Deaf Studies Programme, Week One

1 Jun

Monday, 26 May
Plan: Outside Activity: Do the trust fall activity outside; first, in pairs and on the ground; second, with groups catching pupils falling backwards off tables. Introduce Deaf Studies. First activity: Pupils pick a playing card, read its number, then tell that many unique things about himself to the class. Second activity: each pupil has a Post-It, and votes with it by placing it on the appropriate space on the whiteboard in response to a closed-ended question, e.g. Were you born deaf? Is being deaf good or bad? Then discuss. Third activity: With paper and markers, draw a world where everybody is deaf.
Outcome: Three girls ran away during the table fall; they were too terrified to attempt the fall. No one was dropped and the boys clearly enjoyed this much more than the girls. Self-introductions were disappointing; pupils mainly copied each other and followed the same sequence of name, family, age, etc; many struggled past five things. The vote was interesting. Everyone voted that being deaf was good, not bad! Many seemed to confuse themselves with their parents when asked if they had deaf parents (e.g. Teacher: Are your parents deaf? Pupil: I’m deaf! T: No, your parents? Hearing or deaf? P: No, I’m deaf!). They were able to, via the Post-Its on the whiteboard, visually appreciate that most deaf people are born to hearing families. Many completely missed point of drawing a Deaf-World, choosing to instead draw themselves or their families. I am feeling unsure if this class will work; they’re in Years 6-9 classes but they respond more as if they’re actually in Years 2-4. A far more interactive approach is needed.

Tuesday, 27 May
Plan: Outside Activity: Human knot. Pupils stand in a circle and grab hands in center at random, then must untangle themselves without letting go of hands to recreate a circle. Discussion of activity. First activity: Discuss what languages we learn at Rohana, and the building blocks (letters) of each language. Second activity: Introduce handshapes as the “letters” of sign language. Identify handshapes in Sri Lankan Sign Language. Third: Assign a handshape to each pupil. Trace handshapes on papers and complete the drawings.
Outcome: Children enjoyed human knot activity although a couple girls kept cheating and grabbing different hands. They did not seem to get the point that they could not communicate in sign language; many said they felt they were signing even though they could not use their hands! They were very interested in acknowledging that they learned three different languages: Sinhala, English, and sign language. They thoroughly enjoyed identifying handshapes and signs for each, although still dependent on name signs instead of real vocabulary. Fifteen were identified, and thirteen were assigned. They were quick to trace and draw their handshapes on paper using markers. Ended on a high note; they were engaged and interested in how handshapes build sign language.

Wednesday, 28 May
Plan: Outside Activity: Animal Circle game. Pupils sit in a circle and each pick their own animal. After learning each other’s animals, and following a clapping rhythm, one pupil must say their own animal, then a different animal, “handing it off” to the pupil who has that different animal, then repeat the process. First activity: Review handshapes from yesterday. Second activity: Show “No Talking Allowed,” a tame romantic movie with all Deaf actors and all dialogue in sign. Discuss. Third activity: Show “PAH!” movie by CSD Middle School from 2007 CSD Annual Storytelling Festival DVD. Discuss.
Outcome: It was difficult for pupils to follow the clapping rhythm; many have not learned about keeping beats. Did Animal Circle without clapping. It was very important for some of the pupils to learn that they had to keep their eyes on whoever was signing or be sent out. One girl kept looking away but later in the game she learned to focus after she kept getting sent out of the game. Review of handshapes went well; a couple boys were confused and displayed the handshape that went with their name sign instead; it was good to reinforce this. Assigned handshapes to two new pupils. Many were surprised that an entire movie could be produced in sign language, and appeared to enjoy the “No Talking Allowed” movie. They loved seeing their middle school counterparts in the PAH video. Paused during part with CSD MS Principal Clark Brooke to illustrate that deaf people can even be school principals. One boy cried that he wanted Clark to be his principal now! They are enthusiastic about my idea of producing a “We Can!” video for Rohana modeled on PAH movie.

Thursday, 29 May
Plan: All activities outside. First activity: Handshape Dramatic Warm-up. Stand in a circle. Choose a handshape, then perform an action–not a sign–with that handshape. Hand off handshape to next person to do a different action until everyone has had a turn, then change handshape. Second activity: Separate into pairs. In 30 minutes, create a short play or story using just two assigned handshapes. Support them by reviewing their stories often. Third activity: Put on an impromptu performance for younger children.
Outcome: During warm-up, interesting to see many levels of creativity and theatric aptitude among the fifteen pupils. Two boys needed extra support; they would copy the person next to them instead of doing something original. Girls overall were slow (or shy) on uptake but in the end surprised me with their creativity, too. The performance was great, with about twenty younger children in audience. Two teams, all girls, were impeccable in adhering to the handshape rule and created surprising stories. Boys were more inclined to put on entertaining, vaudeville-like performances and lose track of the handshape rule. One boys’ pair fell apart when one snuck away to eat curd left over from lunch. Everyone had a very good and positive time.

Friday, 30 May
Plan: Outside activity: Object Dramatic Warm-up. All pupils stand in a circle. Pass around a found object–a stick, a rock, anything–and each pupil does something interesting with it. First activity: Review videotape of yesterday’s performances. Guide children in identifying errors where handshapes other than what was assigned to the pair were used. Tally up errors to crown first, second, and third places. Second activity: Show ABC, 1-5, and “Hansel & Gretel” stories from 2004 CSD Feast for the Eyes DVD. Discuss. Third activity: Show/Translate Ella Mae Lentz’s poem “The Treasure.” Discuss.
Outcome: Warm-up seemed to go better than yesterday’s warm-up; easier for pupils to innovate with a tangible object than a handshape. Exciting things were done with a ordinary leaf! Pupils thoroughly enjoyed reviewing their own performances and figuring out which one was most error-free. Encouraged that everyone’s performances were great. Took a while for them to understand the idea of an ABC story–they don’t know the ASL alphabet–but they quickly understood the 1-5 or 1-10 story idea. One boy even made up a 1-5 story right away! They want to practice this next Monday. They were able to reflect on the “Hansel & Gretel” story and discussed a similar Sinhalese folk tale. Despite my lousy translation into Sri Lankan Sign of “The Treasure,” they discussed and appreciated Lentz’s point of how sign language can be devalued, and why sign language should be cherished.

Week ended on a high note. Doing outside group activities, watching videos (especially of other deaf people), playing with sign language, putting on performances, and having group discussions are all completely new instructional activities for the 15 pupils, and they have now taken to the lessons with alacrity.

They are looking forward to next week’s classes–plans include showing “The Lives of Deaf Mexicans” to contrast their deaf experience with Mexico’s; using storybooks from library to develop signed stories; number stories; and practicing rhythm with drums. Am considering asking principal if a short storytelling festival could be held next Monday the 9th during the last school period (especially for teachers to observe) but need to ask pupils first. Overall, I am pleased.

3 Responses to “Deaf Studies Programme, Week One”

  1. DE 02. Jun, 2008 at 5:25 am #

    I am so inspired reading this. It is evident you got them thinking about their Deaf identity and all. And to appreciate their Sign Language. A festival will do wonders.

  2. Beth 02. Jun, 2008 at 5:41 am #

    Oooh, would love to see your students do a “We Can!” video! Share with us if u do! Wow you are doing a world of good for the students there!

  3. Anne 02. Jun, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    Well done Adam! I was delighted to read in such detail about your planning and the outcomes of the session. It’s clear that both you and the students are learning from the experience. The story telling festival is a great idea. Now .. how can we ensure that they build on this experience and somehow continue after you leave….?