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SignWriting in Germany
Osnabrück School for the Deaf


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Teacher's Reports
Stefan Woehrmann

...taken from the SignWriting List Archives...

Web Report One

From: Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher at the LBZ-H Osnabrueck/ Germany
To: "SignWriting" <DAC@SignWriting.org>
Subject: Web Report #1

Date: Monday, 30 Aug 1999

1. Why do you want to learn SignWriting?
When I started to learn German Sign Language (DGS) I couldn't look back on any foundations. I knew nothing about German Sign Language and had a hard time to shift my perception from the auditive to the visual channel. To realize how to move my hands, my arms, my body - how to accompany my signs with an appropriate facial expression was not so easy. In order to keep this combination of the various components for a special sign in mind, I tried to describe every single sign in words. This way I invented lots and lots of cribs and filled a lot of copy-books. Depending on how well I characterized the movements in my own words, I could repeat the signs correctly until they were familiar to me.

Teaching various subjects at school there is every day the need to learn new signs in order to introduce them to my pupils. Today I would take advantage of SW as I could take notes for the many new signs I have got to learn. There are a few Sign Language CDs and Sign Language dictionaries published in Germany. Maybe we can refer to these videoclips and fotos with movement arrows and description to have a competent native signer as our model.

With the help of SW hopefully young pupils discover their potential for learning the German words as well (just as we learned our second language?). SignWriting would demand consciousness for the exact performance of a sign from me and my pupils. In Germany there are quite a lot of dialects in DGS. Introducing SW at the beginning of the pupils schooldays might hopefully strenghten their confidence in their literacy skills. Every hearing child is able to play reading a text which is presented together with a meaningful picture. No deaf child has any chance to practice "free writing" as the hearing child can do. With SW there seems to me the possibility to reinforce the wish of expressing the ideas in a written form long before they can express themselves on the same level in German. But we can take advantage from this because the pupils will probably accept their task to learn the adequate words in German much easier - (hopefully).

Except for one, all of my deaf pupils come from all hearing families. What we will have to do in our class is to enlarge our common symbol-system (distinct signs) as quick as possible. SW may help to keep a record concerning our improvements. To help deaf pupils to remember the meaning of German words I sometimes have to copy sketches of a signing person into the worksheets. Being able to use SW instead could be a big reduction of this time-consuming procedure.

2. What have been some of your past frustrations when teaching?
The transfer from signing to a written German text is a very difficult task for most of my pupils. We have great difficulties to enlarge our vocabulary in a systematic manner. Without the knowledge of SW every pupil tries to paint drafts in order to illustrade the meaning of new German words. The next day many pupils have great difficulties to remember the meaning of his "product of arts." Another aspect is that the paintings my pupils try to add to new German words don't help them to memorize how to sign these words.

3. Are you hoping that SignWriting might help? If so, in what way?
I hope SignWriting will help to assist my efforts regarding the issues I mentioned above. I'd love to set up a bilingual dictionary German - DGS. This way we hopefully can enlarge systematically the vocabulary in both systems.

4. How would you like to use your web page?
I would like to use the web page as a place to share our classroom -experiences with other colleagues and interested people in the world. Probably we can post photos and probes of our materials. In addition to that I would like to share my moments of doubts or difficulties in order to get support and feed-back from other colleagues who might be familiar with these kinds of problems.

5. Please write any additional information you would like to share.
I am fascinated by this new working-tool. When I talked to my pupils - now 7th grade - about this development and perspective - they were eager to learn more about that. So all of us are highly motivated. One problem might be that I'm right now beginning to understand the foundations of SW. To learn together with my little friends might be a very enriching new pedagogical experience. I'm very interested to get in contact with other teachers for the Deaf. I need your advice and support - especially in the beginning. Most of the parents and colleagues to whom I talked about this new tool are very openminded and demonstrate great interest in this project. I think that our project gets as much support as I can ask for .- I'm very happy about that, because we've still got to walk a long way to the complete acceptance of a bilingual/bicultural education for deaf pupils in Germany.

Thank you so much for considering us for your literacy project. Special thanks for your benevolent support which is so neccessary for us to get started

Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher of Deaf Children
stefanwoehrmann@gebaerdenschrift.de



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For more information about
SignWriting in Germany, contact:

Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher of Deaf Children
stefanwoehrmann@gebaerdenschrift.de

GebaerdenSchrift Web Site
by Stefan Woehrmann
http://www.gebaerdenschrift.de

or...

Verlag Birgit Jacobsen
Fachverlag für unterstützende
Kommunikation und Gebärdensprache
Bei den Höfen 11a
22043 Hamburg
Geschäftsführung:
Birgit Jacobsen
Kontakt:
Tel: +49 (0) 40 – 69 70 40 - 26
Fax: +49 (0) 40 – 69 70 40 – 87
E-Mail: info@gebaerden.de


or...

Lars Majewski
SignWriter Python Developer
takdoc@t-online.de

SignWriter Python Web Site
http://signwriter.takdoc.de

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