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Teaching children

posted Jan 16, 2018, 9:54 AM by Christine Merrill
I decided to turn off my voice this week in Primary, except during singing time. I had a great conversation with another member of the Primary presidency last week and decided that it's harder, but it's important for the kids - both to learn ASL better and because their other teachers are deaf, so they need the consistency. 

It was harder. And discouraging.

I asked two kids to translate a sentence, and I was totally surprised, they couldn't do it very well! Like, asking me "how do you sign 'is'?" And finger spelling every. Single. Word. There were so many times when I just didn't think these kids understood anything. 

In senior Primary, I asked everyone to look at me so I could bear my testimony. I'd wave at one kid and tell him to look at me, then the next kid - and by the time I got that kid's attention, the other had wandered off again. In the end, I bore my testimony to 2 kids. I know nobody else paid attention because after I said, "If you can tell me what I just said about when I was in high school, you can help me choose the songs for singing time." Two kids raised their hands and the other 3 said, "What? When did you talk about high school? That's not fair!" 

The next night, we did a sign language Family Home Evening. It was the same. So hard to get people to look at the same time. So hard to keep people paying attention. Even to a topic you know they'd be interested in (in English). 

So here's the question: how do you teach someone in the language they'd rather not communicate in, when they know very well that you could switch if you wanted to? 

I've been thinking about how helping the learn and understand ASL in some formal ways could help - memorizing scriptures or reciting phrases. Marriner points out that being really interesting visually can help keep the attention. And finally, motivational incentives can build habits of paying attention. You know, rewards for answering questions and such. 

I'm thinking of making a sign to wear: "Sister Merrill is using ASL" on one side and "Sister Merrill can speak English" on the other to help differentiate between times when I can speak (singing time) and when it's voices off.

The long and short of it is that you can't make someone pay attention to you in ASL like you can when you're speaking. So you have to be more interesting. I think they'd think I'm interesting if they gave me a chance. Hopefully, I can convince them that I'm worth paying attention to!