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Teach and learn NZSL

For many students, and possibly for you as well, this will be a first close encounter with a signed language. Your students are going to need to process information visually. They will need to look with their eyes and get used to "turning off" their voices.

Be open to opportunities for you and your students to use the language you are learning for genuine communicative purposes. If there are NZSL users in your local community, invite them to share their language and culture with your students. There may also be Deaf community events that you and your students could participate in.

Enjoy the challenges of learning a new language and culture. Set homework to reinforce school learning. Challenge the students to investigate a topic or idea that may involve them in some kind of inquiry or research. Homework can be motivating when students show off their learning to their families, even teaching them what they have been learning in class. Communication is the aim of a language teaching and learning programme.

Signers need lots of space. Your students will be moving their hands as they make handshapes to communicate.

Learning a sign means knowing how to:

  • sign it
  • distinguish it from other signs that may be similar
  • use it in appropriate ways
  • respond when someone else signs.

With your students, make up your own sign dictionary to have as a class resource. Use the worksheet illustrations from Thumbs Up! and arrange them in alphabetical order.

Keep the focus on NZSL wherever possible by, for example, using pictures, visuals, and video clips to minimise the use of English. This will help the students to appreciate the uniqueness of the language and culture of Deaf people and the values that are important to NZSL users. However, you will need to use voice and English to progress your lessons.

It is natural for your students to make mistakes as they learn to communicate in NZSL and to cope with cultural differences that may make them feel insecure about their own identity and their ability to succeed. Give them lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement.

Value the languages and cultures that your students bring with them to their classroom learning. Help them to make connections with their prior knowledge, understandings, and experiences as well as to identify significant differences between spoken and signed languages.

Motivate your students by providing feedback on their NZSL achievement that identifies their next-steps learning. Celebrate their achievement by using the Thumbs Up! progress chart. When the students have achieved the learning outcomes specified for each unit, they colour in the band with the matching number on their progress chart to record their progress.

You can read more in the NZSL guidelines (NZSLiNZC) about:

Get started using these Thumbs Up! teaching and learning resources.

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