Sign Languages

Next week is Deaf Awareness Week. I have written before about being deaf aware, and so this week I decided to write about sign languages.

Many people believe that there is one universal sign language used by deaf people all over the world, but this is not the case. Different countries have different sign languages which are mutually unintelligible. French Sign Language is as different from British Sign Language as French is from English.

Just as spoken languages belong to families – eg the Romance family which includes French, Spanish and Italian, and the Germanic family which includes German, Dutch and Swedish – so do sign languages. French Sign Language is related to American Sign Language; British sign language is related to Australian Sign Language.

Another common misconception is that British Sign Language (BSL) is the same as Sign Supported English (SSE).  This is not true…..

BSL is a language in its own right, with a rich vocabulary. There is no one-word-to-one-sign relationship: some words need more than one sign to explain, and some signs can convey concepts which would require a whole sentence in English.  Sign Supported English is, as it sounds, spoken English with accompanying signs. SSE also has signs to indicate prefixes and suffixes. For example, “I will walk to the shops” in BSL would be three signs – shops me walk – whereas in SSE it would be 6 signs – one for each word.

If you fancy having a go at learning BSL, you have lots of options. Many Adult Education Centres offer introductory level up to at least level 3, and there are also lots of private tuition companies. You can’t beat face-to-face learning, but if you really want to learn from your own home you could look for Skype sessions or look at websites such as spreadthesign where you can learn some words.

Another way to learn a few signs would be to purchase a pack of Flashsticks and learn a few each day. It wouldn’t help you to speak fluently, and you wouldn’t learn any grammar, but it would help you to use Sign Supported English.

Whichever route you choose, it’s definitely worth learning some. It’s an extra skill to show off to potential employers, and it could open up a whole new circle of friends to you.

Boxing Up

This is a technique I learned on a training course for 1:1 tutors, and it is designed to support pupils who find it difficult to come up with ideas and to structure their writing. An example in its most basic form would be using the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill.

boxing up 1

 

 

 

This boxes up into the simple story:

boxing up 2

This could become:

boxing up 3

 

 

This second story follows exactly the format of the first, but with enough details changed to make it a new story.

The source text can be carefully chosen to help with whatever the pupils are struggling with – eg a descriptive piece to help them use more adjectives, or to understand how to include similes and metaphors within a piece of writing.

This technique can be used as closely or loosely as needed to support the child, beginning by boxing up every few words, moving onto every sentence and finally every paragraph until the pupil is confident enough to structure a piece of writing unaided.

ADHD vs Autism

autism-adhd-certA little while ago I signed up to a course called Understanding Autism, Aspergers’ and ADHD. The course was interesting, both because I learnt things I didn’t already know, and because it made me challenge my own beliefs. One of the short written questions obliged us to explain whether we thought that autism and ADHD both belong on the same spectrum. It took a lot of thinking about, but this is the answer I came up with.

My first reaction is that these conditions are completely separate, although they share some characteristics – even after completing this module and discovering more about the overlap of symptoms between autism and ADHD

On reflection, I’m not so sure. It is often said that everybody fits onto the autistic spectrum to some extent and as some of these characteristics (eg the need for familiarity, and an aversion to change) would probably have been desirable qualities for keeping safe in the earliest civilizations, it makes sense that both autistic and supposedly neuro-typical people would share them.

I would have said it was not the same case for ADHD, but the anecdote in this course about the child in school who stopped listening to the teacher and went to look out the window when he heard a car has really made me think. How many of us have felt compelled, on hearing rain, to leave whatever we should be doing to stare out of the window, even though we know what rain looks like. Again, this ability to shift attention from the current task to investigate something that may be dangerous, would have been desirable for early man’s survival, so it makes sense for all of us to share it.

After consideration, I think that ADHD, autism and Aspergers do all fall on the same spectrum. I think that we all share combinations of the characteristics of autism and ADHD, it’s just that those of us who are seen as NT possess combinations that do not impact negatively on our lives.

What do you think?

Top Ten Random Posts on Education

I’ve never written a round-up post before, but I’ve been blogging for a while and now seemed like a good time to take stock of which posts people have read the most and to reshare them. I’ve decided to group them by topic rather than a charts-style Top 10, so here goes….

The maths ones
These are all inter-linked, so I think people have clicked from one to another. Teaching Number Bonds and Teaching the Times Tables both have suggestions for helping children get to grips with these areas. They’re based on things I have tried and found to work well. What’s the Best Order to Learn the Times Tables does what it says on the tin!

The English ones
VCOP is a little out-of-fashion these days, but I don’t think it hurts to remind children to think about it. VCOP Display is a display with a twist that throws in a bit of SPaG with it. A Disco in my Classroom is all about teaching verbs in an intervention group.

The guest post
Teachers- it’s time to face the music was written by the very talented daughter of a friend of mine. A must read for all teachers – see if you can guess which one you are!

The growth mindset ones
Of Einstein and Fish is all about why I hate that picture of the animals standing in a line and being told to climb a tree. In my opinion it’s annoying, nonsensical and a cop-out! When is a test not a test? explains how I turned end of unit tests into a bit of fun and helped the children to become more active learners.

The personal one
I wrote What do you say to someone who’s grieving? when I lost my mom. It’s something we all struggle with but it’s something that rarely gets talked about. A lot of people have told me that they really appreciated me writing this and that they found it very useful.

The random one
I have no idea why Who or what is La Befana? has been so popular. I’m not complaining – just bemused!

It’s a bit of an eclectic mix, but those are the 10 best performing posts on my blog.