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 in Category: Teaching Tips

Exploring Holiday Family Traditions at School and ADDING LANGUAGE

Exploring Holiday Family Traditions at School and ADDING LANGUAGE

Teaching Tips   |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016

By John Miller

We are constantly posting tips, facts, and learning resources related to sign language and Deaf culture on our Signing Savvy Facebook Page and Twitter @SigningSavvy. Occasionally we get questions about our posts and explain them further with a followup article. This article expands on one of our Parent/Teacher Quick Tip of the Day posts (Tip #60) from Facebook, which is also often tied to our Sign of the Day

Typically, Deaf Education Classrooms consist of a low number of students per class.  This allows teachers and staff to explore in a little more detail each of their student’s lives and lets them dig a little deeper.  It’s so important for the home/school connection to be strong enough and “fluid” enough so that information can easily be passed back and forth and language connections can be made to ensure communication is maximized.

Because every family is different, it’s never safe for any of us as educators to believe that just because we grew up celebrating things one way, that everyone else is familiar with these same traditions and/or follow them.  A safe way to cover this issue is to send home a survey before the planning for the holiday season happens.

Ask your students’ families to describe how the holiday season is covered and what it looks like in their child’s home.  We all know language acquisition comes from exposure and actually living the experiences life has to offer.  Having families fill out this survey will allow families to tell things about their student’s lives in a way that they want to share.  Be sure to let those who participate know this is primarily for educational purposes and the information provided will be used to gain a better understanding of their student’s backgrounds, and also provide language and vocabulary for their student.

What do holiday traditions look like to your family?
What do holiday traditions look like to your family?

One example I experienced while teaching was the mere concept of a Christmas tree and the traditions and processes involved in that activity.  Through doing the surveys and having student’s send in photos and “home papers” surrounding this experience, I quickly found that one of my students was Jewish and didn’t put up a tree at all, another was allergic to real trees and, therefore, the parents elected to not have a tree in their house.  They instead decorated a tree outside, which had only ornaments made from things found in nature or could be eaten by animals and not harmful to the environment.  Others had real trees and went out and cut them themselves (after going on a horse drawn sleigh ride), bought them from a store parking lot, or put up an artificial one.  In just that topic alone, there was sooooo much vocabulary and concepts to cover.  These students were young (3-8 years old) and could have never fully expressed these differences on their own, yet with the help of stories and photos provided by their home, we were able to fully explore the concept of getting a Christmas tree and how it may look very different in everyone’s household.

The point I am really striving for here is to be sure to ask the right questions and listen to the answers so that you can then take that information and build on it with your student’s best interests at heart.  It needs to be handled in a way to ensure that you aren’t trying to be nosey; you are trying to be a facilitator of language!

Here is an example of a letter to parents explaining the Holiday Family Survey. Feel free to use this example as a starting point and edit it for your own needs. For Signing Savvy Members, we have several downloadable files available for you, including ready-to-go printable PDF files and editable Microsoft Word templates. See the end of this article for all downloadables.

Printable PDF - Holiday Letter - Option 1 Ornaments

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

A great thing to do after the holidays, once the students return, is to take any pictures or stories the families will send in and create a great classroom book to share so that all the families can see what it was you were striving for.  Include the various sign vocabulary to help them read the book at home to their children.  Create word lists from Signing Savvy to correspond with the book as well.  It’s all a great way for students to share their experiences using their language!

Downloadable Resources to Help You Get Started

For Signing Savvy Members, we have several downloadable files available for you, including ready-to-go printable PDF files and editable Microsoft Word templates. Members can click the images below to download the corresponding file.

Ready-To-Go Printable PDF Files

Printable PDF - Holiday Letter - Option 1 Ornaments  Printable PDF - Holiday Letter - Option 2 Mixture  Printable PDF - Holiday Letter - Option 3 Tree  Printable PDF - Holiday Letter - Option 4 Candy Cane Line

Editable Microsoft Word Template Files

Editable Microsoft Word Template - Holiday Letter - Option 1 Ornaments  Editable Microsoft Word Template - Holiday Letter - Option 2 Mixture  Editable Microsoft Word Template - Holiday Letter - Option 3 Tree  Editable Microsoft Word Template - Holiday Letter - Option 4 Candy Cane Line

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Avoiding Stereotypes with Gender when Teaching Sign Language

Teaching Tips   |  Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By John Miller

We are constantly posting tips, facts, and learning resources related to sign language and Deaf culture on our Signing Savvy Facebook Page and Twitter @SigningSavvy. Occasionally we get questions about our posts and explain them further with a followup article. This article expands on one of our Parent/Teacher Quick Tip of the Day posts from Facebook, which is also often tied to our Sign of the Day.

Each day I look at Signing Savvy’s Sign of the Day and reflect on what might be a good tip or antidote to share related to that sign or topic. As an educator and administrator, my tips are often geared towards parents and teachers. When the Sign of the Day was BEAUTIFUL, I started thinking about a lesson I once did with my students about different descriptive words.  This lesson simply consisted of an activity where students would take adjectives written on index cards like strong, pretty, colorful, beautiful, smart, kind, interesting and associate them with pictures of people, animals or places.  The students would then have to use them in a complete sentence.

One student in particular was sure that only girls could be beautiful. The discussion led me to teaching a lesson about “girl words” and “boy words” (the student’s title, not mine). It was amazing to me how these young children who couldn’t hear and were just learning the language, had already developed a sense of what was “the norm” as far as words used to describe the different sexes.

Think of how often you hear the word beautiful used for little girls, but very seldom with little boys. Think of how often you hear the word tough or strong used for little boys, yet not for girls. As a father, I can say I want my daughter to be just as strong as she is beautiful, and I want my son to be tough just as much as I want him to have a gentleness about him.

The lesson also led us to discuss the signs for man and woman, and girl and boy etc… and how the location of the signs on the face/head can be thought of as sexist as well. In ASL, masculine roles such as boy, father, uncle and grandfather are located at the top portion of the head, while female roles, (girl, mother, grandmother) are signed at the bottom portion of the face.  This has been pointed out over the years by many as being sexiest and feeds the perception of men being the superior race to women.

It can be interesting yet important to have discussions on gender and to address stereotypes that can be found in sign language as well as life. Be careful as you address your students or children not to fall into this trap. Boys can be beautiful, sweet and kind just the same as girls can be smart and athletic and tough!

Resources

Here are some commercials that tackle gender stereotypes. These are great examples to check out and share with your students (the content of each video varies and would be appropriate for different age groups depending on the age and maturity of your students). Watching a video(s) with your students is a good way to start a lesson and engage a comprehensive discussion on gender stereotypes.

Pantene Advertisement: Labels Against Women

This video is great to make students think about language and how words and labels are sometimes unfairly assigned based on gender. (Caption Note: There are no captions in this video, however, there is no talking in it, only written messages and background music.)

Always Commercial: Like a Girl

This video makes you think about the meaning behind sayings and how they can create unhealthy gender stereotypes. (Caption Note: Remember to turn the captions on for this video.)

Verizon Commercial: Inspire Her Mind

This video focuses on the words adults use when talking to girls and the messages they send. The video says instead of just telling a girl she is pretty, “Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant too.” (Caption Note: Remember to turn the captions on for this video.)

Time Magazine: One Login Campaign: #ILookLikeAnEngineer

This Time Magazine article: Female Engineers Are Using the Hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer To Tear Down Gender Stereotypes talks about a campaign that aims to redefine “what an engineer should look like.”

These videos would all be great resources to start discussions in your classroom about gender stereotypes. Good Luck! 
 

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ASL in the Classroom: One Thanksgiving Story with Many Titles

ASL in the Classroom: One Thanksgiving Story with Many Titles

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, March 21, 2016

By Kathleen Marcath

This article is by guest blogger Kathleen Marcath. Kathleen teaches ASL at St. Peter Lutheran School in Macomb, Michigan and uses Signing Savvy in a variety of ways when preparing lessons and creating classroom activities.

Signing Savvy membership is a great tool and has saved me lots of time! I have the wonderful privilege to share ASL with the students at St. Peter's Lutheran School. Together with the classroom teacher, Mrs. Susan Bennett, we wanted to create a project for the students to learn ASL.  We picked the topic, Thanksgiving. The goal of the project was for the students to be able to share sign language with their families on Thanksgiving Day. We had six weeks to get it done. Before learning of the potential of a membership with Signing Savvy, I had spent tremendous amounts of time and energy locating printable signs for our projects. 

Signing Savvy has great video resources to teach a class signs which are also printable.  Using “My List” on Signing Savvy, I created lists with everything this class loved about Thanksgiving. This list included: going to church, inviting friends and family for dinner, favorite holiday foods, the parades, and football. The class gained knowledge and signing skills each week as we practiced their vocabulary on "My Lists." They continued building their sign language vocabulary through the printable signs. They could take them home for reference to practice independently, which further fueled their passion for learning ASL.  

Screenshot of a sign from my list with printing options
Screenshot of a sign from my wordlist, also shows printing options.

The students were so excited, they decided to create a book for Thanksgiving which was only weeks away. The students were put in groups of two or three. Using printable materials from Signing Savvy; each group designed a page in the book using different signs printed from the website. We decided John Miller would be our guest of honor, because he was “the man in the blue shirt” on every page in their storybook. We compiled all of the pages of literature, drawings and photos of our guest of honor for one great Thanksgiving story. These third graders loved being set free to write and illustrate a storybook. Now they needed a title. 

Students making book
Students working on cutting out printed signs for their book.

Every story needs a good title. With crayons and markers, pictures and pen, each student expressed themselves with their own title and book cover. One story with many different titles: Pass the Turkey, Signing Thanksgiving, Pie Time!, Happy Thanksgiving Praise, John and the Drink Choice, and Our First Thanksgiving Signing.

Class with their books
Students with their books: one Thanksgiving story with many titles!

The best part was seeing the entire class proud of their accomplishments. They achieved their goal. They created a great Thanksgiving story filled with the things they love, to share with the people they love on a special Thanksgiving Day. This was a fun learning experience for everyone. Many thanks to Signing Savvy, oh what a fun and enjoyable time we all had!

Presenting finished book
Students presenting their completed book.

After our Thanksgiving storybook project was completed, we sent a copy of the book to John, the man in the blue shirt, on Signing Savvy. The students were excited when John volunteered to "meet" with us via skype. The class got to practice their signing with him and ask questions about Signing Savvy.

Students meeting with John
Students meeting with John, the man in the blue shirt from Signing Savvy.

It was a great project that expanded their sign language vocabulary and got them excited about sharing what they learned with their families.

We would love to hear how you use Signing Savvy. Contact us if you would like to share your experience with us

 

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About the Author

Kathleen MarcathKathleen Marcath lives in rural Michigan where she and her husband raise 4H show cattle. She is very proud of her children and wonderful grandchildren. Her first experience with sign language came at a retreat where she learned to sign, "Our God is an Awesome God." Kathleen has a degree in Deaf Community Studies from Madonna University. She is inspired to share American Sign Language in private and public schools with hearing students and hard of hearing students. She loves working with children. Kathleen strives to create an atmosphere in her classes that promotes excellence, exploration and certainly fun. Students continue to amaze her with their enthusiasm, brilliance and creativity.

More about Kathleen  |  Articles by Kathleen

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.

Recipe

Enjoy making these healthy and tasty frozen fruit popsicles!

Frozen Fruit Popsicles

Ingredients:


Tools: 


Directions:

  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

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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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