ASL Tales
© ASL Tales:2015
How I Used ASL Tales to Teach ESL                - Susan Schaller American Sign Language storytelling helps English learners with comprehending vocabulary and new grammar, hearing English and practicing pronunciation without the teachers’ gaze, and, especially, having fun, and wanting more. It appears that the attraction and attention to the signing brings them to the English without the habit of translating into their native languages, the main barrier to learning a new language. Soon after I rewrote The Boy Who Cried Wolf for the multilingual ASL Tales, I began teaching a new English class for Latino adults in an all Spanish-speaking part of Oakland, California. Immediately, I was confronted with students of different abilities, levels and ages.  Some were educated in Spanish, and some had almost no formal education.  As with other classes like this, I needed to prepare a lesson that was almost like three lessons, something for everyone.  It couldn’t be too simple to bore the most advanced, and not too difficult to overwhelm the shy beginning English speakers.  I decided to try my own teaching experiment with The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I began just with the English, reading the first few lines, reviewing or, for some, introducing “sat” as one of the irregular past tense verbs.  We sat and stood as we practiced saying “stand” and “sit” and then talk about someone who sat.  When we were moving, their attention was on the lesson, but as soon as they were just sitting, attention wandered.  We worked a little on vocabulary, and, again, within a short time, the class as a whole was not attending or participating without repeated nudging. Then I played the DVD with the American Sign Language storyteller and the spoken English narration.  The students loved it.  To my surprise, both beginning students were repeating the English without any prodding, and the more advanced were repeating the English.  After only a couple of pages, I paused it, and went back to some of the early lessons.  Everyone was attending and participating enthusiastically.  I added a short lesson on prepositions and practice on pronouncing “the.”  Everyone joined in; it was obvious they wanted to get back to the DVD and the signing. I was able to play it over and over for more than a couple of nights.  They showed no signs of tiring from watching the signing.  Every time they watched the signed version, they were listening to spoken English, and repeating it regularly.  I was able to interject short reminders while they were watching, and they repeated the word or phrase I was emphasizing. My most shy and uneducated student stated, in English, more than once, that he understood a word or phrase because of the signing and the illustrations.   Their increased animation and participation moved our lessons along much faster, not only covering more details, but the increased attention allowed a greater depth, without losing the beginners.  They often answered my English questions faster while watching the DVD, leading me to wonder if their immersion in the story prevented them from translating into Spanish before answering. Teaching English, with ASL Tales, to young native speakers or English learners of any age is proving to be a remarkable tool.  Contact me for lesson ideas, activities and success stories from other teachers through www.susanschaller.com. A note from ASL Tales: If you are interested in becoming a pilot site for working with ESL students please contact us for more information about free and reduced price material. Also, see notes form another ESL teacher on our website.