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 - BEAUTIFUL

Blog Articles by: John Miller

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: Recipe.com)

 

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Tips for Rhyming in Sign Language

Tips for Rhyming in Sign Language

Site News   |  Tuesday, September 30, 2014

By John Miller

Every year around this time, I get a message or two from teachers and interpreters of deaf children asking how to best convey the concept of rhymes to their students.  Rhyming is a very common curriculum goal in many, if not all early childhood education programs throughout the United States and Canada.

The problem often with rhyming is that many of the words are made-up and, therefore, they have no sign.  We all know that words that have no sign should be fingerspelled if you follow proper ASL rules.  You can fingerspell these nonsense words, but that isn’t always very interesting for the young deaf child to watch and doesn’t accurately convey the concept of rhyming words.

I stumbled upon this great video of Austin W. Andrews, an ASL storyteller also known as Awti, describing how to rhyme in sign language. He uses the classic nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle” as an example and does an excellent job of explaining how to handle rhyming when signing.

Some of Awti's great rhyming pointers include:

  • Rhyming in English focuses on words that sound the same.  ASL doesn’t use sound, so to use the principle of rhyming in ASL, signs should look the same. 
  • Rhyming is also based on repetition - repeating similar sounds in English to create an audible rhythm.  Do the same thing in ASL by repeating similar signs to create a visual rhythm. Use movement, handshape, location, palm orientation, or other components of signs to create repetition and a visual rhythm. 
  • Stay true to the meaning of the rhyme, but don’t get caught up in delivering a direct translation of each word. To sign, “Hey Diddle Diddle,” Awti signs HI (for “Hey”) and then uses swinging arms for DIDDLE that mimic the movement of FIDDLE in the next line of the rhyme. Swimming arms may not be an ASL sign, but “Diddle” has little meaning in English as well and the point of rhyming is to establish a pattern, rhythm, and repetition (whether audible in English or visual in ASL). 

Watch the short video to see Awti’s rhyming example in action. The video has no audio, but is captioned. If you are a fluent signer, you will not have a problem understanding the signing in the video, and that is actually the best way to watch it.  If you aren’t a fluent signer yet (notice I said YET), then I suggest you watch the video a few times, first reading the captions so that you get the gist of the video and then go back and watch it again, focusing on the sign.

To turn the captions on, click the "CC" button at the bottom of the video.

Resources:

 

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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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5 Ways for Kids to Communicate Easier with Sign Language This Summer

5 Ways for Kids to Communicate Easier with Sign Language This Summer

Learning Tips   |  Monday, June 30, 2014

By John Miller

Summer is HERE!  For most children this means a break from school and fun in the sun with long summer days playing with friends.  Unfortunately, for many deaf and hard of hearing children, these weeks away from school can mean days without good communication. They will still have great summer days of play with friends and picnics with family, but often times communicating at home can be more of a struggle than at school – signing skills may not be as good at home and neighborhood children do their best, but just don’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to be very effective.

These situations happen all too often, leaving deaf children to fill in lots of blanks and they are not always able to get the whole picture.  Luckily, there are some proactive things that you can do to better prepare your deaf child and their friends for communicating this summer. 

Here are 5 ways for kids to communicate easier with sign language this summer:

  • Talk to the neighborhood kids, ask them what they plan to do ahead of time so you can go over rules to games, or describe some of the activities to your child before sending them off to play for the day. 
  • Share some of the quick survival signs with your child’s playmates so that they can do some very basic communication.
  • Introduce signing as something fun and interesting - a “secret” way to communicate in public, something that sets them apart from others in a positive way.
  • Create some standard Signing Savvy word lists and email the links to family and friends so they can easily pick up some new vocabulary and common signs that you use.
  • Encourage your child to play “teacher” and to pick a new sign of of the day everyday to use regularly and teach others. If they are already a good signer, it may be a sign they use often or a sign they really want others to learn to use. If they are still learning to sign, encourage them to pick a new sign to learn and use for the day (they can search for a sign on Signing Savvy). This will gradually introduce neighbors, friends, family, and the child to more vocabulary throughout the summer. Sign language is a beautiful language that the child can share with others and teaching others is the best way to learn and remember new signs.

Summer is a time to really enjoy the days with your child.  Give them exciting and interesting experiences that they can learn from and remember forever.  The only way a deaf child is able to properly remember things is to categorize their experiences into memories.  Strong communication is an important part of this process.

Do you have other suggestions on how to improve communication over the summer? Share your ideas in the comments below.

 

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Signing Thank You

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, December 10, 2013

By John Miller

 
We have had many people ask about signing THANK YOU to family and friends, and also giving thanks to God during this holiday season. In the case of THANK YOU to family and friends (or kind strangers!), you will want to sign the normal thank you gesture by moving your open flat hand out and down from your face, but do so in the direction of the person you are thanking.  You can remember the sign for thank you because it is similar to blowing someone a kiss when you want to thank them (and just like blowing a kiss, you would do it in the direction of the person you are thanking). 
 
Thank You
 
Remember that facial expressions are also important in conveying your message, so have a “thankful” or “happy” face (you can never go wrong with smiling!).
 
If you are giving thanks to God, you will want to use two hands to do the thank you gesture up towards the sky / heaven, gesturing to God. 
 
Thanks to God
 
 

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