By Giselle Grassi
On Friday, April 7th, the American Sign Language classes, under the direction of Dr. Sisia, coordinated a day that was full of exciting ways to learn some of the fundamentals of American Sign Language. Located in our school library was a mini workshop where no words were needed and students of all ages were separated into five groups. In these five groups the students played a variety of games that enabled them to learn the basics of American Sign Language for topics such as food, colors, numbers, animals and the alphabet.
ASL (American Sign Language) Day is an annual event here at Oyster Bay High School, and the students who were working so tirelessly to coordinate this eventful day were the students of the ASL III/College level class. These dedicated students, according to Dr.Sisia, “are the most proficient in the language, and have been using it every day for three years.” As someone who attended ASL day, I could clearly see the heightened level of experience and love for this interesting language as I was participating in each unique game.
The goal of the ASL team here at Oyster Bay was to send the students who participated away with “an awareness of ASL and how one can communicate without ever saying a word.” As someone who thought she would never enjoy American Sign Language, this day really gave me a whole new insight into the language over 70 million people use daily. This is because it is a language that allows you to learn in a different way.
As said by Dr. Sisia, “Some students are auditory learners...others are visual learners. ASL allows the students to “turn off” both their ears and voice, using their eyes to learn.” Obviously this is very different compared to second languages such as French or Spanish, and the classroom environment differs too.
According to Dr. Sisia, some of the most difficult aspects of American Sign Language are that the language itself has its own sentence structure. This varied sentence structure can be hard to understand because it is not a written language, therefore making it difficult for some people to sign in “ASL-word-order.”
For those students who are struggling with learning a new language, maybe deciding to study ASL could benefit them due to its unique way of thinking, but don't under-estimate this language because it is just as important as other languages such as Spanish or French. ASL is now accepted as a foreign language at a large majority of colleges, and the ASL III class even has the opportunity to earn college credits through St. John's University without even leaving the OB classroom!
With a very close class environment and only one teacher, the students in the ASL classes are together for three years and create “friendships that last and have bonds that are not typically found on a high school level,” Dr. Sisia reveals. She even says that “there are often tears on the last day of ASL,” and that is a feeling that is truly one of a kind here at Oyster Bay High School.
After speaking with Dr. Sisia and seeing her work with her students on ASL Day, one could clearly see her love for American Sign Language and the students she teaches. She says that “ASL Day is the day for ASL III students to show off their skills,” and that “it gives them great confidence to become the teachers, using all they have learned and sharing their skills with others.”