STORY-TELLING IN ASL AND WRITTEN ENGLISH
Fall 1996, Vol. 8 No. 1
by Amily Beidelman
One of the most difficult skills for Deaf children to master is the transference of story-telling in American Sign Language (ASL) to the written English form. "Telling Tales in English and ASL," a videotape from the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), demonstrates several creative teaching strategies which address this problem.
The video focuses on a story-telling program used in the language lab at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. The immediate goals of the program are to get students involved in using their imaginations, stretching their vocabularies, developing social skills in peer relationships, and fostering enthusiasm for reading in a risk-free environment. The ultimate goal is for students to develop proficiency in telling stories in ASL and to transfer this skill to standard written English.
The video follows a teacher and her class as they work in the language lab. First, the students watch a videotape of a story told in ASL. The teacher and students then discuss the story and related themes to ensure that the students have an accurate understanding of the story. After the discussion, the students participate in various activities to enhance their skills in ASL and written English.
To help a child see the relationship between a story he signs in ASL and printed English the teacher videotapes him as he retells the story. Based on what the student signs the teacher then writes a draft in standard English. The teacher and student work together to revise this draft to better reflect the student's intent. Other students in the lab work with teacher aides or independently on related assignments. Some students make illustrations to help them when retelling their story. Others who are more adept at translating ASL into printed English use computers to write essays based on themes from the story.
The video is closed captioned and is available in open caption, as well as in described versions upon request.
At New Jersey's Katzenbach School
The Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf (MKSD) in Trenton is also using video recording to enhance the literacy skills of Deaf children. Kim Arrigo, the Deaf Culture Specialist at the school, is currently videotaping herself as she signs popular children's stories. Using big books, the camera first focuses on the picture in the book, then on Kim signing the corresponding text in ASL. Kim's signing throughout the video is both expressive and engaging. The stories are filmed in ASL only, and there are no subtitles or voice over. In addition to the actual story, Kim asks the viewer questions and comments on the story, as a teacher or parent would when reading a story to a child.
Currently MKSD has produced five different tapes, four with two stories each and one with only one story. A sampling of stories includes Corduroy, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The videotapes are available for parents to borrow, along with a small copy of the corresponding book. Parents are asked to fill out an evaluation form of the videos and return it so that improvements can be made in future tapings.
These videotapes are especially helpful for hearing parents who feel their sign skills may not be adequate to relay the full intent of a story. The tapes thus serve two purposes: to engage children and parents in sharing books and to foster ASL story-telling skills.
The videotaped stories at Katzenbach are geared toward younger children, while the program in Boston is focused on older elementary-aged children. Both programs share the goal of helping Deaf children make the connection between ASL and printed English.
For more information about the tapes, contact MKSD at (609)530-3185.
Amily Beidelman is a senior in the program for Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at The College of New Jersey.
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