American Sign Language (ASL) on the upswing in KPBSD

Sign Language is busting out all over the district!

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This year interest is surging to learn American Sign Language (ASL). Why? New students who are deaf are enrolling in our district. When that happens, a whole school perks up and notices there are people signing in the halls and the classroom. Classroom teachers like Lyn Maslow at West Homer Elementary see an opportunity for the whole class to learn a new language and grow in their understanding of how “us” can include even greater diversity. When the idea was floated for an after-school Sign Club, it took off like a shot. Educational Sign Language Interpreter Chelsea Carpenter was nervous about teaching at first, especially when almost 50 people showed up to the first meeting! She did a great job, though, and with help from the students, parents are sharing this visual language with students, staff, and even some other parents each week this semester. Participants are learning communication skills they can use in the classroom and community immediately and having a great time doing it.

Another reason Signing is becoming more popular is in KPBSD we have several students who lost their hearing after already learning to speak and listen. With the new technology of cochlear implants, they function as hearing children. However, when they take their implants off, they hear nothing. Parents and professionals see the value in these students learning good basic Signing for situations when they might be “unplugged” and for emergencies. Knowing ASL also opens some doors for our young people. Growing into adulthood, they may want to be involved in the Deaf community. Signing is an important part of this culture, and it’s a natural choice as a second language for these students.

Nikiski Middle-High School has a small group that meets at lunch time each week to learn and practice conversational ASL. Each week, students in Mrs. Settlemeyer’s second grade class at Nikiski North Star Elementary learn signs for basic communication as well as for vocabulary from their regular reading program. Their enthusiasm spills over into other classes as well. Recent performances by West Homer Elementary and Nikiski North Star featured students signing along with their music numbers.

“Jazz Hands” have nothing on these kids!

Story contributed by Renee Estelle, KPBSD Hearing Specialist

Links:
KPBSD Pupil Services department

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