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American Annals of the Deaf

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Signs of the Times, Second Edition
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Vocabulary Review

The English vocabulary and all the glosses for each lesson are presented at the beginning of each lesson. This allows students to see all English synonyms or meanings included in the lesson, thus greatly expanding their expressive vocabularies. For example, students will realize that they know the sign for permit or allow as well as the English word let. Students then review these within the lesson and, finally, apply their new vocabulary at the end of the lesson in the practice sentences.


Following the presentation of new vocabulary in each lesson is a page of Mind Ticklers—mnemonic hints to help students remember specific signs. Some of the mnemonics may seem a little strange, but many are based on events, associations, and/or characteristics. For example, during World War II, students at Gallaudet University donated blood for the war effort. After their donation they received a Coke to drink. Thus the association of the needle to draw blood and the Coke afterwards provides the mnemonic and the sign for Coca Cola. The sign for baby is associated with rocking a baby in one’s arms, and the sign for fishing is characteristic of someone throwing out a fishing line with a fishing rod. An additional benefit of mnemonics is that they may help clarify the movement of a sign.

Practice Sentences

Following the mnemonic section are pairs of practice sentences written in English and their ASL grammatical equivalents. The practice sentences include glosses for signs introduced in previous lessons, providing students with a continuous review of signs they have already learned. The sentences also provide sign practice with conceptually correct signs. Very little fingerspelling is required while signing the practice sentences. The goal is to learn and depend on signs rather than fingerspelling, which has a specific purpose in ASL. Fingerspelling is most often used for brand names, people’s names, words without signs, and technical vocabulary.

Class Activities and Student Activities

Class activities are provided after the practice sentences. These activities can be done in a number of ways. Generally, group work is recommended when reviewing the activities, but the instructor and students may come up with different ways to cover these activities. Student activities following the class activities give students an opportunity to review and reinforce the signs and the information relevant to each lesson. The student activities can be assigned as homework, gone over in class, done as group work in class, used as quizzes, or done on an individual basis.

Information about Deaf Culture and American Sign Language Grammar

The second edition of Signs of the Times contains brief cultural and related bits of information about the Deaf community. Each lesson offers a close look at Deaf people and the culture in which they live. The information is included to provide students with additional knowledge and discussion points for class.

Also new to this edition are brief introductions to ASL grammar that provide just enough information to arouse the curiosity of students. They can then apply what they have learned to their ability to form ASL sentences. Instructors should select the grammatical information for class discussions and elaborate on the grammatical features they deem appropriate.

Conceptual Sign/Word Appendix

The Conceptual Sign/Word Appendix provides an extensive list of examples to show which ASL sign to use for various English glosses. In English the meaning of a word is understood from the context of a sentence. Similarly, in ASL the meaning is conveyed by the sign selected. Words like run, store, match, and throw have multiple meanings, and language users must determine which meaning a speaker or signer intends to convey by analyzing the context of the sentence. ASL uses what are called conceptual signs to make the context or meaning of what is being conveyed very clear. The following English sentences demonstrate different meanings of the word run, and the ASL sentences next to them contain the signs used to communicate these meanings.

English ASL
His nose is running. now man nose-run
She is running for the Senate. now woman for senate compete
He runs every day. daily boy jog
She runs the store. now woman store manage
He ran away from home yesterday. yesterday boy home run-away
The water is running in the sink. now water sink drip[1]

1. In the text of this book, ASL glosses are presented in small capital letters.
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