Learning Signs of the Time Hilliard: Students Finding out about a Foreign Language

By Hart, Amelia A. | The Florida Times Union, September 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

Learning Signs of the Time Hilliard: Students Finding out about a Foreign Language


Hart, Amelia A., The Florida Times Union


Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Robert Mencner put his thumb to his nose and wiggled two fingers. Marcus Allen held his hand above his head, snapped his finger, and then brought his hand down to his side, slapping his thigh. Sara Lloyd held her hands cupped in front of her and clapped them twice.

The Hilliard Elementary School third-graders weren't playing around. They were speaking a foreign language -- American Sign Language, or ASL. Mencner said "bug," Allen said "dog," and Lloyd said "school."

The 24 children in Christie Chaires' class are being exposed to the language by Anna Geiger, a teaching intern from Flagler College in St. Augustine.

Geiger, 21, a double major in deaf education and elementary education, is doing a dual internship. She's doing the first part of her internship at Hilliard Elementary School. After Sept. 27, she'll move on to Pinedale Elementary School in Jacksonville, which has two classrooms of hearing-impaired children. She plans to make a career of teaching deaf and hearing-impaired children.

Geiger said she knew from an early age that she wanted to learn sign language.

"It's just such a beautiful language," Geiger said. "If you've ever seen someone telling a story in sign language, they're just so expressive. Sometimes you can say so much more with sign language."

Most people don't realize that ASL, like other sign languages, is a real language with its own grammar, syntax and punctuation, Geiger said.

While only a small portion of Geiger's time at Hilliard Elementary is spent teaching sign language to Chaires' students, Geiger and Chaires

said the kids not only have picked up new words quickly, they've also retained them.

Last week, Geiger was teaching the class how to sign the first verse of Amazing Grace. Within 10 minutes, the children were easily signing along.

The children have learned how to spell their names, and they're learning words and phrases they asked to be taught like cat, dog, tree, football and "God bless America. …

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