A young boy inspired the creation of the Wellington School sign club.
The club, which meets every Monday and Wednesday during lunchtime, was started last year by the West End school’s resource teacher, Matthew Adkins. When Adkins came to Wellington about a year-and-a-half-ago, he met Derick Mallari, a hearing-impaired student.
Adkins said one of the things he noticed immediately was the small number of students Mallari interacted with on a daily basis. He only communicated with a girl named Jade Tabelina who said she learned a little bit of American Sign Language (ASL) in nursery in addition to sign club.
"I felt I had a responsibility to the school to provide Derick with the opportunity to be able to speak and the ability to use his language to communicate with children in his class," Adkins said.
The sign club was meant to be a social group of students that were in his class that he could interact with in his class. However, many students outside the class were interested in learning sign language as well, so this year it expanded to include Grade 5 and 6 students — to a certain number.
Allison Baker, Wellington School educational assistant, is leading the sign club this year, along with Mallari’s help, and she said while the interest in learning sign language is touching, she can only teach so many students at a time.
However, the sign club’s latest project will hopefully help out with that.
The sign club has put together a book called The Signs of Christmas, which they’ve worked on for two months until releasing it as an online PowerPoint book for the holiday season.
The online book consists of the sign club members signing different things associated with Christmas. For example, Mallari signed the words "elf" and "sleigh." Many ASL words are not static and are delivered through movement, so most students portrayed their sign through two photos of themselves on a page, followed by an explanation of the movement.
Baker revealed that the online book will soon have a print edition, to be placed in the school’s library.
"We’re just waiting for it to come back (from the printer)," Baker said. "I will also have my own copy so if I go to another school, I can present it to other people."
Adkins said since starting sign club, there has been a significant improvement in Mallari’s social skills.
"Derick acts like a teacher in the room as well, because he is so knowledgeable. He’s very happy, there’s no question about it. There’s a change in terms of his demeanour," Adkins said.
"(The sign club) improves my ASL," Mallari said.
The sign club is also working on a board game in which the objective of the game is to learn more signs. Adkins said the key to teaching kids a whole other language is to make it fun, interactive, and applicable to what’s important to children.
"The more opportunities they have to use it within context, the easier it is for them to make it inherent in what they do," Adkins said.
To read The Signs of Christmas, go to https://www.winnipegsd.ca/schools/Wellington/AcademicsAndClasses/Documents/aslbook.pdf