A CIRS Success: What’s Turtle in Sign Language?

When C.V., a special education teacher at Moravia Park Elementary School, began planning a month of lessons on communication for her students in the first and second grade, she knew that she wanted the curriculum to focus on talking and listening. She hoped that by introducing the children to someone with hearing loss, she might improve their understanding of diversity and help them to appreciate different ways of communicating.

Her class is part of a citywide PRIDE program, created for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Because these children are at great risk for both bullying and being bullied, students in the program are taught the importance of respecting differences and using good communication skills. As part of a month-long health program on communication, the children learned about hearing and hearing loss. Through the course of the month, Ms. V. noticed that the children enjoyed practicing the sign language they learned about in books and were intrigued by the difference between American Sign Language (ASL) and spoken English. They wanted to learn more.

So that her students could see ASL in action, she invited A.B., a Deaf educator with HASA, to visit her students and teach a mini-sign language class and Deaf awareness workshop. The children had a chance to interact with a Deaf adult, learn how to sign the alphabet and ask questions about American Sign Language. Two other teachers were also invited to bring their students to the presentation. All three classes were able to learn what a sign language interpreter does and got to experience interpreter-facilitated communication.

On the way out, two students introduced A. to their class pet and she taught them how to sign the word “turtle.” It was their first real conversation with a Deaf adult. According to Ms. V., “My students are still practicing the signs they learned.” Now that’s a lesson in communication.