In a message dated 1/11/2007 11:07:04 A.M. Pacific
Standard Time, andreasigns@ writes:
Hi, Dr. Bill
Okay, I am teaching an ASL 2 class. One student told me
that he has Dyslexia and he has difficulty reading the
fingerspelling. He has no problem in reading the signs.
What would you do with this? How do you grade his
First of all, make sure you are hitting all the basics:
Present an "advanced organizer," demonstrate the skill,
provide guided practice, offer corrective feedback, set up
independent practice, monitor practice, and review.
Okay, that being said, what I specifically recommend is for
you to grade him on his sign recognition and expression
rather than his receptive fingerspelling ability. Since
fingerspelling is an important part of ASL, I do think he
should be required to become familiar with fingerspelling,
but I would remove the "time element" as much as possible.
I often get students who state that their disability
prevents them from taking the quizzes at normal speed. So I
reply, "No problem, here is a disk, take the quiz on the
disk first and submit your answers to me. Then take the
test in class and I'll let you keep whichever score is
higher." Now here's the thing to understand, the quiz on
the disk involves a LOT of exposure. It shows EVERY sign in
the lesson and EVERY sentence in the lesson and so rather
than being a random sampling of the lesson it is quite
literally a comprehensive test that requires the student to
have studied each sign from my lesson pages on the web.
What ends up happening almost every time is that after the
students study so hard to take the test on CD, they end up
doing VERY well on the in-class test and eventually realize
it is easier to just do their homework and take the regular
tests instead of doing the in-depth CD tests.
So the answer wasn't for me to dumb-down my in-class test
nor to provide longer testing time, but rather for he
student to study more out of class at their own pace which
enhanced their in-class performance.
For example, with your student I'd record myself spelling
100 words. And then I'd put it on a disk and require him to
take it home and translate all 100 words. He could replay
the video as often as he would like. He could write the
words out with a pencil as the letters are being shown, etc.
Chances are, after sufficient exposure, he would be
relatively good at recognizing individual fingespelled
letters--regardless of the dyslexia. The challenge comes in
recognizing whole words. But here's the thing:
fingerspelling normally doesn't take place in isolation.
Fingerspelling is generally embedded in to discourse.
The overall discourse context provides clues to the identity
of the fingerspelled word.
For discussion purposes, let's consider this rather
"dyslexic" paragraph that has been floating around the net:
Aoccdrnig to raresech at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't
mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny
iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the
rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll
raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed
ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
Most adults I've shown that to are able to read it
relatively easily. The key is context.
Regardless of the dyslexia, if provided
sufficient context and a limited set of choices your student
should be able to recognize fingerspelled words as whole
units. Literally as signs that happen to have a number of
individual internal movements. To test this out, choose two
names like "STEVE" and "HENRY." Spell the name Steve point to the word "Steve" on the board. Then
spell "Henry" and point to it. Do not slow it down
or carefully show each letter. Rather spell it using a smooth flowing
movement. Repeat this several times.
Speed up each time. Then choose a student an bring him or
her up and have the student point to which word you are
spelling. Then add a third name to the board. You will
find that since the possible selection set is so limited you
can spell very, very quickly and the student will still
recognize which of names is being spelled, if for no other
reason than he is catching the first and last letters of the
person's name. I've done this with BEGINNING level
students and used a dozen names or more.
So, how does this concept of "whole word" recognition apply to
That means you can indeed test his receptive fingespelling
ability, but you need to do so using a high-context,
Or you can use a low-context, high-option approach, but you
need to give him more time (perhaps take-home assignment
created using the Gallaudet fingerspelling font).
Either way though, he is responsible for recognizing and
being familiar with the letter-shapes.