David Maust on Signing 1

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20 thoughts on “David Maust on Signing 1”

  1. The best thing while waiting for the North East hurricane was watching these videos just now. THANK YOU SO MUCH! David, I really appreciate getting a chance to watch you. Also, thanks for sharing the sign language site. I have been introducing the structures and asking for kids signs but it takes too long and each class has their own so it’s hard for me to remember. High schoolers would probably appreciate just going through that part faster. Enter aslopro.com.

    It’ll be great especially because in one of my classes, a few girls told me at the beginning of the year that they had taken some American Sign Language courses in middle school and really enjoyed it. What fun it will be for them to feel like they’re getting a 2-for-1 deal in my class!

  2. Agreed: thank you very much, David, for posting your videos. I have not yet been able to do Circling with Balls or cards at the beginning of the year (it just isn’t working for me) so seeing your way of going about it is helpful.

  3. Thanks Jennifer and Diane. The signing thing for me has taken on a whole new life this year. Before I saw it as just something to do when establishing meaning before moving on to the “real stuff” of telling the story, but now I see that it accomplishes much more when I use it consistently.

    Mainly, I value it now for the power it has to give kids a way to participate that is NON-VERBAL. At NTPRS this year I was surprised to find out that I wasn’t supposed to even have kids repeat structures after me (i.e. forced production). I knew I wasn’t supposed to expect them to respond in sentences off the top of their heads in the target language, but I didn’t think of repetition as forced production. So my way of having kids participate in the past was repeating structures after me.

    I like signing so much better because it keeps the class quiet and you can feel the acquisition process taking place. It gives kids something to do, but it respects the quiet breaks between my input that needs to be there for acquisition to take place. It also keeps us in the realm of the subconscious, whereas repetition breaks us into the conscious. I had to face it – the oral repetition thing was just hokey and fake-feeling. It felt like you were in school when a teacher says something and everyone else repeats (and school in the 19th century), but signing feels like you’re in a conversation. The kids buy into the signing much more than the repetition (which is forced production of course).

    I also sense that signing gives the kids something to hang on to as well. I see some do it when I’m not prompting and it helps them stop over-thinking things too much. I think signing is for kin-esthetic learners, what word walls are for visual learners and what slow, circling is for auditory learners.

    I also like that signing slows me down naturally. It is also a comprehension check and a mandate for everyone to engage. (I constantly make sure when I see kids starting to check out to bring people back into my focus and eye contact by mandating EVERYONE to show me the sign.)

    I’m probably repeating what I said above, but this has just been such a ground breaking thing for me this year. I even have been introducing signs in my upper level classes for old words that they didn’t all learn well – even the upper level kids like doing the signs.

    Thanks Ben for telling me in our coaching session at NTPRS when I was practicing that you needed some signs to make the Latin words I was speaking become real to you. That was the start of me understanding something new about language acquisition – that signing does something on a visceral and unexplainable level in the mind, body and soul.

  4. Where’s the LIKE button?:

    “I also like that signing slows me down naturally. It is also a comprehension check and a mandate for everyone to engage. (I constantly make sure when I see kids starting to check out to bring people back into my focus and eye contact by mandating EVERYONE to show me the sign.)”

  5. I too want to thank Ben for the late night coaching session at NTPRS (also, props to Sabrina who stayed up with us and had to hear a lot of CI Latin reps!). Great work David, that night, and what you are writing and posting here. I hope to peruse it all in more detail, and offer more of a response.

    1. Sabrina Janczak

      John and David,

      I remember that evening very well b/c the three of us ( John, Ben and I, ) were so determined to coach David that we ended up sitting on the floor in one of the hallways in the hotel since we couldn’t find an open room. And we stayed there for a couple of hours, and my bones were achy but it was so much fun to watch David and help him figure out stuff and coach him. David was so brave and vulnerable. This was eye awakening for me, and I acquired some Latin which I was able to recognize in this awesome video ( yeah!). David you rock!!! Thank you for doing this for all of us, so we can learn with you and from you.
      David, that night in Las Vegas was only three months ago. You were so full of uncertainties and self-doubts about your techniques. And look at you now, you have blossomed into this awesome teacher ! I really enjoyed watching you!
      I think one of the lessons we take from watching you David lies in the incredible power of signing.
      Like everyone else commenting on this stuff, I too ask my kids to find a gesture and sign in at the beginning of PQA and sometimes in the story. Because each class picks different gestures, I rely on the kids to show me what those gestures are, and if I don’t demand gesturing from them, they just won’t do it or forget about it. I think it is b/c it’ s one more thing for them to do, and either they are forgetful, lazy or self-conscious.
      But my learning from watching you David (and thank you for this!) is I’ m going to incorporate this into my rubric and demand they do it, and not just occasionnally.
      Great job David!

  6. Thanks so much Sabrina! I appreciate your kind words and encouragement! It’s hard to believe that NTPRS wasn’t that long ago. And you’re right about that coaching session. There were some serious physical obstacles that we had to contend with – sitting on the floor, the cold air, a legal pad for a whiteboard, and fatigue since we went long and it was around midnight if I remember correctly.

    That was not an easy experience for me – I felt like I was doing everything all wrong, trying to connect the words with you, Ben and John, but you all were so patient and honest, and in the midst of needing something tangible to hold onto you and Ben needed signs (John knew the Latin already). And signing really came to the rescue in that moment.

    There was another thing that helped too: I recall Ben making the comment at one point that he needed me to just give him more attention and he got cranky because I started talking about him at one point (with PQA) and then moved onto either you or John too fast. He said something to the effect of – hey you started giving me attention and now you’re moving on?!? There may have been some stronger language too – I don’t remember.

    Our poor learning conditions that night helped us out. There’s something visceral about just needing attention and a tangible way to interact with another when you don’t have common language. I was looking around on some ASL websites tonight and noticed a comment that said something to the effect of: “The importance of facial expression when signing.” Wow. There is something about my facial expression alone that will make acquisition happen. Yes, I know that is true; that’s how the brain and soul work together.

    And that’s how I suspect my kids feel in class feel about all this too. And that’s how really important it is that I give them not only signs so their body can respond when they don’t yet have words, but that I give them also the attention and expression they need to feel valued, human and loved. I’ve seen some other comments on the PLC lately that are in essence the same thing – we are dealing with some raw and powerful stuff here.

    1. “hey you started giving me attention and now you’re moving on?!?”

      I remember that too, and it really resonated with me and my teaching. Thanks to Ben’s perspective, by the end of NTPRS, in the practice and demo sessions, I had moved beyond the method and the content and was thinking from an emotional perspective: how is this making me feel as an insecure student? Being honest about my emotional reactions during the sessions really was a huge step for me, and I think people who don’t get that, will just think we’re wasting time and not teaching our students anything, because they have no awareness of that emotional level which is really what determines whether or not acquisition happens.

    2. …there is something about my facial expression alone that will make acquisition happen….

      Ok that’s deep. I am thinking we are talking about something far beyond mere teaching here as the old definition of imparting information. I think that with the facial expression piece added to the actual signing we are into a kind of loving life thing. And – in my view of teaching – without joy there is nothing but robotic processing – I really don’t think languages cannot be acquired without some degree of en-joy-ment. Language is a huge piece of our ability to enjoy life in the first place. That is why this new model for teaching isn’t for everyone. Many teachers whose way of working was based on intimidation and choosing certain favorite students over others, who weren’t good enough, did not impart joy to their students – far from it. That is why I believe in this work so much because I believe that mankind is now in the midst of changing from being miserable to being happy. It just looks bad. It isn’t. It’s like the world is taking a big shit. It’s a mess when it happens but it makes it all better. It’s hard to express but the facial expression, I am guessing here, just seems to have something about bringing joy and life and positive energy into the discussion, into the signing, into the words, into everything. Have you ever seen that in the face of an accomplished sign language interpretor in the midst of their work. They just seem to be so positively into it. I want to be that way, but adding in that piece seems like it is beyond my sorry self. Wow is this thread big. Dang, Maust! You be trippin’.

  7. Thanks David for your videos… great to see your classroom and your teaching!

    Here is another great ASL website. http://lifeprint.com/

    Signing is soooooo important, I know it, and the funny thing is, it’s one thing my students consistently point out as something I do that helps them learn. And they agree with me, that if we’re doing some gestures/signs, they might as well be the real signs for our non-verbal language here in the U.S.

  8. Thanks Jim. I just found that site last night when I was looking for some more ASL resources. I’m loving your story scripts this year too. I’ve done “Come Here!” and today we did a version of “Halloween.” Thanks so much!

    1. Dear David,

      I don’t know if you’ll see this post but since I don’t have your personal email, I’ll attempt it anyways.
      I just want to thank you again for posting your video and getting that discussion going a little while ago on this signing thing.
      By the way, do you remember Gerry Wass at NTPRS this year? He did a session on signing called signing on or signing off. Although I attended , I just don’t remember any of it. I think my mind was elsewhere. I wish I did remember though because he is a very intelligent man and in light of what I am about to discuss here, it could come in handy, but I just don’t remember. Oh well, if any of you do, can you refresh my memory?
      In any case, because of you and your video and this discussion, I started something new in my classroom so I thought I ‘d share.
      It is a new job for me, which I have called the sign in interpreter.
      Have you ever watched a UN session (or else) on TV with sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired? I am sure you have seen them but really watching them and trying to understand is kinda cool to watch. Anyway I keep this job for a kid whose learning style is bodily-kinesthetic.
      It’ s a trial and error as I had a couple of kids chosen for the job who were terrible at it although they said their learning style was bodily-kinesthetic. So they got replaced , and that was OK with them.
      So the sign in interpreter stands in a corner of the room (away from the actors when we do the story), and he/she signs in, all the time, everything we do. So whether we do PQA, co-create a story, reading or else, that person is always in front of the room, signing whatever we do. I too sign in if and when I remember, and the rest of the class may as well, but that person’s job is primarily to keep signing the class chosen gestures for the structures, whatever is being said or read. It is great as we keep on recycling gestures from this year and last and they remember them all! I just love it! I asked the kids if it helped them and they said yes. I figure if it helps even only a few, I take it as a positive. The way I look at it is, it’s just one more way to get comprehension across. So we have the auditory piece coming from me mainly, the visual stuff on the overhead and from watching the sign in interpreter, and the kinesthetic piece coming out of that person.
      One thing I observed with one French 2 class I have is that the sign in interpreter for that class is acquiring French now whereas she wasn’t before. So it could be the fact she has a job, or that since she is a kinesthetic learner this is helping her. Unsure as to why but I’ll take her success without a doubt and try to attribute it to taking chances. Her learning curve has increased tremendously and I am super happy.
      I’ll have to see if it is sustainable, not just for her but for all my classes.
      In another class I am still searching for the right person for that job, it is trial and error just like with anything else.
      I have one class of 8th grader where I am amazed with the outcome. I have forgotten a couple of times to call the person in to do her job, and the class is eager to remind me to bring her in and perform her job. This class is just awesome, speaking so much French all of he time that I want to cry everyday with them, but the sign in person is absolutely rocking the room, adding so much more. I thought I had to share. This wouldn’t have happened had you not started this conversation David, so I have to say it again: THANK YOU!

  9. If it works, in the sense where it makes us slow down so the signer can keep up, it’s a potential gold mine for the kids. I just never made it work for me in reading (they have to have their focus on the words of the text and the signer as well) but I never tried it in stories. Plus, it takes the right kid to do it. Looking forward to hearing how this works for others.

  10. That interchange just hit the nail on the head: Our default is to think that something that “slows us down” is a bad thing, but it will in fact increase comprehension by 1) providing more and varied CI, and 2)slowing us down.

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