ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►

To correct or not correct:

The opportunity cost of fixing small errors.

A teacher of the Deaf writes:
"I had a student who would switch hands while he was signing. Sometimes, he switched hands in the middle of a finger spelled word. He was 8 or 9 years old. He was a super-smart kid. I noticed that he did this, but I never said anything to him. Should I have?"

It depends. If the child is Deaf and is in an ASL-centric / visual-centric language-rich environment surrounded by a variety of other signers you need to ask yourself, "Will this minor quirk smooth itself out over time or do I want to divert my valuable content / subject teaching time to fix the signing quirks of my Deaf students?"
Every time a teacher takes two-minutes to fix something an individual is doing there is an "opportunity cost" of two-minutes of lesson time taken away from the rest of the students.
If the error is common enough and/or important enough then the time fixing it is well invested because other students making the same mistake will be able to self-correct upon seeing someone else corrected.
If the error will not likely infect or negatively influence the other students and will likely solve itself over time then fixing the error at the expense of subject teaching time is probably a poor use of time.
An other factor to consider is whether you are teaching ASL or if you are teaching some other topic via ASL. If you are teaching programming and keep stopping to fix the signing of your students then at the end of the course your students will be good signers but be less skilled programmers than the students of the teacher in the next classroom over who ignored signing issues and focused on the topic they were being paid to teach.

Personally, if I were in your shoes with a very bright 8 or 9 year old Deaf kid (in a language rich environment) I might briefly mention the quirk to the student but then I'd focus on teaching the subject matter.

Eventually the signing issue will work itself out on the playground.



An interpreter told me (and others) a story about a similar situation with a young deaf boy who did the same sort of hand switching during the middle of a sign.  So the interpreter did the same thing back to the boy. The boy asked the interpreter to ""Sign that hand stay, please."  The interpreter would use the same hand to fingerspell for a while but then later would start switching hands during the middle of a fingerspelled word again.  Later the boy complained to his local Teacher of the Deaf who quickly figured out what was going on.  Then the next time the boy switched hands in the middle of fingerspelling a word the TOD signed "Sign that hand stay, please."   The boy had a huge "ah-huh" moment and never switched hands again.



*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy
DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)  

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel:

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University  
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars