Middle School Students Explain 13 Guiding Principles in American Sign Language

Middle school students at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, a D.C. school serving deaf and hard of hearing students from birth through grade 8, created a video outlining the 13 Principles of the Black Lives Matter movement in their own words as part of the Black Lives Matter at School week of action.

The 13 Guiding Principles of BLM - ASL Translation

A description of how the video was produced, submitted by Tarja Lewis (ELA teacher) and Lia Bengtson (Social Studies teacher).

The middle school students at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School on Gallaudet University's campus in Washington, D.C. participated in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. Our school serves deaf and hard of hearing students throughout the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area in an American Sign Language (ASL)/English bilingual environment. We (the English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies teachers) worked together to align our BLM Week of Action lessons and also worked with our students to translate and film the 13 Guiding Principles of the BLM movement into ASL.

It is important to note that American Sign Language (ASL) and English are two separate languages, which means that each language has its own grammar structure and syntax. Therefore, we had to first translate the 13 Guiding Principles from English to ASL. We had a discussion between the two of us and our colleague, Ms. Bettie Waddy-Smith, who is the Spoken English Specialist, on whether to include a voice over or not to the video. Ultimately, we agreed to NOT add the voice track as we wanted to keep the spotlight on the students’ signing. We thought this would encourage people to really pay attention to our students in the video and to allow the audience to experience the video “in a deaf way,” where they have to rely on reading the captions to understand the context of the video. We also wanted our students’ hard work in perfecting their signs to shine and be the sole focus of the viewer.

After translation, we pulled students out and worked one on one with them to ensure they were both comfortable with signing their part, as well as understand their assigned principle. The students worked hard, were focused and motivated to do well. For some, this was a big step, as they are new signers or this is their first experience being in front of the camera for a wider audience. We were very impressed by how dedicated our students were with this project and are so proud of them.

Thu2019Allison Acosta