“How does a person get a name sign — the series of unique gestures used to identify someone in American Sign Language? To understand the process of name signing, a Times team turned to people who knew it best.” S. Bahr, The New York Times, August 30, 2021
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt:How a Question on Sign Language Led to a Deeper Look at Deaf Culture,By Sarah Bahr, The New York Times, Aug. 30, 2021
“For a team of Times journalists, the process of answering that question underscored the importance of two storytelling basics — rely on experts and think of the audience — and resulted in an interactive article in July that provided a broader understanding of deaf culture.
‘One of our priorities was to show our readers the diversity of experiences and backgrounds that exist in the deaf world,’ Ilaria Parogni, a senior editor who wrote the article, said. ‘Delving into name signs allowed us to tap into that.’
The challenge began when The Times set out to learn how Vice President Kamala Harris received her name sign (also known as a sign name).
Name signs are an important component of ‘capital D Deaf’ culture, a term used by some deaf people to indicate that they embrace deafness as a cultural identity.
A group of five women had collaborated on a name sign for Vice President Harris…Scott Reinhard, a graphics editor, originally pitched the idea to the Culture desk and suggested talking to the women about how they arrived at the name sign.
Ms. Parogni and Alicia DeSantis, a deputy editor for visuals and multimedia, organized a two-hour video call with the five women in February…Ms. Parogni said that it quickly became clear to everyone that there was a much bigger story to be told beyond Ms. Harris — about the history of name signs and their significance to deaf people…Amanda Morris, a hard-of-hearing woman raised by two deaf parents who is fluent in ASL, offered additional support when she joined The Times in June as a disability reporting fellow…The team also took her recommendation to make a key detail in the story more prominent: Name signs cannot be assigned by a hearing person. And Ms. Morris reinforced a direction team members had decided on earlier to make the article accessible to visually impaired readers by including video transcripts — invisible descriptions of videos on a page that are read aloud to blind or visually impaired users on a screen reader”.
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- A name sign — the series of unique gestures used to identify someone in American Sign Language.
- The process of answering that question underscored the importance of two storytelling basics.
- One of our priorities was to show our readers the diversity of experiences and backgrounds in the deaf world.
- A group of five women had collaborated on a name sign for Vice President Harris.
- Scott Reinhard, a graphics editor, originally pitched the idea to the Culture desk.
- Ms. Parogni pitched American Sign Language teachers throughout the project.
- People need more than just subtitles.
- Ms. Morris helped make a few of the subtitles more accurate.
- The team also took her recommendation to make a key detail in the story more prominent.
- Ms. Morris reinforced a direction team members group.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
The signs consist of gestures that reflect a individual’s personality.
Scott Reinhard is a graphics editor.
The Times worked with several interpreters throughout the project.
It was clear that video, graphics and design would have to be integrated.
There was an much bigger story to be told.
More than a dozen journalists worked on the project.
There were questions the team had to work through.
Ms. Morris helped make a few of the subtitles more accurate.
Name signs cannot be assigned by an hearing person.
Reading Comprehension Fill-ins
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
One of our ___was to show our___the ___of experiences and ___that exist in the___world, Ilaria Parogni, a senior ___who wrote the article, said. Delving into___ signs allowed us to ___into that.
Name signs are an___ component of capital D Deaf culture, a ___used by some deaf people to ___that they embrace ___as a cultural identity.
WORD LIST: deafness indicate, term, important, tap, name, editor, deaf, backgrounds, diversity, readers, priorities,
III Post Reading
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- What does ALS stand for?
- What is a name sign?
- According to the article, what did the Times reporters want to explain to the readers?
- What term do some deaf people use to indicate that they embrace deafness as a cultural identity?
- What can gestures from the name signs reflect?
- Aside from using the hand and fingers, what other context clues are important when signing?
- Can name signs be assigned by a hearing person? Why or why not?
- What did Ms. Ms. Parogni do in order to prepare for this project?
- Who is Deborah Leiderman?
- Write down three new ideas you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.
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