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 in Category: Teaching Tips

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.

Resources:

 

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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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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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Teaching Young Children to Sign

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, February 25, 2013

By John Miller

I have had several questions about how to teach young children to sign recently, so I wanted to repost an article I wrote back in 2009 (with a few modifications), which answers many of the questions.

Research has shown that a child's muscles in the hands and fingers develop at a faster rate than those in the mouth and jaw. This shows us that a child is better equipped at a young age to sign before they can speak. And children certainly can understand language long before they can speak. Because of this many people are choosing to teach their infants to use sign language as an early form of communication, oftern refered to as "baby signing". It has been known to cut down on the amount of frustration on the part of an infant trying to communicate with their parents/caregivers.

Many people's questions then are: "How do we teach a young child to sign (deaf or hearing) in a way that is fun and productive?"

My answer: Through play! I had the pleasure of watching a young, 3-year-old, deaf child play yesterday while I met with her teacher and parents during a yearly meeting for the child's education. I watched this cute little preschooler interacting rather naturally with the toys in the dramatic play area (toy kitchen, doctor kit, etc…). She was using the play microwave and placing the plastic food on a plate and "warming it up" for us. Using one hand to punch the keys on the keypad as she counted off the numbers with the other. Then she took the spaghetti out of the microwave telling us to be CAREFUL and to wait because it was HOT. The teacher prompted the child to tell us what the food was that was on the plate, to which the child answered SPAGHETTI rather matter-a-factly!

The child went to play for a good 30 minutes giving us each SHOTS from her doctor kit and telling us not to CRY, etc…. The language used and expressed by this child was amazing and it was all done through play!

Signing Savvy can help with this educational/play experience by using the printing options to create word cards for you to use at home during your play with your child. By having the food signs printed on cards that can be exchanged when you "order your food" and having the child match up the sign to the food, a child will become familiar with the signs for the toys they interact with daily. Create a menu that not only has the food signs on it but some common phrases like, "Can I take your order?" or "Thank you, please come again".

Another playful activity is to play "sign and seek", where you first introduce a few objects and the sign for the objects to your child. Then you scatter the objects around the room.  After which, you show the sign for an object and ask your child to bring it to you.  If you are learning sign language yourself, the Signing Savvy Member App on a mobile device, such as an iPad, is a great way to quickly look up sign videos while playing this game. You could even make a word list of all the objects in your room prior to playing, so you have quick access while you play.

Have fun with it….you'll be amazed how quickly your child (and you) will be using sign throughout your playful day!

 

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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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