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 - FISH
(as in the verb to fish)

Blog Articles in Category: Teaching Tips

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


  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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Fostering communication between school and home

Teaching Tips   |  Saturday, August 27, 2011

By John Miller

Many people who have worked in the field of Deaf Education have had to deal with an alarming statistic that has plagued the field for a long time. The average reading level of the exiting or graduating deaf senior is that of a 4th grader. It has fluctuated over the years but for the most part it is still much lower than any of us would care to accept.

I have heard many different explanations as to why this is the case. It may be because over 90% of our deaf children are born into hearing families, and are therefore raised in homes where sign language is not the native language of the household. (As an aside, one of Signing Savvy's goals is to help hearing family members improve their sign language communication with deaf family members.)

It may also be that the structure of education just isn't as cohesive and friendly to the deaf student as it is to the hearing student because of the mass amounts of language that a child is expected to understand and use throughout their day.

Regardless of these obstacles, we, as educators just need to do school smarter! That is, we need to do a better job at using the resources we have out there to foster the growth of a more literate student. Don't take this wrong, teachers work very hard to educate the students they have, but if we could educate them more efficiently, then we both come out looking...and being, SMARTER!

The blog articles we call Teaching Tips aim to do just that. They give you ways to look at things you may already be doing in your classrooms but adding an edge to them to take you to that next level.

We all know that one of the keys to a successful student is one that has involved, productive parents. Yet many times the parents feel very disconnected from what is happening at school. They often aren't (or don't feel) welcome in the classroom. The problem is exacerbated because the child has very little to share with their parents once they arrive home. Right away this causes a disconnect between home and school.

I want to spend the next few Teaching Tips blogs to discuss some ways to help foster communication between school and home. We will start at the elementary level and work our way up. I encourage you to comment and share your own experiences and ideas along the way. Don't look at this as just for school teachers either. Many of the ideas would work well in ANY teaching situation where you are working with children and parents (families).


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Creating a Deck of Printed Flash Cards

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, August 1, 2011

By John Miller

In my sign language teaching, I create word lists containing the vocabulary of each of my lessons. I share these word lists so my students can view it. The students can then use the online flash card and quizzing features to learn the vocabulary and better prepare themselves for the next in-class test. NOTE: If they have an Apple or Android mobile device, they can also use the flash card feature on the Signing Savvy Member App.

The online flash cards are great as you can actually view the entire motion of the sign since they are shown as videos. However, some people still prefer printed flash cards. Printed flash cards are especially useful to send home with the students. That way, the students can practice their vocabulary with their parents or siblings and everyone ends up learning!

Below is an example of some flash cards I recently created and printed.

To create these printed flash cards, I followed the steps below:

  1. I used the Signing Savvy's word list feature to create a word list of the vocabulary lesson. Just like my previous example, I shared the word list so my students with Signing Savvy memberships could access the list.
  2. Then I went through each sign in the word list and selected what frames I wanted to print using the Signing Savvy printing feature. You can select from one frame up to nine frames of the video to represent the sign. That is, the frames you select are the images that are printed for each sign.
  3. Since I was creating flash cards, I selected the option to print the sign description on a separate page of paper.
  4. Then I printed the signs. Since I had a two-sided printer, I printed front-to-back with the sign images on the front and the sign description on the back. If I only had a one-sided printer, I could have just printed two sheets and glued the two pieces of paper together.
  5. Finally, I cut out the cards to create my deck of flash cards! If you want to get really fancy, you can print them on cardstock paper and laminate them.

Printed flash cards are a great literacy tool to use in your classrooms and send home!


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Turn an Ordinary Children's Book into a Creative Sign Language Learning Tool

Teaching Tips   |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By John Miller

Children's books are often great learning tools because they are visual, help build a child's vocabulary, and kids love them! I use them all the time in my teaching to young students. Now, with Signing Savvy and a bit of creativity, you can create a sign language version of your favorite children's books to further enhance their learning potential.

Below is an example of a very well known children's classic that has been modified to show the signs.

To create this book, all I did was:

  1. Use the Signing Savvy's word list feature to create a word list of the words from the book. This word list is actually a shared list that anyone who is a member can access.

  2. Then I selected the key frames of video in each sign and printed them using Signing Savvy's printing feature. You could print them on (sticky) contact paper or use a combination of regular paper and clear packing tape.

  3. Then I cut out the print outs and stuck them in place in the book.

Viola! An instant sign language children's classic! Creating sign language versions of your favorite books is fun and easy to make. And the children will love them!


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