Archive for Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Students learning a new language

December 13, 2000

On recent Thursday afternoons, there's been an unusual hush in Sharon Dodge's third-grade classroom at Genesis Christian Academy.

But that doesn't mean the kids are sitting still in fact, it's anything but that.

Their fingers, hands and arms are continually in motion as they work on sign-language lessons taught by Joan Robinson.

Last year, after Dodge saw Robinson sign the words to the Christmas cantata at Tonganoxie Christian Church, she decided to ask her if she would teach her students to sign.

Robinson, who says one of the failures of her life is that she did not teach her own three children sign language, jumped at the chance.

Last Thursday afternoon, Robinson roamed the class of 13 children, mesmerizing them with her fluid hand and arm movements, using body language to help convey the idea.

Signing is second-nature to Robinson, who has a deaf brother five years older than she. She said she's been signing for about as long as she can remember.

"When I was five, my brother took me out on the porch, sat me down on a little wooden stool and he said you have to learn to sign because Mom and Dad are sometimes too busy to tell me what's going on," Robinson said.

Just as her brother started her, she started the third-graders by teaching the alphabet.

Soon, the children were spelling their first and last names to Robinson, and as soon as they learned that, on their own, they started signing their middle names, too.

"I love teaching it and I think the kids are having fun," Robinson said. "I hope so."

Hilary Saathoff said she likes it.

"I think it's really fun," she said. "You could probably sometime talk to people who are deaf."

Tina Allen also said it's fun.

"I kept on doing it at home and my sister is learning it from me," she said.

Cameron Fish is another one who's teaching a sister to sign.

"We can even be in different rooms and talk to each other in sign language," he said.

Another student, Jacob Reynolds, has taken on a more challenging task teaching his puppies to sign.

"I try to do it with my puppies," Reynolds said. "But it never works.

Dodge said she's thrilled that Robinson is teaching her students to sign. To help augment the sign language learning when Robinson's not there, the students practice each week's spelling words in sign language.

"They love it," Dodge said. "It's been a real positive thing for them.

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