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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Rising of Lotus Flowers: Self-Education by Deaf Children in Thai Boarding Schools

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relationship. The two boys come up beside a boy named Prem (fourth grade) and crouch down to examine the models. Older Boy speaks to Prem using much more rapid signing than when he signs to New Boy. Older Boy signs to New Boy, “Look there. Very thoughtful. Very clever, really, really.” He escorts New Boy away. Older Boy and New Boy arrive at a table with a model of a watchtower. Older Boy demonstrates how men climb to the top by making the sign for “climbing” on the miniature ladder. Suddenly New Boy slips away from Old Boy to move beside an older youth who immediately threatens New Boy with a raised arm, “Go away! You’re disturbing me.” New Boy returns to the side of cordial Older Boy. Observer Comment: Older Boy makes statements and demonstrations that require no reply from New Boy.
The precise effect of guided assistance in sign language development was not studied here, but the research assistant and other deaf adults presumed that it led to precocity in favored youngsters. This type of mentorship in the creative and participatory mode is nowhere more evident than in the authoritarian settings. In supervision, senior youth use the processes of teaching-learning among younger students to their advantage. Older pupils communicate with newcomers by means of slightly more advanced children (i.e., first and second graders), perhaps communicating, “It’s time to eat, go round them up.” Similarly, older pupils direct the questions they might have about a newcomer to a slightly older pupil. A dorm supervisor held a newcomer by the shoulder and asked a nearby, slightly older child, “Where are her socks?” The nearby child retorted, “She threw them away!” Their deputies, usually in fifth and sixth grade, are capable and motivated to make the necessary conceptual and communicative “translations” between more- and less-advanced language levels.

Becoming “Mindful”

In first grade we know-nothing, in second grade we still know-nothing, then in third grade we start to become able to think. —A girl in fifth grade at Bua School for the Deaf
Within three years, most pupils have moved out of the newcomer status into a “regular” status. Individuals have made a series of internal gains in language skills and cognitive awareness before they receive recognition by elders. Exposed chiefly to restricted codes of language (Bernstein 1964), the newcomers gradually developed abstract and extended forms of language. In their own ways, the know-nothings acquire knowledge about the sign language, the norms of behavior, and the rules of games. An early display of language competence involves telling the name-signs of peers. Jesada, a nine-year-old boy, was shy and had a club foot, which left him ostracized. Still, he named two dozen fellows from photos. Unbeknownst to his fellows, he had learned basic knowledge for dorm life.
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