|Volume 1, Issue 34||
Hello ASL Heroes!
In a message dated 1/17/2006 7:01:54 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, an ASL Teacher writes:
Hello (name on file),
I hope things are going well for you. Sorry for the delay in responding. Hundreds of emails in my "in box."
I find that using email helps me to educate my students beyond what we go over in class.
If I were in your shoes, I'd develop a set of emails that I sent out in spaced intervals each semester.
The emails would include information such as you mention:
* Certain signs can have several different meanings. (Provide examples).
* Various English words might be signed different ways depending on their meaning in different sentences. (Provide Examples).
* Level 2 is a higher level course than Level 1 and has higher standards for achievement.
* There is much variation in the individual signing styles of members of the Deaf community. If I show you something different from your previous teacher, congratulations, you now know two ways to "express" that concept. You are in my class though for this semester. I strive to show you the variations that I see done most often in the local Deaf community. I'll try to be flexible regarding variations, but since I'm the one assigning grades this semester, do it my way.
If you are having problems regarding the students having learned "inaccurate signs" that leads me to wonder what sort of curriculum is being used at your school? It is easy enough to flip open an ASL dictionary and point out generally accepted versions of signs. Your textbook should defend you from students claiming "that isn't the way we were taught to sign _____(such and such a sign in such and such a way)." Students should be taught to sign the signs in the textbook or DVD. If the signs in your textbook or DVD are not good enough, then you need to get a new curriculum. Sure, regional (local) variations exist for many signs. If you insist on using the local variation instead of the one in the student's text book then you as a teacher should type up a "differences" sheet including the gloss of the sign, a clear description of the local version, and the page number of the sign that you are replacing. If I'm a student in an ASL class I want something concrete with which to defend myself from the whims of an inept teacher. If the book shows one thing and the teacher shows something else, I want it documented on paper (or online) and an explanation why. That way I have something reliable from which to study instead of trying to rely on my memory of what I was shown in class that day. That way I can go through the book (on my own) and cross out whatever signs Mrs. K doesn't like and write in descriptions of how she wants them done. Which is a pain mind you, but also means if I get into the level 3 class and do Mrs. K's sign and Mr. B marks me off for it I can show the sheet of paper (given to me by Mrs. K and listing Mrs. K's variations) to him and tell him to give me credit because that is the way I was taught. If he doesn't give me credit I can then go to the administration with a valid complaint that the teachers are conflicting each other and that the program is in need of improvement.
I like your suggestions about the emails and the differences page. We use "A Basic Course in American Sign Language" as our base text. I like this because this is the text that I used in college and I know it well. Last year, they had the same text, but the instructor was very different than I am. She used (what the students say) the "hip, cool, new sign language." I've expressed more than once that ASL hasn't changed that much that fast, languages don't. But many of them are still so infatuated with last year's teacher that I simply look like an ogre who wants to change everything they learned last year. Also, I've expressed to my students that the pictures they are looking at are in a 2D book for a 3D language. I go over the book, I use your online dictionary as examples, as well as other resources. They're just stuck on what they know and can't seem to get past the multiple meaning words and multiple signs for different meanings. I am working on putting up examples in the classroom. Unfortunately, my Year 2's only want me to do things the way they did it last year nothing else. Unfortunately for them, that's not me.
(name on file)
Dear name on file,
The trick is to find fun, entertaining, teaching methods that work for you.
Here are some brainstorming ideas:
1. Play more games in class. Model them after the daytime game shows of the 70's or even some today's (weird) game shows ("Fear Factor" anyone?).
2. Have a "joke a day" pertaining to deafness.
3. Make sure you know the names of every student in class. Use Gallaudet true type font to print their names in fingerspelling.
4. Do lots of fun surprises in class.
5. Use randomized, spaced rewards (the way they train dolphins to jump out of the water).
6. Have a party! Have lots of parties!
7. Ask nearby restaurants to supply you with coupons to reward students for participation.
8. Invite a young, hip, deaf person to come visit your class and do an interview.
9. Sign cool songs, or snippets of songs.
10. Put on a mini-ASL play
11. Put on an ASL concert/talent night where students perform the songs they learned for your class.
12. Survey them. Give them a "communication form" and indicate that they are always welcome to share any "comments, questions, or suggestions." Students like to feel "listened to."
I realize not all ideas work for everyone, but the point is to keep coming up with fresh ideas and discarding ones that don't work.
Above all: personally have a good time teaching. I find that when I'm up, it rubs off on my students.
In a message dated 2/21/2006 1:43:14 PM Pacific Standard Time, an ASL teacher writes:
The newer term is indeed "contact signing."
I personally do not have a problem with the term "PSE." You will meet people who have read certain ASL linguistics texts that promote the term "contact signing" and discourage the term "PSE." These people will then proceed to tell you that the term PSE is inaccurate and that the "right" term is "contact signing."
One of the reasons they might give you for this is that the characteristics of various other pidgin languages and the circumstances from which they arise are somewhat different from the characteristics of contact signing.
That being said, I could very, very easily make an argument for PSE by simply googling the phrase "pidgin languages" and doing a mini literature-review on the term wherein lo and behold you will note that a great deal of existing and emerging literature describes the characteristics of pidgin languages to be very, similar to the characteristics of "contact signing."
For example, the first hit on google came up with this gem from the University of Pennsylvania:
<<Pidgin language (origin in Engl. word `business'?) is nobody's native language; may arise when two speakers of different languages with no common language try to have a makeshift conversation. Lexicon usually comes from one language, structure often from the other. Because of colonialism, slavery etc. the prestige of Pidgin languages is very low.>> (Source: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/messeas/handouts/pjcreol/node1.html, retrieved 02/20/06)
So, you can see that making a case for the term "PSE" is relatively straightforward.
Except for one thing. "Consensus." When enough people start using a new term--eventually that becomes the "standard term." At the point which something becomes "standard" it takes on an air of "correctness." But it is only correct because a bunch of people say it is. A few years later it may very well be considered incorrect.
In a message dated 1/18/2006 12:31:15 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, an ASL teacher writes:
This is how it started out here in Michigan on my first day of the new semester. It quickly deteriorated to freezing rain and ending with college being canceled after only one class. (Actually there were only 6 out of 11 who showed up anyway... we are rural and with 5 area schools closed, my guess is many stayed home with kids.
Any way... I want to introduce my students to the wonder of Dr. Vicars and his Web pages. I have browsed your versions of some of the more common signs and find them more in tune to the way we sign here in Michigan.
There is another site that is gaining much acclaim from the Mich. State University called "The Communicator"... know it? I clicked on the "A" words and disagreed with almost all of the first 10.... I don't want to send my students there. That program is also included in the store bought CD on Sign Link. I LOVE the main CD from Sign Link, but this vocabulary one from MSU... yuk!
I have ASL 1, 2, and Finger Spelling this semester with ASL 1: one deaf not knowing any sign, ASL 2: Deaf not knowing any grammar rules, and FS: 12 year old left over from my last ASL 1 class.... PLEASE say a prayer for me. Ha
It is sort of wild. This semester I am requiring my students to pre-study the vocab from the website and then at the beginning of class I give them a receptive test on signs that they learned ON THEIR OWN from the website without my having shown them in class yet.
The vast majority of the students are getting 19 or 20 out of 20!
Then instead of using class time to show them the signs (that they learned on their own) I immediately put them to work USING the signs to communicate with each other using the practice sheets to ask one another questions. (Oh, that, and um...play games, heh).
This is the first time I've tried testing in-person students on material that was presented via the web and I'm really getting excited at the results.
Check out the two emails below for a bit more on this topic.
"William G. Vicars" <Vicars@csus.edu> wrote:
Hello ASL Heroes!
In a message dated 2/11/2006 6:59:41 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, Sunday@ writes:
In a message dated 2/11/2006 8:24:40 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, J______ writes:
In a message dated 1/22/2006 12:47:24 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, an ASL teacher writes:
I'm down to 96 emails in my box, heh. Okay, here we go...
In case you are still looking for advice regarding producing DVDs:
Perhaps the easiest and best approach would be to hire a professional to help you create the first few DVDs.
In the phone book (or on the net) you can find experts and studios listed somewhere under or near the heading of "video." There are quite a few cinematographers (videographers) out there who do weddings and graduations who would be capable of helping you create an ASL DVD on a reasonable budget. After they create the master for you, you could burn your own copies or hire a DVD duplication outfit to make copies for you and print cool labels for them.
You "could" try to make your own DVD's and do all the work yourself. That is what I do. Currently I only make CDs. Admittedly the video quality is "home made." I'm getting better all the time...but still, I have a ways to go before I'll be satisfied. Much of the issue is equipment. Actually the whole issue is equipment. I'm just using a consumer level camcorder and have no special lighting equipment. So I end up doing the recording in my sunroom at the back of the house, (at certain times during the day the sun is an incredibly good source of light for video work).
I recently bought a Pinnacle Studio 10 to do my editing and capture work. After installing the card and loading the software I was very disappointed and took it back to the store. Instead I purchased Vegas Video (Sony) and a capture card by TurtleBeach. I haven't tried out the Vegas Video software yet, but the user groups all claim it is very solid and gets the job done.
The new capture card is "okay" but honestly I think I preferred my old card from a company called "Matrox." Soon I will order one of Matrox's "prosumer" level cards (half way between professional level and consumer level) that cost about 10 times what the typical home-user cards on the computer store shelves cost. (Shhhh, don't tell my wife.) It is a chunk of money, but I was very impressed with the low end version of their card that I feel comfortable going for one of Matrox's nicer cards.
Chances are you are hooked up or have some connections at a college somewhere. Often colleges have awesome resources available to faculty and students who want to do video work. It is certainly worth asking around at your college. Many colleges now have distance education centers that do broadcasting and web conferencing. These centers have nice wall backgrounds or green / blue screens specially designed for video. You might simply ask to use such a studio during unscheduled time.
One last suggestion would be to order a set of DVDs from the net that are similar to what you are interested in creating. Then look and see what company did the video work for that set of DVDs. Then contact that company and ask their prices or if they might be interested in working with you on a video project.
The following has been printed with permission from the author, (name on
In a message dated 2/14/2006 1:12:28 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, a hard of hearing individual writes:
That is correct.
There was an error in the code.
Thanks for pointing it out.
I changed the code from: <input type='hidden' name = 'key' value =' '>
to: <input type='hidden' name = 'key' value ='write'>
It should work fine now.
In a message dated 2/14/2006 9:49:17 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, a student writes:
I am in your 8:00 class and I have not been doing as well as I should on the quizzes, do you offer extra credit?
--Name on file
I generally don't offer extra credit. I have a policy of requiring students to know sign language in order to get a good grade in my class.
It is still early in the semester. So far I've only awarded 8% of the total possible points in the class. Even if you got zero on every quiz so far, you could (theoretically) still get 92% which is an "A minus."
* Read the syllabus. Reading the syllabus will help you know how to get the most available points.
* Come to class every day, not just "quiz" days.
* Engage mentally during the practices. Don't wait for me to flash the answer on the screen. Try to figure out the sign before I show you.
* When other students are signing or fingerspelling in class...watch them. Try to figure out what they are saying. It amazes me how some students only pay attention if I'm talking directly to them. ALL signed communication in the classroom provides an important opportunity to improve your recognition skills.
* Study ALL of the previous vocabulary prior to taking any quizzes. The quizzes are cumulative and will continue to become more and more challenging since each new quiz incorporates previous lessons as well as the current lesson. Plus I’ll be incorporating sentences. If you know the sentences well it will help you recall them on the quizzes.
* Study at night just before bed. That way your subconscious will imprint it better. Also, print off a list of the vocabulary (or sentences) and carry it with you to review throughout the day. If you can't easily recall a sign, make a note to look it up on the website.
* Come to the breakfasts on Saturday morning if you are able. Feel free to ask me as many questions as you'd like at the breakfasts. (And during class).
In a message dated 2/14/2006 9:12:10 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, a student @excite.com writes:
In a message dated 2/12/2006 10:47:11 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, bryce2@.com writes:
We've looked, and searched, and clicked, and opened books. But not
The concept of TV is fingerspelled.
Just show a T then a V.
Note: In the following message this speaker of French is simply indicating an interest in studying ASL and is asking me how to view my site in French. I refer him to http://babelfish.altavista.com/ which is a site that provides online translations of blocks of text and of web pages. While the translations are not perfect, they do succeed for the most part in allowing cross-language communication:
In a message dated 2/14/2006 12:55:34 A.M. Pacific Standard Time,
In a message dated 2/24/2006 4:34:17 AM Pacific Standard Time, vinsonette@____.com writes:
Dear Dr. Vicars,
In my opinion, a "typical" introductory- level college ASL course should not have a "reading list."
Too many times in my own studies in college I would go to the college bookstore to purchase books for a class only to be confronted with the necessity to purchase several books for each class.
I feel that teachers should choose ONE book that works well and stick with it. If that book doesn't cover what the teacher wants to teach, then the teacher should choose better book. It is simply unfair to the students to require them to buy many books to pass your class.
That said, (heh) the list that I personally recommend is the one used by the California Subject Examination for Teachers for their ASL certification candidates, see: http://www.cset.nesinc.com/PDFs/CS_asl_geninfo.pdf
Regarding my book "Sign Me Up!" That book was simply a cool little book. It was unique because it was derived from actual online chats from real students.
I printed up 3,000 of them and they have sold out.
I am developing a new workbook based on the ASL U curriculum and will make it available for download soon.
You asked me to compare Vista's "Signing Naturally" vs my text.
It don't think of either as simply a textbook but rather I see them both as methods or approaches.
The Vista curriculum is a complex piece of
In a message dated 2/7/2006 7:59:20 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, Cair writes:
I would love to eventually work with d/Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing students in school. ...my question is "What is the difference in educating d/Deaf students verses hearing students?" I know it is a very broad topic and I'm working on narrowing it down - such as techniques used and so forth.
Hearing students generally have a broader knowledge base due to greater passive acquisition of knowledge. By that I mean since they are hearing, they often pick up knowledge by "overhearing it." They will be riding in the car to school and will hear the news and thus pick up information about the world that they put no real effort into acquiring.
The expansion of knowledge in deaf children requires a much more effort and thus generally results in deaf children having a smaller knowledge base.
Teachers need to consider this difference in learners and in learning styles when designing study programs.
In a message dated 3/1/2006 1:01:06 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, sharonandmarsha@.com writes:
Yes, it just takes more practice on the asl.ms site. Eventually you'll get it down if you keep working at it.
You might ask the teacher if he teaches other sections and if you could sit in on BOTH sections. Sometimes the extra exposure makes a big difference.
It could help you to study the lesson in advance or purchase the teacher's curriculum (if there is one, you can probably order it online) and read all of what it says.
Also, you might want to read the "reflections of an ASL student" page at my Lifeprint.com website.
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