An ASL DictionarySigning 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 signs, build word lists and share them with others, create digital flash cards and quizzes, view asl sentences, get tutoring, ...and more
Sign of the Day - MOVIE
Teachers that have traditionally taught their courses in a face to face format have encountered an extra challenge during the COVID-19 time period. Whether you are an elementary teacher working with deaf children, a high school teacher meeting the foreign language requirement through American Sign Language, or working at the college or university level teaching ASL or interpreter training, Signing Savvy can be an amazing resource to get your students the information they need in order to continue their learning while NOT directly in front of you.
After teaching American Sign Language online for many years, I’ve found many useful ways to use online tools, like Signing Savvy, to make the transition to online easier.
Here are some tips on how to put educational resources online.
Develop your curriculum
The first thing you need to do is to develop the curriculum for your course. For my courses, my curriculum is developed from a combination of materials on Signing Savvy, one or more textbooks, and my own teaching experience and expertise. See our recent article, "Creating Lessons Using Word Lists", for more details on this step.
Setup your course in a CMS
The next thing you need to do is to get your course up and running in an online Course Management System (CMS) such as Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, Angel, or D2L. Your institution likely has adopted a CMS for use at your institution. In the CMS you will put your course outline/syllabus, assignments, lectures, and resources. Basically the CMS will reflect your curriculum (aka, lesson plan) from day-to-day, week-to-week.
Require a Signing Savvy Membership
Given that my courses are fully online, I require the students to sign up for a Signing Savvy membership, either instead of or in addition to purchasing a textbook. By having the students have a membership, they will have full access to everything on Signing Savvy with no limitations or advertisements. Further, they will be able to take advantage of the quizzing and flashcard features, not to mention the ability to create their own word lists for studying. Full membership also gives students the ability to use the Signing Savvy Member App directly on their smartphones and tablets for a more streamlined experience.
Integrating Signing Savvy into your course
Signing Savvy has many great resources and tools that can be integrated into the flow of your classroom. The simplist way to integrate Signing Savvy into your CMS is to add links directly to the content on Signing Savvy. For example, if you want to link directly to a dictionary word on Signing Savvy, just search for the word on Signing Savvy, copy the URL from the browser, and paste the link into the appropriate place in your CMS. You can do the same for word lists, articles, sentences, or basically anything on Signing Savvy. The students can then easily follow the link from your course into the content on Signing Savvy. I typically create a Signing Savvy word list for each lesson, but you can find more details on how I set that up in article I already mentioned, "Creating Lessons Using Word Lists".
Adding your own video lectures
In addition to the content directly on Signing Savvy, I often create a prerecorded video to kick-off each class. The video is prerecorded on my laptop using a tool such as Camtasia, Screenflow, or Open Broadcaster Software. I use the camera built into my laptop, though you could purchase a USB web camera if you don't have one built in. For the video itself, I often record both myself and my screen.
When I am signing my weekly intro, or any material to supplement the main vocabulary for the lesson, I make sure the video clearly shows my upper torso with some signing space, so signs can be properly recorded and displayed within the constrains of the camera viewport. Being well lit with a motionless, non-cluttered background increases the quality of the video and the ease of seeing signs.
I use Signing Savvy for the main vocabulary for the lesson each week. You could easily link directly to any word lists you have created for the lesson and not add additional commentary on the vocabulary. However, I do this extra step. I create a walkthrough of the learning materials (word lists and signs) we are using that class. I literally will click through the materials I have setup in my CMS, as well as follow links to Signing Savvy, to sign the sign I want the students to learn and also show it on Signing Savvy and highlight any notable items from Signing Savvy like the memory aid, sign synonyms, or sign variations. When I am walking through Signing Savvy, I use the picture-in-picture video format to display my computer screen in the main window, but I also include video of myself, often shown in the upper right hand corner, to provide a personal touch. It helps the student know who I am and relate to me. But, the primary content is shown in the screen recording. When I am signing, I make sure to change the focus of the main video window back to me so the signing can be clearly seen. Since I put all links to Signing Savvy within the CMS, the students can follow along OR go back later to dig in deeper and/or review the materials.
Your CMS or institution may have a prefered way to upload and host videos, such as YouTube or Kaltura MediaSpace. Many ASL courses are voice-off, but if you include audio, make sure when you record that your environment is quiet except for your voice. You should ALWAYS include captions of any spoken audio for accessibility. Many of the video hosting services, such as YouTube, will automatically caption the video. It usually does a pretty good job, but it is important to check it. If there are issues, you can use their tools to modify the captions.
Face-to-face with Video Conferencing
In addition to the tools Signing Savvy provides, as you bring your course online, you can maintain some face-to-face interaction remotely via video conferencing. Video conferencing allows you to connect with your students either one-on-one or to the entire class at one time. Zoom or Skype are popular video conferencing solutions. I have personally used Zoom in my online college classes. I have used it both to deliver instruction, converse with students, and test students expressive signing skills in one-on-one exams. You can also encourage students to partner up and practice signing to each other through video conferencing software or something like FaceTime.
Practice Signing with Native Signers
If you are looking for your students to gain additional experience with communicating in sign language as part of your course, the Savvy Tutoring and Savvy Chat services may help. These services provide the student with 30 minutes of either structured or unstructured, one-on-one signing time with a native signer. Savvy Tutoring is particularly good to help students prepare for an upcoming exam. (NOTE: There is an additional cost for ASL one-on-one sessions.)
We know the idea of teaching an American Sign Language class or anything using sign, (that is normally better conveyed face to face) is very daunting right now for many, but it CAN be done. We have many tools to help.
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Word lists are a powerful feature on Signing Savvy that can be utilized as you develop online learning materials. When developing sign language lessons for my online courses, I typically following these steps:
Create a word list of signs for each lesson.
I typically assign a book in my course and organize my lessons with one chapter per week. Here are examples of two word lists that correlate with lessons/chapters of books that I have used in courses before: Lesson 2 (Iconic Signs) from Lessons and Activities in American Sign Language and and Unit 1 from ASL at Work.
Make sure to set the access settings on your word list to “Unlisted - Anyone with the direct link can view this list.” OR “Shared - Anyone can search for and view this list” (if you select “Private,” only you will be able to see it).
With these settings, your students will be able to view your word lists without being a Signing Savvy member, however, I always require both a book and a Signing Savvy membership as part of my course requirements. When students have membership, they don’t see ads and they can use the quizzing and digital flash card features with the word lists I’ve created. Having access to these tools help them study the vocabulary and I notice students that have membership seem to know the vocabulary better when I sign with them for assessments.
Make sure you are adding the right variation of the sign to your word list.
There are two ways to add signs to a word list. The fastest way, and the way I usually do it when I have a list of vocabulary, is to add the list of words on the manage word list page. Because this allows me to add multiple words at once, it makes it pretty fast.
However, when the words are added to the word list, it will add the version one sign for each word to the word list and sometimes the specific sign I want them to learn (or that matches the book I am using) is a different variation. You also have to pay attention when there are multiple versions of a word, like FLY (as in "the insect") versus FLY (as in "fly in an airplane”). It’s easy to switch to the sign variation or word version you want, you just need to make sure that you go through the word list after you’ve added all of the words and double check the signs you want are on there.
Alternatively, you can look any word up in the dictionary, find the sign variation you want in your word list and then scroll to the bottom of that sign page and select the word list you want where it says, “ADD TO WORD LIST.” It just takes a little longer to do it this way since you are looking up each word individually in the dictionary.
Be thoughtful about what you name your word list.
If you’re like me, you are are going to end up making a lot of word lists! I make word lists for everything! With so many word lists, it is helpful to be thoughtful and systematic when naming your word lists. For example, if I am making a set of several word lists for a book, I will use consistent naming for the word lists.
I like to use a consistent format across the word list names, like this:
- BOOK - Book Name - Chapter - Title - Subsection (page #)
Of course, you may not care about this level of detail in your word list name. Do what works best for you.
Here is an example of what that formatting looks like for a few of the word lists for the Lessons and Activities book I use in one of my classes:
- BOOK - Lessons and Activities in ASL - Lesson 2 - Iconic Signs (page 15)
- BOOK - Lessons and Activities in ASL - Lesson 3 - Number Signs (pages 27-30)
- BOOK - Lessons and Activities in ASL - Lesson 4 - Calendar Signs (page 42)
In some books, there are multiple sections within one lesson / chapter. You could put everything for the lesson into one word list, but I typically make separate word lists for each sub-section. Then I will create a "master word list" for that lesson that includes all of the sub-section word lists (see more on that below).
Create master sets of lists to help with organization and quizzing options.
This is an underutilized feature in Signing Savvy, but it is a great thing to use and can really be helpful for your students. When you are in a word list or creating a new one, instead of adding a word, you have the option to “Add Link to Word List.” This lets you add word lists you’ve already created to a word list. Let me explain why I use this feature.
If you look at this example word list for Lesson 12 (The Great Outdoor) from the book American Sign Language 1, you’ll see the word list has several "sections" within the list (they are the green titles). In this book, there are sections within the lessons. In this lesson on The Great Outdoor, the signs are broken down into the sections Animals, Nature Concepts, Weather, and The Earth. First I created a word list for each of the smaller sub-sections, like Animals, then I created a master word list that used the “Add Link to Word List” feature to add all of the smaller sub-section word lists into one word list for Lesson 12.
In addition to organizing the word list page by section, with the section / word list titles, it also allows students the option of learning and quizzing themselves on the smaller sub-sections first and then quizzing themselves on the larger Lesson 12 list that includes all of the words.
I also create a master word list of all vocabulary from the whole semester so students can review and quiz themselves on all vocabulary at one time. Again, I just do that by creating a word list and adding all of the word lists I created for the class to it.
Sharing word lists with students.
To share a word list with a student, all you have to do is go to the word list page, click on your browsers address bar, select the URL / link, copy it into the clipboard (in the Edit menu select Copy, or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-C on Windows or COMMAND-C on Mac), and then paste it (in the Edit menu select Paster, or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-V on Windows or COMMAND-V on Mac) into your Course Management System, website, or email where the students can access it.
As I mentioned before, make sure to set the access settings on your word list to “Unlisted - Anyone with the direct link can view this list.” OR “Shared - Anyone can search for and view this list” (if you select “Private,” only you will be able to see it).
Encourage students to practice by using the Signing Savvy quiz feature with only “Fill-in-the-blank” as an option for the answer.
Signing Savvy members can use the quiz and digital flash card tools to practice the vocabulary in any word list. They are all great tools to use and different people have different preferences depending on their learning style. However, I always recommend people try using the quiz feature with only “Fill-in-the-blank” as an option for the answer.
To use the quizzing tool, they just need to be logged in with their member account, use the URL/link you gave them to go to your word list, then click on, “Create Quiz and Test Yourself.” Some quiz settings will come up, which could be left as-is, but I recommend unchecking “Match sign to meaning” and “Match meaning to sign” under the second option, “What type of questions do you prefer? (check multiple for a mixture)” so that only “Fill-in-the-blank” is checked. Then they would click “Start Quiz” to start.
I suggest using fill in the blank only so they are not given multiple choice options and are forced to know the answer as soon as they see the sign. I think this best simulates seeing signs in-person because you don’t have multiple choice options for understanding signs when you are having a conversation with someone. If they take the quiz over and over until they are able to recognize all the signs on site, it really helps with building their vocabulary and receptive skills.
Explore word lists created by others
You can also check if a word lists you want to use has already been created by checking the Signing Savvy pre-built word lists that are created by Signing Savvy or checking shared word lists that other members have created.
As you can see, word lists are a powerful tool for creating vocabulary lessons. But, you aren't limited to only word lists, you can link to other content on Signing Savvy, as well. For example, I often use the sign of the day as a daily learning tool in my courses. I also link to articles for readings in my course, particularly Deaf Culture articles. Be aware that some Signing Savvy content is member-only, which is another reason why I ask my students to get Signing Savvy membership as a course requirement. For example, there are many ASL sentences that can be linked to as examples of using vocabulary in context. This can also be used to discuss grammar, syntax, and word order. There are also special fingerspelling and numbers quizzing tools.
Where I live in Michigan, our Governor has declared all K-12 schools to close from March 16 to April 5. This causes all types of stresses for parents – work, childcare, meals, and financial stresses. Not to mention, feeling fully unprepared for making sure your child doesn’t academically fall behind during this extended time away from school.
Every school district (even down to individual schools and classrooms) can handle school closures differently. Where we live, our school district is offering free “grab and go” breakfast and lunches with curbside pickup to help support families who count on school to provide meals for their children during the day and are financially stressed to take on all those meals at home. Our district and teachers have encouraged us to use routines at home to provide our kids a sense of stability and security during this atypical time. There is currently a district policy to not assign homework during this extended time off. This policy was formed in considering equity reasons – that not all students will have access to adults who can support them with assigned homework and continuing education during this time. However, by class, our teachers have been sending some lists of suggested online resources to use at home. These tend to be resources that are already used at school that our kids are already familiar with. It’s good to have a few go-to resources, but it can still feel overwhelming.
If you have a deaf child or a child that is learning or using American Sign Language, we encourage you to keep signing during any break from school. How you use Signing Savvy may vary depending on your own signing level and the signing level of your child.
Here are some tips on how to use Signing Savvy learning tools with your children:
Use the Sign of the Day as a Conversation Starter
Many teachers like to look at the Sign of the Day as a class each day, and it’s a great thing to do at home too. You can start the day with the Sign of the Day or as a conversation starter at mealtimes. There are a few components to the Sign of the Days that make them a great learning tool and a place to start.
- Look at the Sign of the Day together and practice it together.
- Read the note describing why that sign is the Sign of the Day. It may be because of a special recognized day, from National Learn About Butterflies Day to St. Patrick’s Day, or it may be to highlight Deaf culture with information about a person or historical event. Learning about the "why" can be an interesting topic of discussion.
- Make sure you don’t miss the example sentence(s) of the day! There is always a signed sentence that uses the Sign of the Day in it. Seeing the sign used in context helps with language learning. Read the English text for the sentence and then try to sign it yourself before clicking the button to watch the sentence. Did you sign it the same as in the example video? Remember there can be more than one "right" answer, so if you signed it differently, you may not necessarily be wrong. Look at the sign order and what signs were used to sign the full sentence in ASL.
- Look at the Sign of the Day together and practice it together.
Establish a Routine and Create a Schedule With Signs
I mentioned our district and teachers have encouraged us to use routines at home to provide our kids a sense of stability and security during this atypical time. We have an article with tips on using routines to create a language rich environment.
Use Word Lists If You Are Just Getting Started With Learning ASL
If you or your child is just starting your journey with learning ASL, we hope you have been working with one or more teachers that have helped you develop a vocabulary list of words that you should be working on and practicing at home.
If you need a place to start, we have a great set of pre-built word lists that are used in introductory ASL courses that you can use as a starting place. We also have a directory of pre-built word lists from you to choose from. You can use these wordlists to learn and review vocabulary. The quizzing and digital flash card tools are particularly helpful for this purpose.
Creating Word Lists to Practice and Study Specific Vocabulary
If you have vocabulary words from school that you know your student is specifically struggling with already, create a word list of signs for these words and practice the vocabulary together. For us, this is vocabulary words from past spelling tests and “sight” words used in reading literacy. We will practice this vocabulary through signing, cards we make with the words on them (you could also put a picture of the sign on the card), and writing them out.
Not Only Keep Signing, But Keep Reading
One thing I already know we’re going to miss during this time away from school is activities designed to encourage reading. Remember, March is "Reading Month." Our school has us log reading hours at home during this month and our teachers and principal have encouraged us to continue to do so, even while away from school. We have a classroom goal of 13,000 minutes and a school goal of 155,000 minutes and they are encouraging us to keep reading to help reach those goals. There is something great about the students still working on a group goal, even when they can’t be together. We have a series of articles on literacy and signing children’s books that may help you with reading at home.
Kids love to get their hands dirty, so get them in the kitchen for fun cooking and baking time. We also have a series of articles on Cooking Up Language with Signs.
We hope these tips gave you some good ideas of activities to do at home and learning tools to help you keep signing with your kids during any breaks from school.