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ASL Games:  Helen Keller Speller
- William G. Vicars, EdD. (Dr. Bill)

The Helen Keller Speller game can be used to review vocabulary and to practice fingerspelling.

Students take turns role playing "Helen Keller" and "Anne Sullivan."  One spells into the other's hand.

What I like to do is I list the game on my agenda for the day using the title "Helen Keller Speller." It arouses the student's curiosity aroused and starts mentally preparing them for the activity since most of them can guess that it might have something to do with "spelling into the hand."

I display a list of about 10 new words and I show the signs.  Then I demonstrate the activity by role playing both the sender and the receiver. First I become the receiver. I close my eyes and hold out my hand. Then I shift positions and role play the sender by forming my hand into a "letter."  Then I act like both the sender and the receiver.  I thrust the letter on my right hand into my left hand, I feel it with my left hand then I let go. Then I form another letter with my right hand and thrust it into the palm of my left hand. I feel the letter with my left hand and then let go.  This shows the students the concept that they will be spelling into the hand of their partner.

Next I call to the front any student who is outgoing, intelligent, and likes to be the center of attention. I have that student be the receiver.  I have them hold up their hand in a loose claw shape and then close their eyes I then spell "C" into their hand. When I'm sure they know what it is, I then spell "A," and again wait for them to figure it out. Then I spell "T."

After they get the word I reverse the roles and I act as the blind person.  It helps to have a scrap of paper with a few "three-letter words" on it for them to choose from.  They then spell to me.  Hopefully I can figure the word out (heh).

Next I call up to the front another outgoing student and I have the two students role play the sender and receiver under my guidance. I have them both do each role.

I thank them for their assistance and have the class give them a big "Deaf Applause" as I send them back to their seats.

At that point I divide up the class and have them use recently introduced vocabulary words to practice their "Helen Keller" spelling.  The following can be displayed during the beginning of the activity to help speed up the explanation process:

Instructions to the students:

Instructions: You will be paired up with another classmate and you will take turns being the sender and the receiver.  Do about five words and then switch roles.  If you are good at spelling you and your partner might switch a couple times before your classmates switch once. If so that is okay, after I see that everyone has had a chance to try this we will move on.
* Receiver holds out hand and closes eyes
* Speller thrusts letter into receivers hand
* Receiver feels hand until understands letter then lets go and "shows" the letter to the sender and then returns his/her hand to the waiting position
* Sender forms next letter and thrusts letter into receivers hand
* As soon as the receiver knows the word he/she should go ahead and sign it (no need to wait for the entire word).
* Sender confirms if accurate or says no and starts over if needed

If the receiver has forgotten the sign he/she may simply open their eyes and spell the word to the partner and hopefully the partner will know the sign. If neither partner knows the sign, get my attention and spell it to me and I'll show you the sign.  Also, feel free to use any of the vocabulary items we have learned so far in this class, but make sure by the end of the activity you have reviewed the signs we recently learned.


Teaching notes:
I tend to bring a box of wet wipes to class on the day that I do this activity. I've even gone so far as to do the activity after a break but before the break I instruct my students to ALL go to the bathroom and wash their hands before the next activity.  They think I'm weird but it makes class even more interesting because I'm fairly sure most of them have never had a teacher tell the whole class to go wash their hands.  Then we do the activity after the break when they all have "clean hands."

I wouldn't have the students do more than about 10 words total with the same partner. If I want the activity to take up some time, I assign new partners every few minutes.  Note: I do the assigning. Or I have them line up in opposite rows and everyone just moves to their left.  If there is an "odd" number of students then create a threesome as one of the groups.
- Dr. Bill


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