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

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Blog Articles by: John Miller

Tips for Learning Sign Language in Your Natural Environment

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, December 10, 2011

By John Miller

One of the most common questions I get from people who are first learning sign language is, "How do you remember so many new words? It's overwhelming!" It is; and unless you plan on incorporating it into your everyday life, it won't stick with you.

Often sign language instructors will divide sign vocabulary up into categories like household items, food, family, colors, shapes etc... Doing this helps you to categorize the words and file them into your memory bank that way. As you are using Signing Savvy to learn, create your own word lists to categorize the signs you are learning or look into the many, many shared word lists that others have already created. This categorization of vocabulary will be very helpful to you in your learning.

Also, start with the words that are a part of your everyday life, the words with which you will have constant interaction. Then using the printing feature from Signing Savvy, print out little cheat sheet photos that you can place around the house on those everyday items. You will be surprised how quickly you will memorize the signs for these words.

Then later, because you have already created the word lists, you will be able to give yourself a quiz online to be able to sharpen those skills even more.

If you have others that live with you, see if they will help you practice both your receptive (you receiving the sign from others) and expressive skills (you signing the words to others). It is this constant interaction that will improve your learning experience.

 

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Learning Sign Language as a Foreign Language

General Interest   |  Tuesday, October 25, 2011

By John Miller

Learning signing language as a foreign language is a very good option for hearing students. It greatly enhances their understanding of languages. It increases their ability to communicate in a variety of situations when a spoken language is not an option. And American Sign Language is the fourth most used language in the United States. We love the idea of a world where more and more people are able to more effectively communicate with our vibrant Deaf and Hard of Hearing population. That has been a goal of our web site from day one!

Across the United States, many high schools are having to rethink the way they are currently running their foreign language programs. Many states are now requiring students in their 2014 graduating classes to have two years experience in a foreign language and many more are looking at requiring three! This has left school districts scratching their heads on how to meet these new requirements. Many smaller schools have just one foreign language they currently offer (generally Spanish), but are now struggling to figure out how to expand their offerings.

At Signing Savvy, we see this as a perfect opportunity for those who are interested in sign language to go to their school boards and ask for them to consider introducing sign language as a foreign language option to their school's curriculum. The school's administration will have to look into their own state's requirements for foreign languages. Many states do already accept sign language as a foreign language option. The administration will also have to work with the state to establish the credentials of the people who can teach the classes. In many states, teaching of sign language courses at the high school level can be done by a certified interpreter that also has a bachelor's degree or a teaching certificate.

There is no better time than now to get involved in your local school's education. We will do what we can to help you along the way, including continuing to provide a complete sign language resource that can help both students and educators in learning and teaching sign language.

 

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Writing a great research paper

Teaching Tips   |  Thursday, October 20, 2011

By John Miller

Challenge: Often times when a Deaf student is at the high school level, they have been using the language for so long that they are very fluent in it and great storytellers using their language, sign language, yet they still struggle with putting that great ability into a written form. This is where this next lesson idea can be a helpful tool.

Activity: Research a topic, present findings in a video, then write a report

Most students have times where they have to do reports, such as a report on a famous person or present an argument/cause. They can do a good job at the research part, and can even tell others about all the information they have gathered and learned about, but converting that into written word is still a struggle. Allowing the students to put their knowledge first into a video format is very beneficial because of this. It allows the students to use sign language that is rich in dramatic expression to convey their thoughts and knowledge without limiting them to the English words that they may struggle with.

Have the students make a video first, then use the video as a guide to translate the ASL presentation into a great written paper. This idea allows for freedom to communicate in a Deaf student's own language, without stifling their creativity. It also allows a very teachable moment for you as the teacher to help translate their signed words into written expression, with the ability to start and stop and revisit if needed. The end product will be an amazing expression of the student's actual knowledge and creativity...and a lot of fun too!

Activity Summary

Grades: 6 - 12

Materials Needed:

  • Video camera or phone with built-in video camera
  • Video editing software (iMovie, for example)
  • Computer (for researching; for making video; for writing paper)

Activity:

  1. Research topic
  2. Create a video to report findings
  3. Use the video as a guide to translate the ASL presentation into a great written paper
  4. Revise paper after receiving feedback from teacher (and parents)

Common Core Standards:
As a reference, you may want to refer to the English Language Arts Standards for Grade 6-8, Grade 9-10, and Grade 11-12, many of which could be intergrated into this assignment.

 

Home Extention: Fostering communication between school and home

Of course both the video and the paper are excellent tools to send home to help foster communication between school and home. You could even send the video home and have the parent help their child in translating the sign language into written English. That way, both the student and their parent will teach each other and learn a lot along the way.

 

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Fostering communication between school and home at the middle school level

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, September 19, 2011

By John Miller

This blog is part of a series of Teaching Tips for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. However, many of the ideas would work well in ANY teaching situation where you are working with children and parents (families).

The last article in this series was aimed at elementary education, now it is time to move on to the Middle School age students and continue our work on literacy skills. (Remember our goal is to improve reading, writing and communication skills.)

Classroom Activity: Create a Newspaper
Grade: Middle School

This idea builds on the concept that at this age, what these kids like best is to hang out, be a part of a cool group and talk about things that are of interest to them. What better time to have them create their own newspaper!

This will allow the students to choose topics of interest to them, which hopefully will also allow them to have more comfort in their writing. Because of the high interests and feelings of confidence surrounding the topics the students will also feel more comfortable sharing this writing with others which is an important part of writing - publishing! You may need to be push the students at times to venture into areas out of their comfort zones as well, but once the ball gets rolling with a class newspaper, it will take on a life of it’s own.

One purpose of this project remember is to improve communication between home and school as well, so topics and articles should be something that the student’s parents and families will also enjoy reading.

Example Articles could focus on:

  1. Features about various mystery classmates (where students try to guess who is being written about)
  2. Features about places families have traveled over their summer break
  3. Movie Reviews
  4. Fashion Trends
  5. Latest Technology
  6. Gossip about Television shows/stars
  7. Etc….

Once students complete their paper, have them practice a presentation of their paper at home with their parents before presenting in front of the class. This is an opportunity for the student to share sign vocabulary from their paper that maybe their parents wouldn’t know. There are many topics that the students would like to cover that may not be common vocabulary in their home settings and this assignment is a great opportunity to increase everyone's vocabulary at home. Have students and parents use Signing Savvy as a resource to expand and understanding new vocabulary for the assignment. We have many signs on Signing Savvy and continue to add more all the time.

 

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Fostering communication between school and home at the elementary level

Teaching Tips   |  Wednesday, September 7, 2011

By John Miller

This blog is part of a series of Teaching Tips for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. However, many of the ideas would work well in ANY teaching situation where you are working with children and parents (families).

We will begin at the ground level with an elementary level suggestion for improving literacy and work our way up to other grade levels in later blogs.

This suggestion works on the basis that children learn better when they are involved in the process. They also love to talk about themselves and especially when it involves taking pictures of themselves and including them in the decision making.

Classroom activity: Transferring daily classroom events into a written form in order to promote literacy as well as teach vocabulary to parents using signs and photos.

Grade: Elementary

Supplies needed:

  • digital camera (or good cellphone camera)
  • ability to print digital photos after you take them
  • large white construction paper (for mounting the photos to)
  • Signing Savvy membership for printing and wordlist creation

Instructions:

  1. Take photos
  2. Begin by snapping a few photos throughout your day of different activities. Later you can even put the camera in the hands of the students and let them decide what to photograph.

  3. Print and mount photos
  4. Print out the photos and have them mounted on a large sheet of white construction paper ready for your "floor/circle time" (when everyone gathers together in a group and focused).

  5. Add photo captions from students
  6. Now add descriptions to your photos. You can do this a variety of different ways, choosing just one author, or taking suggestions from a couple students, but the point is to have the students give you captions for the activities displayed in the photographs.

    This is a great way for the students to put into written language what they all just shared together as a common classroom experience. They will be making a connection between the signs used and the written words on the paper.

  7. Students pick favorite words
  8. Then have the STUDENTS choose five words that you have just written on the paper that they feel would be good to show their families at home the signs for. Maybe it is a word that they have not used before, or one that you will be using a lot in the class in the near future, regardless...let them help in the choosing and emphasize that THEY will need to be the teachers at home to show their families these signs and teach them how to produce them. (They love to be in that role.)

    Print the signed words from Signing Savvy and add them to wordlist Then simply underline the five words they choose to focus on and print them from Signing Savvy. Add them to a shared wordlist so that the families that have memberships can refer to them and even create online flashcards or quizzes from home.

  9. Send copies home
  10. The five printed words are then attached to the bottom of the photo page in the space you provided and copied and sent home with the students. This can either be done using a photocopier (you may need to scale the page down to fit on a regular piece of paper) OR just taking a digital photo of the paper. In either case, you can actually create a hard copy that actually goes home everyday, OR in a digital file that is emailed. Regardless, the families become use to the fact that on a daily basis, at least 5 new signed vocabulary will be coming home from school, along with great photos of their children involved in activities at school. Parents will love it and they will see their students excited to tell them what they did at school that day and TEACH them the signs!

* I know it sounds like a lot of work but once you get into the routine of doing this on a daily basis, you will be able to do the whole process in about ten to fifteen minutes and you will wonder why you didn't do it years ago!

 

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