I asked one of my ASL classes to take 3 minutes the other day and write whatever came to mind about how they would like to learn ASL– what kinds of classroom exercises, texts (books, videos), homework, tests, whatever. I did this because it seemed like some things weren’t working for some of the students in the class, and I wondered if they had any better ideas about how to learn. I think it was interesting for them to write, and I certainly got some ideas from them I will put into action; in fact, I already made some changes this morning. In addition to making changes in the course, I feel it improved the trust we have in each other, since they know that I want to listen, and I know that they want to learn– maybe just in different ways.
Afterword: The exercise I assigned the students was in line with my training in education and my educational philosophy. I am using Signing Naturally Units 1-6, and I have no intention of tossing it out. I also use the Teacher’s Curriculum Guide and the included materials, such as slideshows. I think the workbook and DVD are great, but I want to get my students’ perspective on their course materials. I know I am the ultimate decision maker when it comes to what I want to teach, but they are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to what they want to learn. Ultimately, no teacher can force a student to read a book or watch a DVD. The students are the ones who must choose to use the tools they have or augment their learning with other resources. My thought is that, in the process of imagining their dream class, the students are forced to imagine the kinds of “work” they would do if they had the freedom to choose. I asked them, “tell me how you would learn ASL if it were up to you– and not just magically, but by working at it. If you don’t like what you’re reading, watching, or doing, what else would you propose?” I stressed realism while at the same time inviting imagination.
To give you an example of a change suggested in the free-writes, three (out of 9) students suggested putting off Unit 6 to the end of the semester rather than threading it through the other units as the Signing Naturally Semester Syllabus suggests. I decided to try their suggestion, this semester at least. It’s a relatively minor change, they appreciate me for it, and I feel like no less of a leader for doing it.
Found a relevant rubric today on iRubric for a French Oral Exam that I edited to make it an ASL Interactive Exam. This is what it looks like. Click the picture to jump to the rubric page.
Review day is not for me to speed-teach everything we’ve learned.
Love it! Instead, The teacher writes homework section numbers on different places on three boards in the room and says:
Go to where you want to get or give extra help on those sections.
The teacher then walks around the room to keep students on task and help out where needed.
I’m stealing that!
1. It takes patience and creativity to sign with people who know little sign language.
I have a new respect for Deaf people who take the time to sign with ASL students. Having more respect for Deaf people and more creativity in how I express myself is making me a better Deaf community member.
2. I’ve been doing it wrong.
Well, maybe not wrong, but there are things I never knew, such as that Y is considered a down letter; that is, Y is made by tilting the palm downward. I’m sure this is not a hard and fast rule; in fact, I can see even on the Signing Naturally DVD the language models do not always sign Y that way. Still, I never knew it ever tilted down at all. Now I see it in the way I and other signers spell the lexicalized #style and #yes. I also never knew that the sign WHEN meant what day, not what time. Again, I’m sure this is not a hard and fast rule, but I never knew it was a rule at all. Those are just two examples of several. Learning how to refine my signing is making me a better interpreter.
3. Now I see what my students have learned.
Since many of the interpreting students and working interpreters I teach have learned ASL with the Signing Naturally curriculum, I have a better idea of what they were taught. Knowing what my students have learned is making me a better interpreter trainer.
I am so proud of how my ASL students are doing with storytelling! They are retelling three stories from Signing Naturally: “Timber,” “Gum Story,” and “Gallaudet & Clerc.” I credit the language models, Joey Baer, Stefanie Ellis, and Tyrone Giordano; the authors, Ella Mae Lentz, Ken Mikos, and Cheri Smith; and myself for maximizing the curriculum to help my students learn.
In short, I am proud of my students, proud of myself, and thankful to the people who contributed to my teaching and my students’ learning. It is a great feeling!