As part of our professional development for New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) we had Krista from KDEC come in and speak to us about NZSL and what it's like for children in the classroom.
There is the use of interpreters that allows deaf people to converse within the hearing world. Interpreters provide full access for children in the classroom, everything said by the learning coach (teacher) is interpreted to the learners. Interpreters help and support in the classroom is vital in the classroom and makes so much difference.
Something new I've learned is every country has their own sign language. I also learned how to say hello, how are you, I"m good thank you, I'm (my name) and what is your name in sign language. I've also picked up the sign language for friend, dog, play, learn, coach, help and lunch.
This image is an idea of how a learner who is deaf to access the full picture for that child. If you're a child and can't make sense of it at all, it is very hard.
Learners may need to look away from their interpreters as their eyes are tired and it can be hard work.
We also had another activity to do, with ear plugs. All coaches had to wear ear plugs, walk around and ask others questions and find answers. All the while, there was an annoying background noise playing loudly. I relied heavily on lip reading and the use of gestures to understand some people's answers. I also felt frustrated when having to ask some questions too. Some of the things we did to try and understand each other was read lips, use actions and hand gestures and make eye contact. We found that it was harder to ask longer questions and where some words are tricky to say. This enabled us as a staff to put ourselves in the learners shoes and to better understand how learners are feeling.
It's important to gain the students attention before you start to communicate with them.
Examples are: flashing lights, waving, gently tapping their leg or stomping foot. We can also ask other learners who are listening to get their attention. Eye contact is really important in communicating with others.
Learning to sign helps to make a connections with NZSL learners. Connection is valuable. In order to gauge whether a learner has understood is by asking open ended questions. As often some children can use the deaf nod or the nod of bluffing which
Other points we discussed was how to create a deaf friendly school and that was to ensure that the school environment is inclusive of all learners. Use and teach other children signage during assembly and learning the days of the week. As well, as making sure that the notices were visual and accessible to all learners.
What does Ormiston primary do to be deaf friendly? Having visuals, turn off lights, shake the tambourine, learn more sign language and the learning coach to raise their hands to show that they are speaking.
I'm really excited about learning New Zealand Sign Language to help all children understand better and to communicate effectively in the classroom.