Why more Lakota high school students are learning sign language

Hundreds of students at Lakotas’ two high schools are fulfilling their foreign language requirements by taking classes in American Sign Language (ASL). The district is also using video conferencing, collaborative learning (pictured) so students from the Lakota East and Lakota West high schools can learning ASL from one another. (Provided photo/Journal-News)
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Hundreds of students at Lakotas’ two high schools are fulfilling their foreign language requirements by taking classes in American Sign Language (ASL). The district is also using video conferencing, collaborative learning (pictured) so students from the Lakota East and Lakota West high schools can learning ASL from one another. (Provided photo/Journal-News)

Sign language classes at Lakota East and Lakota West high schools are drawing more students, and teachers are now incorporating video conferencing so the teens can learn from one another without having to travel to another school.

Learning American Sign Language (ASL) can count as a foreign language credit, said ASL instructor Jessica Snyder.

Tying in school instruction with video conferencing is not only a matter of convenience but also a real-world application, said Snyder.

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“Skyping is a technology deaf people use in their culture,” to communicate to others at a distance, she said.

And the visual technology has also allowed students from both high schools to communicate and teach sign language in real-time to elementary students.

Nearly 550 students at the two high schools are now enrolled in ASL classes.

This “cross-collaboration” of learning between different grades and schools fits in with Lakota School officials’ overall strategy of expanding learning opportunities, said Superintendent Matt Miller.

“We encourage collaboration among our teachers and staff, whether that is within a grade level, a building or across the district,” said Miller.

The ASL programs at the two high schools are “taking collaboration to the next level and not only working together as colleagues, but also giving students a chance to work with others in this way is a great opportunity for our kids.”

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There are six ASL instructors – three at each high school – now teaching the language skill.

Katie Nicol, who teaches ASL at Lakota West, said this type of collaboration is not new to the ASL Department, adding instructors work closely together to plan lessons and assessments.

“By working together, we find creativity and personalization is easier to accomplish,” said Nicol.

Lakota East sophomore Stephanie Brumant is taking ASL and said “I learned that people can sign things different ways, and it was cool to communicate with other people that know the language.”

“And it was good to know that other people could understand me too,” said Brumant.

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