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The Storyteller

Have you ever been super impressed by something you saw in another classroom, and you went back to your desk to do more research about the activity? If so, I'm sure you share my delight with the power of learning and curiosity. This week, I experienced this excitement after visiting one of our American Sign Language classes to observe a reflection activity that utilized Flipgrid, a game-changing tool for the classroom. I am proud to say that our school offers ASL as one of the World Language options for our students. Every time I walk into that classroom, students are engaged in the content and express their love for the class.

Ms. Suzanna Laskowski, one of our ASL teachers, asked her students to learn an ASL story and then record themselves signing the story, using Flipgrid. She invited me in to observe her students as they assessed their own videos and reflected on the process. With the help of Flipgrid, students also had the opportunity to view other students' stories and use their understanding of the process and signs to provide feedback. What a great way to not only expand audience but also help students learn the intended skills. By evaluating others, students need to first grasp the skills and then apply them by watching and assessing. This is why self and peer assessment are critical to the learning process. We need to share knowledge with our students, ask them to create something with it, and then have them take it to the next level by applying their understanding through analysis, evaluation, and reflection.

When I walked into the classroom, students were engaged and excitedly watching/sharing their videos. I sat down next to one of the students, Chris, and asked him about the assignment. Luckily, he gave me a quick, informative overview of the whole process and explained the importance of traditional deaf stories and storytelling. He explained that deaf stories have been passed down from generation to generation. True to the art of storytelling, the storyteller's enthusiasm and personal flair when signing the deaf stories are essential to the power of the story itself. Facial expressions, gestures, and modifications to the story keep it alive and moving forward to future generations. He also explained to me that there are different techniques that storytellers use in order to make the story engaging but also accurate. For example, in order to include dialogue, the storyteller must use appropriate body language for both one person and two person role shifts. Chris explained and modeled this body language by turning from side to side as he signed parts of the story. He then showed me his video and did an awesome job explaining his process and the sign language he incorporated. He truly seemed excited about the activity, and it was obvious that he put forth great effort on this assignment. I was very impressed with how well he explained everything to me, and his enthusiasm is what motivated me to do a bit of research about this style of storytelling. So, here's a shout-out to Chris for being so helpful and for sparking my curiosity for ASL stories.

Here is an awesome video I found that not only provides an overview of ASL storytelling, but it also includes the story that Chris used for his video. As I watched this, I quickly realized the power of facial expressions, gestures, and personality when telling a story. I was engaged by this storyteller, as she shared "The Deaf Tree" story.

As I watched students view and critique their videos, I was so thankful for tools like Flipgrid that provide a platform for student voice and a way to expand our students' audience. I also loved that Ms. Laskowski incorporated the elements of storytelling into this ASL class, as I teach similar skills in my English classroom. While we teach completely different classes, the art of storytelling is similar in both cases - with words and with signs. There is such power in teaching consistent skills throughout the building - across different subjects. This is how we will effectively reach our students and empower them to question, create, communicate, collaborate, and critically think throughout the day. #whatsup