Family involvement: learning sign language

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    • 00:02

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Family Involvement Learning Sign Language][MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 00:12

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: You ready?Two fingers.Two fingers.Woah.

    • 00:27


    • 00:32

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: She just flipped me off.

    • 00:34


    • 00:37

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: My name is Bonne Grossbauer,and I have been teaching American Sign Language hereat Michigan School for the Deaf for probably-- I'mtrying to think.Since the mid-'80s.

    • 00:50


    • 00:54

      AUDIENCE: Yeah.You've got to have some fun with this.You really do.It's brand new to all of you.

    • 01:00

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: It's very excitingto have the families all want to come and learn to communicatewith their children. [Bonnie Grossbauer American SignLanguage Instructor Michigan School for the Deaf]Very important that we have communication accessibilityfor our children.We push that here at the school, and welove having the parents and families come to classand learn sign language so that they can better communicate

    • 01:21

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: with their children and have really better relationshipswith their children.

    • 01:25


    • 01:27

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: You've got to have some fun with itbecause you're going to feel awkward.You're going to feel funny.

    • 01:32

      AUDIENCE: Yeah.

    • 01:32

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: You're going to feel unnatural.And so if we can't laugh about it, how are wegoing to defeat that feeling?Right?So I'm glad you flipped me off.

    • 01:44


    • 01:46

      AUDIENCE: Don't do it again.

    • 01:47

      AUDIENCE: Don't do that.

    • 01:48

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: But don't do it again.Learning to sign for someone who is a hearing personand has never signed before, it's very awkward.See that?They feel funny.They feel strange, and I try to use a lot of humorin my class to make them relax and becomfortable with their bodies and with beingable to communicate and not-- be happy that they're learning,

    • 02:14

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: that this is wonderful.They're doing a wonderful thing by coming to class.Quicker.

    • 02:18

      CECEILIA WINKLER: The language of the schoolis American Sign Language with English support, so everyonewho works here signs. [Ceceilia Winkler Principal MichiganSchool for the Deaf] American Sign Languageis different than English.It is a separate language.The deaf people in the United Statesbegan to sign to each other.And William Stokoe, in the '60s, hadit identified as a language with phonology and all that,and that's what this school specializes in.

    • 02:40

      CECEILIA WINKLER [continued]: The importance of teaching American Sign Languageto children and families and aunts and unclesis that you want to surround themwith language, like any child has in their home.You want them to have access to every portion of life--saying grace, arguments, resolutions, paying the bills,doing your chores.That's called "ambient communication"so that they can have access to the TV noises

    • 03:01

      CECEILIA WINKLER [continued]: or all that kind of stuff.So we believe that that is critical to a child's learning.And if you look at research, it talks about how muchchildren learn, not from directly being spoken to,but all the surrounding stuff and how muchthey pick up that contributes to their education.So we believe that's crucial that childrenbe a part of the family and they haveaccess to all the information that brings a family together.

    • 03:23

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: These fingers right here, the bad fingers.

    • 03:26


    • 03:28

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Got them?Everybody got them?When it comes to teaching sign languageand learning sign language in my classes,I want them to enjoy it.I want them to be passionate about it.I want-- we have a lot of humor in the class.Just as soon as I approach, they get it.

    • 03:46

      AUDIENCE: I don't have bad fingers.

    • 03:47

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: No?OK.So then you do it like this.Put it on your chest here like and go--[WHOOSH]

    • 03:54

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: I tease a lot.Sometimes, I make fun of the way they sign something.Today, I had somebody that flipped me off.[LAUGHING]And I told her, "No, no, no.Don't do that.Don't do that.You just flipped me off."And of course, the whole class just roared,but everybody relaxes then.And you're learning a new language,

    • 04:15

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: and it can be very intimidating.It can be, and I want everyone to have a good time,feel good about their deaf child,and enjoy learning the new language.If I was talking about my husband and he's not here,I will go, "My husband," and, "blah, blah,

    • 04:37

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: blah," whatever it is.And then I would do "he" because I've already set up my husband.

    • 04:42


    • 04:43

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: So I say, "My husband," and then "he."OK.From then on, "he"--

    • 04:48

      AUDIENCE: "He is"?

    • 04:49

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Uh-huh."He did this.He did that."Did I tell you guys about the peaches I was canning?I told you that story?

    • 04:55

      AUDIENCE: Mm-hmm.

    • 04:55

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: OK.I'm sure you saw me do something like that in the story.For for, yes.Remember when I told you I was canning the peaches?And I was doing it the hard way.OK.I was probably in my 20s then.Give me a break.OK.

    • 05:10


    • 05:10

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: I'm 66 now.But he came in.I said, "My husband."[WHOOSH]You see that?

    • 05:19

      AUDIENCE: Mm-hmm.

    • 05:19

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: OK.This right here is what they calla "classifier" and a "classifier"is an object or a person or whatever,but you don't know what it is until I tell you first.OK.So my husband came in.

    • 05:40

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: OK.I could be driving my car, and I could--[PUFFS LIPS]Tree.Tree.There it is.I'm a native signer.OK.Meaning that my first language was sign language.OK.I'm a hearing person, but my parents, my grandparents,

    • 06:02

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: many of my family-- my aunts, uncles, cousins, all along--all deafness in my family.And then I have a younger sister.She and I are both hearing, but our first languageis sign language.I'm going to ask you a question, and Iwant you to answer my question, not just with a "yes" or a"no," but with a complete answer.

    • 06:25

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: And you're going to say "you."

    • 06:27

      AUDIENCE: You.Teach.

    • 06:28

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Teaching.

    • 06:29

      AUDIENCE: Teaching.

    • 06:29

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Double movement-- i-n-g.Teaching.

    • 06:31

      AUDIENCE: Teaching me sign.

    • 06:34

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: There you go.Got it?Do it for me one more time.

    • 06:38

      AUDIENCE: Yes.You--

    • 06:40

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Don't use your voice.

    • 06:41


    • 06:46

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Oh, nice job.

    • 06:48

      AUDIENCE: There you go.

    • 06:48

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Nice job.I'm very animated when I teach my sign language classes.Oh, it's like doing this.I know.

    • 06:55


    • 06:56

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: I can't do that either.I can't either.Maybe over-animated sometimes, but I do it for a reason.And-- yeah.What about the face?I could go--

    • 07:07


    • 07:09

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: That doesn't work.OK?I've got to have the right face that goes with that.I gotta go--I want these people to stop beingso afraid to be expressive.OK.So I force them to see the joy or the animation or the angeror whatever it is-- that emotion or expression I'm

    • 07:29

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: trying to give-- so that they can feel it, not just reada word.Because it's not just words.It's communication and feeling what somebody else is feeling.How do you do that again?I told you 1,000 times.I don't know.

    • 07:47


    • 07:49

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Don't know.OK?Where is so and so?Where is so and so?I don't know.OK?Ask me again.I might do it again.You ask me three times, and you're going to get both hands.It also helps parents be more emotional in their responsesto me.Because in the beginning-- in my very beginning classthat you saw this morning, they're

    • 08:10

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: signing one word at a time.And some of them are asking me for a next lesson,and I'm telling them "no."I'm not going to give you a next lesson.You're going to learn the next lesson from me.You're not going to learn it from a piece of paperbecause I want you to have the feeling and the emotion thatgoes with the words, not just the words.I want you guys to practice them at home until you're not

    • 08:35

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: signing it one word at a time.Do you understand what I'm saying?The first class I had this morningwas a very beginning class.In fact, this was only their second lesson.And the class I'm having now has been with me three years,and they're ready to really move ahead with their skills.

    • 08:58

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: The assignment for today was to have them all come and bring mea little short story-- three to five minutes--and I wanted them to sign the story in front of meand to the class.And then I would do some critiquing of their signsif they weren't correct."She what another hat?" "She went"?

    • 09:17

      AUDIENCE: "Ordered"?

    • 09:18

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: Oh.Oh, oh, oh.From the mouth.From our mouth. "Ordered."

    • 09:21

      AUDIENCE: "Order."

    • 09:22

      BONNE GROSSBAUER: "Ordered." "She ordered."They needed some help or maybe theycame across a vocabulary word they didn't know,and then I would teach them the new signand incorporate it into their story.[CLAPS]Good job.Good job.All right.I want you to tell me that story again next week.I want you to do it smoother.

    • 09:42

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: I push my parents to be signing in front of their deaf childrenat all times.I'm telling them, "You don't have to sign all the time.But if your deaf child is there, I want you to sign.Be signing, even if you're not talking to the child."I thank God or thank my parents and my grandparents

    • 10:02

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: for teaching me how to sign when I was a baby,and that offered or afforded me the abilityto have tremendous close relationships with my family.If they had spoke to me and signed to each other,I don't think I would have the relationship my motherand my father and all of my family that I have

    • 10:26

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: since I can sign so well.It really gives you the connection,helps with the connection.I think one of the most important thingsthat you can do as a teacher of sign languageis to possibly take your curriculum that you havethat you're going to be using and make it your own.Bring it to life.

    • 10:46

      BONNE GROSSBAUER [continued]: It's not just words on paper or signs in the air,but you have to bring it to life and make it mean somethingto somebody and let that-- so that theycan use it with meaning when they go homewith their children.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Family involvement: learning sign language

View Segments Segment :


It is important for parents and families of deaf children to learn to communicate, in sign language, with their children. One of the biggest reasons a family member of a deaf child should learn sign language is to help build a more meaningful relationship with the child. And, as in any child's home, language exposure during the developmental stages of learning is critical for deaf children. This film follows family members of deaf children in the American Sign Language classroom as they begin to learn to sign.

SAGE Video In Practice
Family involvement: learning sign language

It is important for parents and families of deaf children to learn to communicate, in sign language, with their children. One of the biggest reasons a family member of a deaf child should learn sign language is to help build a more meaningful relationship with the child. And, as in any child's home, language exposure during the developmental stages of learning is critical for deaf children. This film follows family members of deaf children in the American Sign Language classroom as they begin to learn to sign.

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