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

Sign of the Day - LAURENT CLERC
(as in the apostle of the Deaf in America)

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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Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 3

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 3

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, November 16, 2016

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

This article is part of our “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same” series, which highlights signs that look similar, but have different meanings.

Hello! Brenda Cartwright (BC) here. Let's continue on the fun topic of: “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same.”

The ASL signs shown below look similar, but are not the same. There are many ASL signs that when produced look similar, but in fact have a completely different meaning. Below you will find examples of such signs. Watch closely to see if you can see the difference. In addition, watch my eyebrows, look to see when I tilt my head or lean my body in a certain way, even what my mouth is doing. These nuances are called inflections and trust me, inflections matter. Enjoy!

1. Nut vs. Not

NUT and NOT both have the thumb of the dominant 10-hand come out from the face. NUT comes from the mouth, like you are eating a nut or just cracked the shell of a nut with your teeth and then spit it out. NOT comes out from the chin and moves farther away from the body in refusal. The biggest difference (besides the context of what is being said) is the facial expression and shaking of the head when signing NOT.


2. Paper vs. School

PAPER and SCHOOL bring both open hands together. When signing PAPER, only the heels of both palms brush against each other in a repeated motion - think of the pressing or smashing of pulp to make paper. Clap your hands together (without making any sound) in a repeated motion to sign SCHOOL. You can remember the sign for SCHOOL by thinking of a teacher clapping her hands together to get the students’ attention.


3. Name vs. Weigh

NAME and WEIGH both use H-hands. When signing NAME the two H-hands tap together twice to form an X representing a place where a name/signature would be placed on a piece of paper. When signing WEIGH both H-hands start together and the top, dominant hand tips downward representing scales tipping when weighing something.


4. Teach vs. None

Flattened O-hands moving out from the body are used when signing TEACH and NONE. For TEACH, the hands come out from the head, representing the person is taking knowledge from their head and passing it on to others. When signing NONE the hands move out from the chest and away from each other in a quick fluid motion indicating that there is zero (the use of the O-hands) or nothing there.


5. Roof vs. House

ROOF and HOUSE look similar but are easy to remember because both closed 5-hands form the outline of a ROOF or a HOUSE.


These examples are aligned with the Visual Discrimination section of Lesson 5 (page 60) from Lessons and Activities in American Sign Language by Brenda E. Cartwright and Suellen J. Bahleda. Check out the book for more ASL Activities and watch for more examples from this series: “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same.”


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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about Brenda  |  Articles by Brenda

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