Modeling Teaching Techniques at a Deaf School

Access to education in your native language is usually taken for granted in western countries. In many parts of the world that access is either very limited or not available at all. That is especially true for the Deaf.

In recent years the SIL International Global Sign Languages Team has sponsored sign language linguistics training workshops for teachers at a Deaf school in a SE Asia capital city.  While education was provided to Deaf students at this school , teachers were not fluent in the national sign language. The workshops had provided theory about sign language linguistics, but that theory was difficult for the teachers to transfer into their classrooms.

Jana presenting a lessonJana Lollis, a teacher of the Deaf who is Deaf herself, came alongside the teaching staff. She provided the teachers with a different type of training opportunity: she modeled teaching methods for the teachers in their classrooms.

The school staff said that observing Jana’s methods was an eye opening experience. The students were actively involved and there was a lot more interaction between them and the teachers. The students were thrilled to have a Deaf teacher in their classroom, and because she taught using fluent sign language they could easily understand the lessons.

The following comments were shared by students:

Students working on a lesson “When the teacher taught in clear sign language, I could understand what she was teaching.”

 “She did not use lots of writing. She taught in sign language and I could understand better.”

 “I liked having a Deaf helper in the classroom. If the teacher was helping other students, the Deaf helper could help me. I learned faster that way.”

The principle that Jana uses in her instruction is that once the students grasp the concept in their own language, in this case their native sign language, it will be easier for them to understand it in a second language, which is the written words.

In a discussion with the school principal, a proposal was made to start a pilot project with the kindergarten children. The newly-modeled teaching methods, which are quite different from what the school has been using, would be used with this group of children and the progress would be monitored from year to year. This would create a model for other teachers at the school to follow. Until now there has not been a good model available to these teachers.

Plans are being discussed for a three-week follow-up next year. The teachers would receive in-service training in the afternoons with classroom practicums in the morning.


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