|  Volume 1, Issue 5, Dec. 2003  |  William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor

This Issue:

●  American Sign Language Expressive Testing


●  Facial Grammar

Expressive Testing

ASL Instruction Methodology

Hello ASL heros!!!

I've been thinking about radical teaching styles lately.

Traditionally most ASL teachers do quite a bit of "receptive testing" wherein they sign to their students and the students write their answers. Receptive testing typically takes less time than expressive testing because you can test a whole class at the same time.

I'm looking into the idea of how to "radically increase" the amount of expressive testing students receive. I'm considering a balanced teaching/testing format wherein for a class that meets two days a week, the instructor would teach the first day and conduct expressive testing the next day. For example, in a Tuesday/Thursday class, Tuesday would be invested modeling ASL grammar and introducing new vocabulary (embedded in context). Then on Thursday testing would be conducted wherein each student signs to the instructor. Feedback regarding "production errors" would be provided to the class as a whole the following Tuesday.

It only takes a few minutes per student to have each student sign a paragraph or set of phrases.
Motivation during the Tuesday course would be increased. Students will come to class knowing that they will have to reproduce the material the very next class session.

Previously learned material would also be included in the testing. The testing will have two parts. The first part is pre-assigned so that the student has a knowledge of exactly what he is expected to sign and can thus prepare by practicing certain information. The second part is drawn from previously covered material but the student doesn't know exactly which phrases or paragraphs are included. To prepare for the second part, the student would need to cumulatively review the course material.

Most teachers would dismiss the idea out of hand (pun intended) due to the notion that you'd lose half your teaching time and students would sit around bored 95% of the testing class period.

But I'm convinced this approach can lead to vast improvements in student performance and that the students themselves would find themsleves working harder than in a traditional course. The better students would take their test near the beginning of the period and could leave or stay and practice. (Obviously I'm talking about college students here.) The less skilled students could take their test later in the hour after having practiced more. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to stay the full time though if for no other reason than for the opportunity to practice signing with others.

A smaller version of this technique has already reaped dividends. Normally I give a more extended "expressive" interview at the end of each semester. I block out a whole day or several days and each student signs up for a 15 minute time slot. But I found that a fair number of students were arriving unprepared for the realities of an expressive exam.

So I decided to set up what I call a "prefinal." The prefinal was a mini-version of the expressive final exam. I held the prefinal during normal class time and simply had the students sign their names on the board in the order that they wanted to take the test.

They came to my office where I had list of five phrases for them to sign. It only took a couple minutes for each student and I was done by the end of the class period.

The prefinal was worth 10% of what the actual final was worth.

While quite a few students did relatively well on the prefinal--it served as a wake-up call to many. I noticed a marked improvement in student performance on the actual final which was given the following week.

I'm inviting comments fellow teachers (and students if you are so inclined) regarding this approach to ASL instruction.


Facial Grammar

ASL Linguistics


Here is a little grammar tip for you students out there:

Consider the phrase: "YOUR BOSS NAME?"
In English this might be translated as, "What is your boss's name?"

This sentence requires an answer other than “yes/no.” It requires the other person tell you a “name.” Since it is not a “yes no” question it is therefore a wh question because it implies the “WH” as in “What” is your bosses name? Even though we don’t sign the “What” explicitly, it is there in our facial expression. The facial expression for a "Wh" question is to furrow your eyebrows a bit. (In thinking of a way to describe the facial grammar for "Wh questions" I would compare it to what a person looks like when he or she is trying to get a better look at something. Their head actually moves forward on the neck about an inch and they squint their eyes a bit.)

The sentence: "YOU LIKE COOK?"
In English this might be translated as, "Do you like to cook?"
This sentence requires a "yes/no" answer. The concept of "do" is not "signed" but is expressed via facial expressions as raised eyebrows. The head tilts forward just a tad.


American Sign Language University ™ © William Vicars