsicles is a healthy treat. Fruits contain healthy vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Talk about the health benefits of the fruits you choose to include in your popsicles. Here is an infographic on the health benefits of common fruits to use as a reference.


Enjoy making these healthy and tasty frozen fruit popsicles!

Frozen Fruit Popsicles




  1. Choose any type of fruit you like and prepare it by washing, peeling, or cutting it into bitable chunks, as needed.
  2. Add the prepared fruit of your choice to a bowl.
  3. Add the coconut water.
  4. Using a ladle, scoop out some fruit and coconut water from the bowl and place in popsicle trays. Freeze overnight for best results.

Quicklink to the wordlist: Frozen Fruit Popsicles Recipe Wordlist

Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!


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Interview with Switched at Birth Creator Lizzy Weiss

Interview with Switched at Birth Creator Lizzy Weiss

General Interest   |  Friday, October 16, 2015

By Jillian Winn

We are so excited to interview Lizzy Weiss, the creator of Switched at Birth!

About Switched at Birth

The TV show Switched at Birth is the first mainstream television series to have multiple deaf and hard-of-hearing actors, as well as scenes shot entirely in American Sign Language (ASL). The ninth episode of the second season entitled "Uprising" made television history by becoming the first episode of a national mainstream television series to be told almost entirely in American Sign Language.

Switched at Birth tells the story of two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as newborns in the hospital. Bay Kennish grew up in a wealthy family with two parents and a brother. Meanwhile, Daphne Vasquez, who contracted meningitis and became deaf at an early age, grew up with a single mother in a working-class neighborhood. Things come to a dramatic head when the families discover that the girls were switched at birth.

Interview with Lizzy Weiss, the Creator of Switched at Birth

Lizzy WeissSigning Savvy users love Switched at Birth and have submitted several questions to ask Lizzy Weiss, the creator of Switched at Birth. A big thank you to Lizzy for answering the fan questions and thank you to everyone that submitted questions - Jackie B., Courtney B., Denise B., Katie C., Tracy Anne H., Ray K., Chloe L., Sarah P., Julie S., and Lili Lan V.

What was your motivation for creating the show?

I’m a writer so I’m always looking for great stories and when I heard about two middle-aged women who discovered that they had been switched at birth, I knew that making them teenagers would make a really interesting examination of nature vs. nurture. The decision to make one of the girls deaf came later, so it wasn’t the primary inspiration for the show; it was more of an extra complication to the main hook.

Did you have ties to the Deaf community prior to creating the show?

I took a class in college called Theater of the Deaf in which we had to perform monologues, songs, and poems in sign language. When I decided to make one of the girls different in some way to create more conflict with her birth family, I instantly knew that I wanted her to be deaf. (Take unusual classes in college even if they don’t fulfill requirements! They’ll pay off in ways you can’t anticipate later!)

What sort of background research did you do in creating the show?

I saw documentaries on deaf history and the cochlear implant debate; I read memoirs and lurked on deaf blogs and forums; and most importantly, I visited Marlton School for the Deaf in Los Angeles and interviewed multiple classes of students about their lives.

How was Katie Leclerc selected for the role of Daphne? How did she feel about acting with a deaf accent and is it difficult for her?

We had an open call for the part of Daphne so that we could be more inclusive and provide an opportunity to someone who wasn’t in the system (i.e. not just people with agents). People drove for hours to audition and spoke to me about the script and how much it meant to them to have a deaf protagonist; it was very moving. Katie nailed the audition in every way: in her acting, being fluent in ASL, plus the extra little magic of having the same coloring as Lea Thompson, who we knew we wanted to cast as the part of her biological mother.

But Katie is hard of hearing (from Meniere’s Disease) and I knew that I wanted Daphne to be more deaf than Katie in order to provide more anxiety and conflict with her bio family. We asked her if she would be comfortable coming back and auditioning again with a deaf accent and she said she felt very comfortable since she has been around deaf people her whole life. She worked with her sister (who is deaf) to map out which syllables would be difficult for her; I think by now, 93 episodes in, it’s pretty much second nature.

In the show, Regina stopped signing to Daphne because of an injury. Was there a behind-the-scenes reason she stopped?

Sadly, there was. It was a true heartbreak for all of us that Constance had to stop signing. All of the other actors got to learn gradually because their characters learned slowly over time. But Regina was supposed to be fluent when we met her, so she had to do a crash course in ASL. Everyone’s hands are different and for some reason, the repetitive motion of so much practicing gave her carpal tunnel syndrome (especially after an eight-hour day of shooting a key scene in episode 8, ‘Pandora’s Box,’ in Season 1 in which Regina reveals a huge secret). In any case, her doctors required her to stop signing altogether. Luckily, at the same time, so many of the other characters started signing that it didn’t affect the texture of the show, and the amount of ASL that I wanted.

How long did it take the hearing actors to learn sign language?

We have an ASL master (Jack Jason, who is also Marlee Matlin’s long-time interpreter) who teaches all of the actors their signs for their lines weekly. He is available for tutoring; he makes videos for them; and he is on set for every sign language scene to correct or guide them. Sometimes I consult with him as well when new characters are learning ASL and we talk about what level we want them to be at, or what sign to use in a certain scene, or when they should fingerspell, things like that.

Does anyone use Signing Savvy associated with the show?

I don’t think so but I tell everyone about it! I love the sign of the day. Every morning, my kids (ages 5 and 7) and I check it at breakfast and we learn it together! And I teach my daughter’s kindergarten class a new song every week. This week we are going to do animals and if a kid asks me an animal I don’t know, I’ll just look it up in the dictionary!

What's your favorite sign?

Penguin! Pirate. Love. Octopus. Submarine. Turtle. Rainbow. Friend. Always and forever. So many!

Switched at Birth is actually what inspired me to learn ASL! Is there an interpreter on set at all times for crew members who may not know ASL but need to interact with the Deaf actors? 

Every deaf actor has their own interpreter at all times on set, so when the director needs to block a scene or the assistant director needs them in make-up or I need to give a note, we use the interpreters. I’m trying to use my sign language these days but sometimes we have to be fast so I use a mixture of my signs and the interpreter.

Has the show gotten a lot of positive feedback about its use with Deaf actors and ASL?

Yes! It has been delightful hearing how many people say they were inspired to learn sign language - or even become interpreters - from the show. I love when people tweet that they felt more comfortable talking to a deaf patient or a deaf customer because of the show, that is fantastic.

I want Switched at Birth to last forever! Do you think you will continue to work with Deaf story lines after Switched at Birth concludes?

Absolutely. Sign language is totally part of my life now, both professionally and personally. I’m pushing my family to learn it so we can have a secret (kind of) language!

How to Watch

New episodes of Switched at Birth are on Mondays at 8/7 central on ABC Family. Find out more about Switched at Birth or watch episodes online at ABC Family. Older episodes are also available on Netflix.

Again, a big thank you to Lizzy for answering the questions from Signing Savvy fans!


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5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency

5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency

Learning Tips   |  Monday, October 5, 2015

By John Miller

Deaf adults who grew up in hearing families often talk about their lives as young children being a blur because they never knew what was happening or why. Being herded around and gestured to without proper communication are commonly reported.

You may have heard the old saying, "chaos breads discontent." It’s true. Children thrive on a routine and consistency in their lives.  For many young children, the beginning of their school career is the first time they are exposed to a schedule and have to follow a routine. The transition may be difficult in the beginning, but before long most children have settled into this new way of life and feel comfortable because the routine helps them to know what to expect.

The same thing holds true for deaf children, maybe even more so. Many deaf children are born into families where communication is a struggle and if the household lacks routine, the child may have more difficulties understanding what’s going on. This is where routines and consistency will be helpful for them. Routines and consistency also help with reinforcing language and vocabulary learning, as well as concept development.

Here are 5 tips to help with creating a language rich environment through routine and consistency:

1. Eat at the dinner table with the family as often as possible.

Set a realistic goal of eating dinner together as often as you can. While at the dinner table, take advantage of the "captive audience" by asking questions and getting them talking/signing.

2. Read at least one book a night to your child.

Read at least one book a night even if in the beginning it only consists of looking through the book and doing signs here and there for the various pictures. You can create wordlists on Signing Savvy to go along with the books to help you and your child learn the signs from the book. Your child’s teacher can help with this also.

Also see our article on Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

3. Communicate daily with your child’s teacher.

If your child is in school (or daycare), ask the teacher for topics discussed and activities conducted each day so that you can review them with your child before bed. This is great example of an activity to help expand you and your child's vocabulary.  Signing Savvy's ability to look up signs and create shared word lists, especially if done in collaboration with the teacher, can assist with this routine.

4. Create a schedule with signs. 

Creating a schedule helps to give your deaf child a clear idea of what will be happening throughout their day. When creating the schedule, include  pictures, words, and signs (you can print signs from Signing Savvy).

Create a schedule for a consistent routine

Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.

5. Have your child write about their day.

Have your child keep a special notebook or journal where they write about their day. "Writing" in the journal can consist of pictures, words, signs, and/or shadow writing through parents as helpers. This is a great way to create memories, brainstorm things to talk about, and go back to read what they wrote so they can reflect on their week. The journal can also be shown and shared with others. 

To get started, any notebook will do, but if you are looking for a journal with questions and prompts to help get your child writing and doodling, here are some you could try.

Starter Journals for Younger Children (4 - 8 years old):

My Book About Me

Draw & Write Children's Journal

Doodle Books for tweens and teens (8 - 16 years old):

Doodle Diary: Art Journaling for Girls

Doodle Sketchbook: Art Journaling for Boys

The key with any of these suggestions is to be consistent. Consistent, predictable routines with language can help make their world a "clearer" one.

Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!


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What to Pack in Your Interpreter Bag

What to Pack in Your Interpreter Bag

Interpreter Tips   |  Wednesday, September 23, 2015

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - 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.

Freelance interpreters may find themselves going from a college class in Physics to a hospital emergency room to a theatrical performance all in one day and even when we think we are prepared, "things happen."

The instructor decides to show a non-captioned film and turns out all the lights. The ever-prepared interpreter pulls out their handy dandy flashlight.

The warden at the prison goes above and beyond to ensure your safety behind his walls and you want to leave him a quick thank you note. Pull out your stationary and envelope and write away.

You're at an all day hospital assignment with a deaf patient waiting for the doctor to come in to discuss test results. The nursing staff has no idea when that will be, "sometime soon," they keep saying. The patient is sleeping, so you pull out your phone to check messages. Unfortunately your battery is deader than a door nail. You look around the room and it seems like every outlet in the room is already being used. Tech savvy interpreter that you are, you pull out your wall adapter and viola! You are now able to share an outlet and touch base with your agency.

You stop for lunch after what you think is your last assignment for the day and have the most delicious veggie sandwich (heavy on the onions) when you get a call from an interpreter referral agency asking you if you have time this afternoon for one more job.‎ "Sure" you say, as you pull out your toothbrush, toothpaste and extra strength mouthwash.

You have an umbrella in your interpreter bag so you are prepared for the rain but the walk to the actual assignment is much further than you anticipated. By the time you arrive, your shoes are soaked and squeaking, but lucky you - you happen to have a dry pair of socks in your bag. What a difference dry socks can make. (Also see our related article on Interpreter Q & A: Is It Better to Be Late or Wet?)

Don’t let surprises ruin your day, pack these items in your interpreter bag so you can be prepared for whatever life brings your way:

Plan for the unexpected.

Be fresh.


Stay heathy.

Be prepared.

Look professional.

Don’t forget to bring the essentials:

  • phone (in addition to being your way to communicate via call/text/email/video, your phone is your calendar, contacts, and entertainment)
  • phone charger
  • ID
  • business card
  • money / credit card

TIP: Items that come in "kits," such as an office supply kit, sewing kit, fresh breath kit, nail kit, and/or first aid kit, are great because they are self-contained - making it easier to stay organized and find things in your bag.

See our Buying Guide: What to Pack in Your Interpreter Bag for tips on where to buy items for your interpreter bag.

What to pack in your interpreter bag

Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.

Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!


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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.

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