Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! Using "Mirror" In ASL

     For the past four summers I have been employed as a Child Development Worker with the Manitoba Government's Children's disABILITY Services department. (If you would like to read more about it you can check out a post I wrote at the beginning of the summer).

     One of my little guys has been with me on and off for 3 summers now and our main goal over the years has been communication. Larry* is currently still waiting for a full assessment of his specific disability but the doctors that he has seen have mentioned both Cerebral Palsy and Autism as a potential diagnosis. The nature of his disability has significantly affected his speech development such that he can vocalize sounds but has difficulty forming words. As a result, Larry's communication usually consists of grunts and a series of pointing. As you can imagine, it can sometimes be quite difficulty to understand Larry's needs, wants and ideas which is a consistent source of frustration for him.

     To assist in communication the school has been incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) but it has been a slow process so far. I personally don't feel as though enough time is spent working on Larry's ASL program and he sometimes can have difficulty manipulating his fingers to form the signs (which may be connected to a possible Cerebral Palsy diagnosis). None-the-less, Larry and I have been working on ASL over the summers with some success. One thing I have noticed, however, is that Larry is often unable to understand that there is a connection between a specific sign and it's meaning. Often times Larry may not even see that I am making a sign to communicate and instead may be staring at my face or in a different direction completely!

ASL, whole brain teaching, WBT
Well the other day we were visiting the school playground and I decided to set us down right next to the school to escape in the shade. As I tried to review signs with Larry I was frustrated because I noticed that he was again staring off in the opposite direction and not noticing what I was trying to communicate. Immediately after that, however, he turned around and signed to me the exact sign I had been trying to teach him! As I sat there completely surprised I noticed that Larry had been looking in the reflection of the window and watching me that way!

WBT, whole brain teaching strategy of mirror, using wbt mirror to learn
Of course I immediately thought of the WBT strategy of "Mirror". Larry hadn't been able to mirror my gestures regularly which perhaps has something to do with a possible diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum but since he seemed to LOVE watching our reflections in the windows he could now mirror my gestures perfectly! By using the window to highlight the signs I was forming, Larry and I were able to successfully review the signs for:
- Dog (puppy)
- Cat (kitty)
- No
- Flower
- Sun
- Green
- Boat
- Fish
- Water
- Practice
- Read

     When teaching ASL I was already trying to get Larry to mirror my gestures but I hadn't thought of it in terms of a conscious learning strategy. When Larry began using my actual reflection, however, I was pleasantly surprised how a physical mirror could assist us in learning.

* Names have been changed for privacy.

8 comments:


  1. Hi Miss L,
    The WBT is fascinating to me. I love reading your posts. I’m having my big 100 follower giveaway! I’d love it if you wanted to come on over for a visit sometime. Thanks!
    Your Follower,
    Corinna :)
    Teaching Fabulous Firsties!

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and for following Corinna! Congrats on reaching 100 followers, how exciting! I am heading right over for a visit :)

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  2. Ten finer woo Miss L. I am initially a teacher of the deaf/hearing impaired. I often wonder though about using mirror in a HI classroom with the language being ASL. In some ways, this proves that my theory of it being successful would be true. This year, I will have a student with a severe seizure disorder in 4th grade who is functioning below K. I think I will experiment with this idea for him! Keep up the excellent work!

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  3. Ten finer woo Miss L. I am initially a teacher of the deaf/hearing impaired. I often wonder though about using mirror in a HI classroom with the language being ASL. In some ways, this proves that my theory of it being successful would be true. This year, I will have a student with a severe seizure disorder in 4th grade who is functioning below K. I think I will experiment with this idea for him! Keep up the excellent work!

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    1. Thanks Rebecca! In our case the mirror (reflected window) really helped focus Larry's attention so he could concentrate on the specific sign. I hope you can give me an update with how it works with your student!
      Best wishes :)

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  4. Being a Jazzercise instructor, I automatically reverse all my gestures for my kinders. I believe this is something everyone should do as it helps the little ones with processing the information. This way, it really is like looking in a mirror!

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    1. Thats a neat idea Karen! I took dance classes when I was younger and our instructor would always have her back to us and we would follow her motions in the mirror at the front of the room. If you didn't have a mirror, reversing your gestures would definitely be the best option!
      I would definitely have to practice though as I feel I would confuse myself when reversing my gestures haha

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  5. Kristen, Your personal story is powerful...an amazing example of the intricacies of the human brain and the effects of the human spirit upon it. Your student is blessed to have such a dedicated teacher!

    Nancy
    Mrs. Stoltenberg's Second Grade Class

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Thank you for commenting!