SignWriting in Belgium
Flanders: Kasterlinden School for the Deaf

Teachers Kathleen Heylen (left) and Sara Geudens (right).
Sara is wearing a glove that shows palm facing.
Kathleen is reading from the Goldilocks workbook.

Web Report from teachers at the
Kasterlinden School for the Deaf
March 30, 2005

2. Goldilocks & The Three Bears, SW Level 2
Basic ASL Storybook

a. Were your students ready for this book, when they finished SW Level 1? If not, what was lacking in their knowledge, that made it too advanced for them?

Yes, the students were ready for this book. We did not make level 2 too complicated so it was not too difficult for them to read it. We discovered that we can take as much or little time as we want to work with the level 1 book. So once the children are familiar with the concept of SignWriting and how it works, they can concentrate on actually reading a story in short sentences. We feel it is important the children really understand what SignWriting is and that it’s purpose is to READ before they start in the level 2 book.

b.How did the students react to reading complete sentences in ASL? Was it hard for them, or was it an easy experience for them?

At first the children mostly focused on the signs individually. After they understood each sign we made them read the sentence again. Because it is in VGT, their first language, it was fairly easy for the kids to understand what they were reading. But as with learning to read in any given language. You first learn to read without much understanding and after a lot of practice comes the comprehention of what you are reading.

What is diffrent for the children between reading this book or reading any book in Dutch is that it’s much easier for them to understand the Goldilocks books. They know the signs so well, while a lot of Dutch words still have to be translated to a sign before they understand what it is.
If the kids see this word:    HUIS

They first have to think what it is. What is the sign for this word? They have to translate into another language... from Dutch to VGT.                   
If they see this sign:

The sign immediately has meaning for them. It’s a sign they use constantely.

What we noticed was, once the children got used to reading the signs and they knew it had meaning... they absolutely loved reading it. It is so much easier then reading Dutch. And made them more proud and aware of their beautiful first language, Flemish Sign Language (VGT).

A workbook would be very useful. The children asked for it, they had the feeling after reading the sentences they had earned a drawing to color or sometimes certain signs needed to be described in more detail.

We made the sentences this way that there were a number of classifier constructions included. So we could work with this in the grammar lessons.

The level 3 book of Goldilocks will concentrate more on spatial use in VGT.

-Reading the SignWriting in the storybook themselves.
-Putting signs in sentences where they have been left out.
-Reading and understanding.
-Lessons about classifiers and classifier constructions. (what is the diffrence between a sign and a classifier? Search for classifiers in the story book)

We organised a course for the parents ourselves...
We explained to them what SignWriting is, why and how we use it in our classroom. Now for those parents who have studied to become an interpreter, they’ve already learned SignWriting. So for some parents it was not new. But I doubt if the information they got was sufficient and not related to educating Deaf children.
Lessons In SignWriting Textbook
There is a textbook out in Flemish how to write SignWriting. People can order it at Fevlado is the Flemish Federation for the Deaf. But we hope to get a more extensive text on what SignWriting is all about and how it works in the future.

We have started to translate pieces of the text on ‘what is SignWriting’ ourselves and wish to put it on the website of our school, Kasterlinden.
We very strongly feel the need to show the importance of SignWriting to our colleagues and the parents of our students. There are a lot of question at the moment about the value and use of SignWriting at school.

Some parents feel it is a loss of time, they think we are teaching SignWriting on it’s own. Without a purpose, just teaching the kids these symbols and signs that seem to have no meaning to them. Why teach them this instead of teaching them what is important... written Dutch? They can’t seem to grasp the notion that SignWriting might actualy be important and essential in their child's education. Because we are the ones bringing this out to them. Some of the parents want proof this is an effective tool for education. Proof from people with big names in high places.

But... mostly, parents are very positive about this. They see SignWriting as something extra their child learns that other children cannot. They are amazed their child seems to read this so easily and they find it difficult.
Kathleen Heylen and Sara Geudens
March 30, 2005


Kathleen Heylen and Sara Geudens

Kasterlinden School for the Deaf
Dilbeekstraat 1, 1082, Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium

SignWriting in Belgium
Flanders: Kasterlinden School for the Deaf