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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Blog Articles by: John Miller

The Role of the Interpreter in the Classroom

The Role of the Interpreter in the Classroom

Teaching Tips   |  Tuesday, June 9, 2015

By John Miller

Recently I sat down with a deaf high school student to discuss how things were going with her classes and her interpreter. She told me that her interpreter was doing well in her 1st hour class, but she said she was bored in her 2nd hour class because her interpreter was not "doing a good job there." I know this interpreter well and had observed her many times before. I have always known the interpreter to be very professional, so I decided to observe (unannounced) both 1st and 2nd hour and see if I could observe a difference.

The difference the deaf student was experiencing between the two hours was not the fault of the interpreter; it was a difference between the teaching styles of the two teachers. The interpreter was, in fact, doing a great job in both classes at conveying the style and the atmosphere of both classes. The first hour teacher was dynamic and the second hour teacher was dry and lackluster. I made sure to let the deaf student know that the information was being presented accurately in both situations.

There is a Code of Professional Conduct that interpreters must follow. This code was developed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to set high standards of professionalism and ethical conduct for interpreters. The interpreter was in fact doing her job very well and it would have been against the Code of Professional Conduct for her to alter the message from either teacher. The Code states that interpreters must "render the message faithfully by conveying the content and spirit of what is being communicated" (Tenet 2.3) and "refrain from providing personal opinions" (Tenet 2.5). By interpreting the first hour lesson more dynamically and the second hour lesson more lackluster, the interpreter was staying true to the content and spirit of what was communicated from each teacher, which is exactly what a good interpreter is supposed to do.

This is a unique problem I am sure many deaf students, interpreters, and administrators experience on a regular basis. Interpreters should stay true to the Code of Professional Conduct and interpret the message as it is conveyed. Situations like these can also be good educational opportunities. The majority of deaf children have hearing parents, so they may not be aware of deaf rights like the Code of Professional Conduct for interpreters, which not only sets standards for interpreters to follow, but helps to protect the deaf consumer. Explaining that the interpreter was accurately conveying the message of the teachers and introducing the student to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct can help the student to better understand the role of the interpreter in the classroom and their rights as a deaf consumer.

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2015 Read Across America Day

2015 Read Across America Day

Learning Tips   |  Monday, March 2, 2015

By John Miller

Read Across America Day is every year on March 2nd - Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The whole month of March is also National Reading Month. The events are used to encourage reading and literacy.  Reading any book is great, but the National Education Association chooses a book every year and this year’s book is the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

Resources for this year’s Read Across America Day

Get the book:

Printable activities to accompany the book: 

Crossword - Oh, The Places You Will Go     Drawing Activity - Oh, The Places You Will Go     Counting Activity - Oh, The Places You Will Go

How ever you spend Read Across America Day or National Reading Month, we hope you enjoy a good book!

For more on the importance of reading to children and tips for reading with children who are deaf and hard of hearing, see our article on Tips for Reading to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.

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Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Learning Tips   |  Friday, February 27, 2015

By John Miller

The Importance of Reading with Children

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 53 percent of children ages three to five are read to daily by a family member.1 Yet, children are significantly better at reading comprehension when parents read with them and encourage reading.2  Children who are read to at home do better in school.  Research shows they are better at knowing the alphabet, counting, writing their names, and reading.3 Additionally, the more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students are in reading proficiency.4

Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.

For more information on Children's Literacy visit the National Education Association website.

Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Over 90% of deaf or hard of hearing children are born to hearing families and there is often a lack of communication between hearing parents and their deaf child.  Using sign language when reading increases comprehension, which helps children become more engaged in the story being read and more interested in learning to read themselves.

Parents can use the word list feature on Signing Savvy to create a custom word list of signs that go with a book they are reading.  The Signing Savvy quizzing and digital flash cards features can be used to practice the signs from the word list and, of course, it is best to sign while reading the book.  This is a way for both parents and children to practice signing together and learn new signs.

Teachers can also create custom word lists of signs that are used from books read at school and then share those word lists with parents.  Then parents have great recommended books for signing and reading at home that align with the classroom curriculum. 

Some great tips for reading to deaf and hard of hearing children were outlined by David R. Schleper in the publication Reading to Deaf Children: Learning from Deaf Adults. The tips were developed through research of what deaf parents do when reading to their deaf and hard of hearing children.

Schleper's 15 Tips for Reading to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

  1. Translate stories using American Sign Language. Focus on concepts and use lots of fingerspelling.
  2. Keep both languages (ASL and English) visible. Make sure children see both the signing and the words and pictures.
  3. Elaborate on the text. Add explanations about the text to make it more understandable.
  4. Reread stories on a “story telling” to a “story reading” continuum. The first few times, make sure the student understands the story. Then, slowly, focus more and more on the text.
  5. Follow the child’s lead. What does the child wants to read? What if the child wants to read just one part of a book, then move to another? Follow the child.
  6. Make what is implied explicit. Make the hidden meaning clear.
  7. Adjust sign placement to fit the story. Sometimes sign on the page. Sometimes sign on the child. And sometimes sign in the usual place.
  8. Adjust the signing style to fit the story. Be dramatic. Play with the signs and exaggerate facial expressions to show different characters.
  9. Connect concepts in the story to the real world. Relate the characters to real events.
  10. Use attention maintenance strategies. Tap lightly on your child’s shoulder, or give a gentle nudge to keep his or her attention.
  11. Use eye gaze to elicit participation. Look at the child while reading.
  12. Engage in role playing to extend concepts. Act out the story after you have read it.
  13. Use ASL variations to sign repetitive English phrases. If you are using the same phrase over and over, vary the signs.
  14. Provide a positive and reinforcing environment. Encourage the child to share ideas about the story and support the child’s ideas.
  15. Expect the child to become literate. Believe in the child’s success and read, read, read!

These tips are from:

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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.

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