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Signs from A to Z

School: Shutesbury Elementary School

City/State: Shutesbury, MA

Grade(s): 5, 6

Format(s): Bilingual, Children's book: Alphabet

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies, Visual Arts, World Language

Project Overview

A student from the 5th/6th grade classroom at the Shutesbury Elementary School, in Shutesbury, Massachusetts created this Alphabet Book as a way to introduce younger audiences to American Sign Language (ASL).

This book was created as part of a Learning expedition on Deaf Culture and the science of sound. The expedition had many components, including a study of world and U.S. history from the perspective of the Deaf; reading fiction and non-fiction books related to Deaf Culture; and presentations by Deaf people of all ages as cultural experts. Students did fieldwork at four different schools for the Deaf, including overnight exchange visits with students from the New York City School for the Deaf. Through this work, students were exposed to various forms of communication, from oral speech to people who only used American Sign Language (ASL). All students studied ASL with the help of Deaf and hearing instructors and became beginning conversational users of the language.

Students also studied the anatomy and physiology of hearing, and the physics of sound and hearing, working with communication scientists at a local university lab.

Students also became familiar with cultural and political issues related to Deaf culture, including school choices (mainstreaming vs. schools for the deaf) and communication decisions (oral speech vs. ASL). Students ultimately understood these and other issues to be social justice concerns for many Deaf individuals.

One of several projects within this Learning expedition was the creation of a children’s book, aimed at introducing younger students to deafness and Deaf culture. 

Shown here is one student’s work, which combines beautiful watercolor paintings of each letter of the ASL alphabet and a whimsical alliterative sentence using the depicted letter.

See entry # 238 for a second example of an ASL alphabet book, inspired by this book.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Exemplary student artwork. The watercolors of hands, which were done with a pencil sketch and then filled in with color, are very well done
  • The hands are multicultural - which is a lovely way to represent the diversity within the Deaf community. Great care was taken to produce a wide variety of skin tones from very dark to very light; This is an important model of the importance of not stereotyping skin color as simply “black” or “white”
  • Highlights a professional looking, student-produced book: the quality of artwork and writing is very high
  • Alliterative sentences are particularly clever and engaging – an excellent model of alliteration that can be used divorced from the particular context of this book
  • Highlights one student’s work – which allows for individual student assessment

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can accurately use 5th grade academic vocabulary to express my ideas.
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