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Language Play Through ASL Rhymes and Rhythms Transcript

Terry Wilding: Welcome, everyone. I hope it's a fantastic weekend for everybody. I have the honor of introducing our presenters this evening.

Oh, I should introduce myself. I'm Terry Wilding. I'm the superintendent for the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind. So, really thrilled to have Hands Land with us tonight, where they use language play through ASL rhyme and rhythm.

The first person that's going to be speaking for you tonight is Leala Holcomb. She has a PhD in education from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, UTK. Leala currently holds two part-time positions, post-doctoral research associate with UTK, and a parent outreach educator at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont.

Leala enjoys creating and sharing educational resources to support families and their deaf children in having positive language experiences. She works closely with Jonathan as the co-founder of Hands Land, an enterprise that releases ASL rhyming, rhythmic videos on Amazon.

Terry Wilding: Jonathan McMillan is a creative artist and educator. He works at Gallaudet University as a faculty member of the Arts, Communications, and Theater Department. As a Reiki professional, he is passionate about achieving inner transformation, so that social change can take place on an individual level and a collective level.

He believes that through pictures and words, we leave stories to shift paradigms in our society. His interests include, writing, language, alternative medicine, human rights, higher consciousness, innovation, and art. And many many more. What a list of qualifications! So you guys are going to have a great time tonight.

So, before I welcome them up onto the stage, we know, not everybody in this room feels completely fluent in American Sign Language. We have interpreters. We have all kinds of support for everybody here tonight, and tonight just have fun.

Be here to learn something. Even if it feels a little bit awkward. There's no judgment in this room. Nothing like that. We're in it together. All right, folks. So have a great time. Let's hope everybody participates.

If you look on each table, make sure there's a signer at every single table. If there's no person who's fluent in sign language at your table, mix it up folks. We'll have a much better discussion if we've got a lot of signers mixed in the room.

In text of looking around, getting a chance to really interact well tonight. So we appreciate it. Leala and Jonathan. Oh, and if you have a table here with no signers, is there somebody looking for somebody who is a signer to put to their table, to move around? We want a good distribution. 

Raise your hand. I'll find you. We'll find people. We'll make sure that we want to have a good mix. Anyway, welcome, Leala and Jonathan.

[A photo of a smiling baby next to the Hands Land logo appears. Below the logo is text that says, “Collaborative Conference November 7, 2019 Leala Holcomb and Jonathan McMillan”.]

[The photo disappears, and Leala Holcomb and Jonathon McMillan come on stage together.]

Leala: Hello, hello, hello, everyone.  Hello! Hi!

Jonathan: Hello!

Leila and Jonathan smiling and jumping up and down: Hello. Hello. Hi, hello Hi. Hi. Hello, hello. Hello, hello. Hello. [Laughter]

Leala: Hi. Hello, Minnesota! How's everyone doing tonight?

[The audience signs back to Leala and Jonathan.]

Leala: Wonderful!

Jonathan: I think we have a bit of a culture shock. [Laughter] We've been to Minnesota a few times. [Laughter] But the cold here --Brrrr.

You know, you know, everybody, everybody I've seen tonight, hi, isn't it cold, isn't it cold? Yeah.

Leala: Yes. We went outside, it was, like, I can't breathe. [Laughter] That's what it felt like. 

Jonathan: And I think, because of the weather we're having, you know, I got -- you know, we're getting more exercise, which makes you want to move fast when you get out of the car, but that's not exercise I usually do. So, maybe if I were to move here, I'd get healthier. [Laughter]

Leala moves side to side: Are we standing? Is it okay? Do we need to shift over to the left, to the right? Are we good where we're at right now? 


I just want to make sure everyone's able to see on stage and the video. Okay.

Jonathan: All right. Great. 

Leala: Great. All right. I know that we're going to be kicking off the conference, and we're very excited about that. We're going to get close. We're going to be close friends by the end of this whole experience. I know there's many different skills here, some are fluent signers and some are not. And that is okay. The most important thing tonight is that we play and have fun. 

Often, you know, especially when hearing parents are in the room, they're wanting to learn sign language. It can be very intimidating and scary, but our topic is to have fun and play and just be silly and enjoy our time here together. And I hope that we portray that here tonight for y'all.

Jonathan: Yes. I want to follow up on what you were just talking about. In our world, we try to -- I'm sure many of you have your own internal dialogue. 

What am I doing today? What do I need to do today? What am I doing tomorrow? What are my dreams? How do I chase my dreams? You know?

And that's what we're trying to do with language. Without language, dreams can't happen. So, I think that we need to think about what language is most accessible for our deaf children.

Leala: Are we ready to start? Ready to go?

[A video of Leala and Jonathan signing plays.]

Leala: Learn, learn, sing, sing, sign, sign, enjoy, enjoy. Are you ready for that? Are we ready?


Jonathan: Okay. Some of you may be familiar with our work. And some of you, this may be new. So, we're going to get into it. Our goal tonight is for you to have a hands-on experience and for our -- and for a lot of you, this will be some new concepts.

So, the first time -- we got several examples we're going to show. You don't need to understand everything. Maybe some of you who grew up using American Sign Language, but we're asking you to kind of take a step back and look for patterns in these videos. Like Leala just mentioned, enjoy, sing, sign, learn, enjoy.

[Video of Jonathan signing and dancing. He is moving and signing next to a cartoon that shows kids playing.]

Leila: It's really interesting. The professor at the University of Tennessee, there's a lot of people that are hearing and have absolutely no connection to the Deaf community or sign language and have hearing children.

So that's why I specifically took that video to them and they let me know that even the hearing children, they had absolutely no idea about a deaf person or sign language, first actually copied signing that video. Even though they didn't know what the words were or what the words meant, but really enjoyed were signing. That was shocking.

At the same time, you know, with our children that speak English, they're aware of French songs or they're aware of Spanish music and they're able to mimic and say those words in those patterns. But understanding those words and patterns, are not necessarily what's going on. It's the same rhythmic pattern.

So they might not know the words, but they are still able to enjoy and identify the patterns, especially from a beautiful language. 

So, I wanted to show something that's very exhilarating. It's a video. It's kind of showing our history and how much we value our history.

[A PowerPoint slide appears. The text on the slide says, “a blast from the past! Charles Kruel, a Deaf filmmaker, captured one of the earliest recorded performance of ASL rhymes and rhythms in the 1920s”.]

Currently, right now, we can go back and look at what we have in history in videos. And what rhythms look like, so I just wanted to show you that. 

[Different black and white videos play of people signing]

Leila laughing: Wow! Isn't that amazing? That's really cool. But maybe we should, you know, tweak it a little bit, instead of cat and meow, meow, meow, and hear nothing, yay, yay, yay, yay! Dog, bark, bark, bark. I hear nothing. Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! Turn that negative to a positive.

Isn't that amazing? And you saw the rhythms and patterns. You think -- you would think, oh, that's definitely a listening, spoken language thing, a hearing thing, and be able to change that into sign language and have this beautiful rhythmic system within sign language. It's within those deaf-owned, deaf-established, indigenous to the Deaf community.

[A PowerPoint slide is shown with a quote from Ben Bahan in 2006. “The cadence of songs usually springs from the way signs formed (e.g., phonology/morphology) and is visually pleasing...Although it is difficult to prove, percussion signing may have originated in the DEAF WORLD rather than being modified from the oral medium.”]

Really, the world as a whole has different cultures, different communities, different languages. But we always have music. There is no culture that is not correlated with music. Even in the Deaf culture, they have their own type of music. It's beautiful because we are able to look and see what Deaf music looks like tonight and experience it. I'm extremely thankful to my great grandparents, my mom and my dad instilling that gift in me.

In ASL, rhythmic, and music, rhythms and patterns, as they taught me to sing as I was exposed to that at a young age and I want to be able to give that to the next generation of children. So I want to thank my family, thank my ancestors that are not here with me but instilled something in me to be able to share.

[PowerPoint slide appears that says, “deaf adults with deaf children version 1.0.”]

[The screen splits. One side is Jonathan signing, the other side is a photo of a toddler and their mother signing.]

Jonathan: Leala talks about being grateful to the prior generations and our grandparents and parents. And all of the community members who made my language learning experience rich and full and alive. The little kid is me. That's my mom.

It was wonderful how this discovery, that we can play with language in song that a lot of you may have internalized, that you didn't realize -- you thought it was a part of sign language but you weren't sure or it's something that you haven't explored.

I had two younger deaf brothers, along with myself. And we were interested in music from a very young age. We learned how to dance by going to the store because my parents would go shopping, and we'd duck off and dance around the store. And we're still doing it. [Laughter] And, so, that's something that I've been doing since I was a little kid.

[The split screen changes to Leala next to a paused video of 2 kids in a living room with  an older man.]

Leila: I found this video of my father signing a song to us. And the song is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so let's watch it.

[The video plays. Leila’s father signs and one of the kids signs with him.]

Leala: So if you noticed, in the history of Deaf education, like we said, has been shifting and changing. There's been many different approaches and creative ways to be able to change the education. So in the 1980s, when I was born, we were doing signed English, so that's why you see my dad doing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and we followed the English pattern in the English song, which is beautiful. And now what would it look like in ASL?

Especially in education, we were looking to see how we can be creative in American Sign Language, in the linguistic structure of that language and create something new. And those were in the '90s and the 2000s, so now we're exploring those avenues.

Myself included, as a professor of early childhood education, looking and seeing what can I find to be able to -- that ASL in that community, the cultural connotations, the linguistics, the grammatical play, the poetic expression to be able to give that to the children, especially for language acquisition.

So that's a new concept that we've been trying to research and look for. I found something extremely beautiful that we're going to show you next. I asked the interpreters not to voice this because I want you to be able to see the words that are right next to them. I want you to be able to pay attention to the kid-to the little kid, and see what goes on.

[A video of Leila and a small toddler sitting signing. Next to the video the words, Cow-Chew Chew, Pig-Roll Roll, Monkey Swing-Swing, Sheep-Prance Prance, and Fish-Swim Swim] [Laughter]

Leila: The next one's even better.

[A video with Leila, the same toddler, and the same words as the previous video appear.]


Leila: I mean, this is the discovery that I made, that ASL rhythm and rhyme is magic. There's something about it. It's different than signing a story, which, of course, is very important for language acquisition, but this is something different in terms of the way the child responds. The way that their eyes light up.

So this is a fairly new discovery, this particular approach to language acquisition. Got a little bit more to show you. This is a song that my family created because it basically came out of signs we were constantly using at home.

Where's mom? Where's dad? Where's my whatever.

And it became our family song, I guess you'd say. So, it's not my kids but my sister's kids, Pax, Thoreau and Clementine. So we created a song just to help ease those moments when things are a little tense in the house. Just to make it really a fun way for the family to communicate with each other.

Let's see, the youngest was 2 and then -- no -- Thoreau was 2, and managed to really start doing some of the sign at 5 months.

[Text appears that says, “ Thoreau (2) singing the “Family Song” to Clementine (5 mos.). Video appears with Thoreau signing to Clementine, who is laying on the floor. There is text next to the video that says what Thoreau is signing. “Dad-Work Work Work. Mom-Care Care Care. Pax-School School School. Thoreau-Play Play Play. Clementine-Grow Grow Grow. Thoreau then hugs Clementine. The audience awws.]

Leila: I mean, look at this. I mean, you see that the child. We made it up with things if they're crabby, if they're upset, they're in a bad mood, giving them trouble at the store. You know how kids can be.

They hate waiting. They get really kind of upset, feisty. One of the things that you do-you do this little thing in that family and it immediately locks everybody into attention. It's great.

[A woman holding a toddler. She and toddler are signing. Next to the video is text. “Dad-Work Work Work.” “Mom-Care Care Care.” “Pax-School School School.” Thoreu- Play Play Play.” “Clementine-Grow Grow Grow.”]

Leala: Now Clementine is happy. And as Jonathan mentioned, language is key to everything. It's like the nourishment and the food to our brain. And I think this rhythm and rhyme sequence is dessert for the brain. Don't you think? It's like the stuff that just turns us on, gets everything firing. That's our own little sugar high, right?

Jonathan: So now I'd like to discuss -- we've seen a lot of examples, they seem really cute, some people are saying, ah, fun to watch. We can imagine ourselves being involved, but you might be thinking, what exactly is the benefit of this? I'm not talking about the English part. I'm just going to present this so that you can have kind of a framework to use this to compare against ASL and English. 

So, in English, there's phonological play. 

We have historically signed phonology by the ear and now we're starting to sign phonology or phonological awareness -- so this is the sign for phonology, if we're talking about sound-based phonology, and this is the sign for phonology based on sign.

And they're different. They're different modalities. And you might see some linguistic -- linguists sign phonology, and they know that phonology applies to ASL, but it also applies to spoken language.

[A PowerPoint slide appears. It says English rhymes and listed different rhymes. It also has the definition of alliteration on it.]

Jonathan: So… Words that start with the same letter in the beginning is called alliteration. 

The ending rhyme is used in English as well. So you have sound, round, mound. A phoneme means one unit, it has no meaning until you add to other units.

P, pat.

Cat, fat.

And then syllables. How many syllables are in a word? Different words have different numbers of syllables. And if you look at a song like this one you see here, the syllables are broken down. The blue is for alliteration, all those words that start with the letter B, ending rhyme. You see the other.

The yellow words, those are based on phonemes. So you can see the connections here between the list on the left and the rhyme on the right. And, so, spoken language have many of these types of techniques, and we're not going to discuss all of them but there are a lot of parallels that we have in American Sign Language phonological play. And what that looks like we'll discuss in a minute. But I briefly want to describe on the next page.

Oh, oh, quickly, could you, in English, an English word with an ending rhyme, A-K-E, any words. Cake I see.






Jake. Okay. A person's name, sure, sure.


Flake. Oh, lake, yes, there's a beautiful lake here, wow. Okay.

Who wants to bake a cake by the lake? [Laughter]

So, really, that concept we've had internalized for a long time. We know that and that's an English example.

Leala: See how he made that lovely little pattern into a sentence? Who wants to -- did you see his body bake a cake by the lake? So there was a rhythm in there even in the movement of the way he signed it. It's not like he did it all static.

It's not beautiful in sign if you're just doing it literally as sort of a static set of signs. You just don't have that same oomph, right? Not really.

Jonathan: No, no, you don't.

Leala: Yeah.

There's nothing special about it if you just do it as a set of English words that are translated into sign literally. So you have to do something else to add that rhythm to the sign or the rhyme to the sign in order to make it equivalent.

So what happens is, things get lost in translation when all we're doing is applying a vocabulary from English to a vocabulary item in sign without the rhythm, without the rhyme.

Jonathan: And she's talking about lost in translation. So, my partner's first language is Spanish. And the translation for us,-we did a workshop before, “Lost In Translation.” Nothing was beautiful -- I mean, I just thought there was no rhyme to it or anything. And then I realized, every language has their own type of play, their own rhythm, their own rhyme.

[A PowerPoint slide appears. It says, “English Phonological Awareness.” There are different phonological terms on the slide. ]

Leala: Again, just sort of touching on what you already know, what you're very familiar with, what you got ingrained in your system, especially if you grew up learning English. This is the stuff that we all learned in school, right?

And we learned the rules of the language this way. So what we're interested in is, what's the parallel in ASL? And that's what we're really talking about tonight, not so much this stuff. 

[A PowerPoint slide appears that has a photo of women signing the word “worm”. The slide lists the 5 examples of phonological play in ASL.]

Jonathan: Now I want to ask you, so, we've seen examples of phonological play, ending rhyme, phonemes, all in English, but what does that look like in ASL? We have five different examples.

The first here. Oh, the CART here is blocking it. But it's hand shape. Hand shape, that's number one. The next, movement. Location. Palm orientation. Is it up, down, to the right, to the left? And, lastly, nonmanual markers.

Different from those of the phonology of English. If you change one of those parameters, there's different meaning.

So my friend said, okay, what is the difference? So, this is the sign for children. Now, if I do -- change the palm orientation, it's thing.

Okay. I want you to see it again. This is the sign for children. You follow with me. This is the sign for children. The sign for children. Now, if you change just the palm orientation, everything else, the parameter stayed the same and you signed it this way, it means things.

Any slight modification of any of these parameters creates a totally different meaning. And that's how we work with these things for rhyme and rhythm. 

Leala: Oh, gosh, think about another one -- balance.

Jonathan: Yes, it's another one, maybe, maybe. Should I continue the presentation?

Maybe. We'll see if I like you. [Laughter] Maybe. 


But if you change it to palm orientation down, but using that same movement, you have the sign for balance. And this is how we pick something to change, to tweak, and it creates a new meaning. And we'll give you an example.

The one that I just gave you was with palm orientation. 

[A PowerPoint slide appears that  says “ASL Phonological Awareness”]

Okay. Okay.

I like tests. That's the inner teacher in me. Who loves tests? Raise your hand. Come on. Oh, you like tests? 

Leala: I do! I do!

Jonathan: Some of you don't? Maybe I should continue this presentation? I don't know.

Do I like you? Maybe. [Laughter] So, how are we going to teach deaf children ASL? How are we really going to get them thinking about the whole process of learning?

So, part of it, we'll show you some examples of those parameters, and we'll discuss that with you. The first part is here. 

This is a question I just asked. Maybe or balance. There's a difference in the meaning, right?

So now I'm asking you the sign for cheese and paper. Are they the same signs? No.

They're different. But what was different about the sign for cheese and paper? Movement. Yes. I like you, I knew I liked you. Movement. You're right.

Again, that's another example. This is the sign for cheese.

Can you please just copy what I'm signing?

Cheese. Cheese. Okay. Sign for cheese. 

Now this is the sign for paper. The sign for paper. Do you see what I mean? 

This person in front says, oh, oh, it changed -- movement changed. You're exactly right. Good job.

Leala: I mean, it's the same thing as that sort of bat, mat, cat kind of thing because the only thing that's changing is that first phoneme. And you can say to children, what does pat and bat, are they the same word and they'll say no because they recognize that phonemic change. Same thing here.

Jonathan: So now, again, who likes tests? 

Come on! I expected you all to raise your hands that time. Okay.

[A PowerPoint slide appears that says, “Phonological Awareness”. There are multiple circles with information about different characteristics of ASL]

So, location, where it is on the forehead.

Hand shape. Five.

Can you give us a sign that has a hand shape of five?

Okay. deer. Dad. Anything else?

Head. Hat. Grandfather.

Okay. Using this hand shape.

Lettuce. Pat. Lettuce.

I saw some of you say mom.

Some of you knew that you were using the hand shape but the location was different. I asked for a forehead location. 

So I just saw that. But this is something you can do with your children. Ask them. Use this hand shape but in this location. Car, plane, train.

How many syllables do those have? Okay, not ASL. I mean, in ASL, not in English. 

Car, plane, train.


People are saying one.

Some are saying two. There's a difference here. I'm asking the interpreter not to voice.

[Jonathan signs to the crowd]

Jonathan: Okay. So, were those the same signs that I just did?

No. No. No, no, no.

The first was a verb, drive, and then you saw a noun because there were two syllables. Car. Drive. Different with syllables. Same with plane and fly. Plane, fly. Train,-to go by train.

Who flew in today? 


Yeah, we did.

Who drove here? Who drove? Okay.

Who arrived by train? No one. No one came by train. Okay. [ Laughter ]

Leala: Bike.

Jonathan: Oh, bike, okay.

So, many of you just signed,-remember we were talking about father or dad for the location, and hand shape of five, many of you recognize that.

Now, segmentation. We're going to use segmentation. Can you tell us what happened there with that word, dad? What happened?

Break down, what's the location? Was it on my chest? Did it happen here?

No, okay. It happened on my forehead.

What was my palm orientation? Was it towards my head, was it away from -- okay. It was out. Towards that side of my body. 

Movement. Did I move up and down? Did I -- oh, I just tapped it here.

See, do you see what I mean, those slight modifications create a different meaning. A tapping versus moving away from my forehead. 

Red. You see me. Worm.

You were waiting for the interpreter, that's English. Look at me signing, okay.



Where is the rhyme there?

Okay, so you see the hand shape and the movement.

Red. You see my finger, one finger, using my index finger. You see the movement. It's the same between that red sign and that worm sign.

Sorry. See the sign? 

What if I change it to this? What will you receive?

Please. Yes. Please.

Replacing that whole concept. We have much more but we wanted to give you the idea, the concept of ASL phonology and phonological awareness.

So, in the classroom, some students will see that and understand and they'll start playing wildly in their imaginations with this. And they'll become more exaggerated and their language will become exaggerated. Same that I just did with you. And they'll start to recognize, within their own sign production, the differences and segmentation.

Leala: Okay. It's a pop quiz now. Ready?

[A PowerPoint appears that says, “What Rhymes?” next to a cartoon rooster.]

Leala: I'm going to sign a song and then you're going to tell me what the rhyme is.

Okay? Based on one of those parameters. And it's not going to be voice interpreted. 

We're looking at the hands, remember? Okay.

[Leala signs to the crowd]

What did you notice? Which of the parameters are in the rhyme?

You noticed a pattern. Okay.

Fine. But what's the pattern?

Okay. Here, this sign and this sign. We've got a thematic pattern. But what's the rhyme?

What is the same in those sequences? The rhythm is the rhythm of two, two.

Certainly. What's the rhyme?

Over here.

Hand shapes, yes. The rhyme exists in the hand shapes. Such as,- what did you see?

These two. That hand shape. That hand shape.

This one. 

What else? Do you remember any of the other ones I did?

Yes. Same hand shape. That's the rhyme.

Did you notice that right away or was it something you had to think about before you really understood that that's a rhyme?

Okay. I'm going to talk about a little bit later what I'm studying for my dissertation, but basically it's focused on this. Can children identify rhyme and how do they identify rhyme? So I'll talk about that later. 

Jonathan: So now we're going to ask you some questions. Well, we asked and we want to see if you are involved, if you're motivated.

This is kind of going to be an experiment. Okay. So, who's ready? Raise your hand if you're ready. Okay.

Wonderful. I love it.

Okay. Some of you are trying to sink into your seats, but I want you to be standing up. Come on! Stand up. Get up.

[The audience stands up.]

Leala: Okay. I don't know if everybody can see me, but basically I want you to copy what you see on the screen, okay?

Jonathan: Just follow what is on the PowerPoint screen.

Leala: And it's what I just did so no surprises. 

[A video plays of a woman signing as different cartoon animals appear next to her.]

Leala: All right. Very well done.

Now you may sit.

Jonathan: All right, you can sit. You can sit.

[The audience sits down.]

Leala: Okay. That's a lot to remember, right? For a 2-year-old or a 3-year-old, that's a lot. It's pretty complex. But how many of you know the sign rainbow and what the colors are in the rainbow?

What is it, red, blue, yellow, green, purple, right? But if you're thinking that way, basically it's just following the colors of the rainbow. That's another way,- that's the secret tip for that particular song. It's just the colors of the rainbow, and then all we're looking for is the hand shape rhyme and then you can just remember that you're trying to create the rainbow colors.

 All something you can do with your students.

Jonathan. Yeah, I see a couple people in the back already practicing. Sweet. Good job. 


Of course, every song that we create has an educational purpose behind it. There's always a teaching moment. So that song may be simple, but there's definitely a teaching moment.

The rainbow of colors, which is science, as well as the animals. So I've got one that's a little more complex. Everybody ready?

Leala: It's your turn.

Jonathan: I'll sign it. And just ask you what you see and then we'll show the video.

So we're clear. Okay.

[Jonathan signs to the crowd]

Jonathan: So, what did you all see? The facial expressions.

What else did you notice? The repetitive movement.

Showed how the boat got heavier, as the boat got loaded up and unloaded. So representing weight.

What else did you see? The rhythm of my arms. Okay. The movements went from big to small and then small to big and back.

How many animals did you see?

Right, there were five animals. How many colors?

Five colors. Boy, that's a lot to remember. Now, how can we remember that? How can we memorize those? 

What was the first animal? The cow. What color was it? 

What's the second animal you saw?

The pink pig. Oh, the pink pig, not the yellow dog. Then the white bat.

Now, did you notice the locations? What's the color on the forehead?

Leala: Black.

Jonathan: What animal is on the forehead?

Leala: Cow.

Jonathan: Both information happens in the same location. On your forehead. Then it moves down. What's on the chin?

Leala: Pink.

Jonathan: Everybody copy. Everybody copy.

Stay with us. Stay with us, cameraman.

The pink pig on the chin.

What's on the chest?

Leala: What color? White. Bat.

Jonathan: And, again, all the colors in the signs happen in the same location; forehead, chin, chest.

Now on the hand.

Leala: Gray. Sheep.

Jonathan: That's an important thing to let you know about. This location typically involves contact. Meaning both hands touching. As in sheep. Another animal that touches, animals that touch are turtles and spiders. And the next location is out in space.

Leala: What's the color? Yellow. Dog.

Jonathan: Now, when you picture -- no one told you about that structure. If you don't know that structure's happening, it's tough to predict what's going to happen next. And learning the song would be kind of frustrating. But if you add a little bit of structure and the song becomes more fun because you're moving your way through the five locations.

So, everybody ready to watch the video?

Join in, okay. Everybody. Ready? Come on. On your feet.

[Audience stands up]

[Video plays of a man signing next to an animated boat. As he signs more, more animals appear on the boat.]

Leala: Wonderful.

Jonathan: Everybody, pat the person's back next to you. Great job, everybody.

Leala: Great job, guys.

Jonathan: Give yourself a pat on the back.

And one we're just going to show, we're not going to go through it, but we're just going to show the video. Here we go.

[Video plays of a man signing in front of an animation of a girl with a cane at a train station. She gets excited when a girl in a wheelchair comes off the train. They hold hands and smile.]

Leala: This song I wanted to -- I wanted to jump ahead to the activities, but I'll explain briefly. This song emphasizes movement, as you can tell.

As you see, it's heavily on movement. There isn't a lot of hand shapes, but also location, but you can see, there's a lot of movement going on, watching, standing, train, waiting. You see, there's a lot of movement and no signs.

And what does that tend to mean? It means a prolonged period of time. So waiting for a long period of time. So it's mostly linguistic portion of it is staying forever. Looking on in the distance. Waiting for something to come up and then seeing the train moving towards the tracks.

If you see different signs, but if you notice the hand shapes are the same but the movement is significant time delay or time waiting; waiting an extreme amount of time, waiting for a long time. That's how we incorporate movement to that.

Leala: Yay!

[A PowerPoint slide appears with the words, “Group Challenge!”.]

Jonathan: Are you ready for the challenge? 

Are you guys ready for the challenge? Okay. 

There are some people sitting over by the wall, make sure they -- you folks along the wall join a table. So each table's going to be a group. So those of you not at tables, find yourself a group. Join a table.

[A PowerPoint slide appears with the words, “Shape Rhymes”. It also includes photos of hands signing the numbers 1 to 5.]

So the challenge is, each table group needs to make up a song with the hand shapes for the numbers 1 to 5.  Make something up.

So the number 1 hand shape, what can that be? Number 2 hand shape, many things. Number 3, all kinds of options.

So get together in your group. As Terry mentioned before, if you've got a group of people that don't sign, wave to the tables around you to get a signer at your table so that you can play with the language.

Leala: So we're going to have -- we're going to do number  1, number 2, what's the method? Okay. One second.

Before we get into our group, this is a large space with many many people. So my suggestion would be, so let's -- half of the room focus on the number 1. I know that there's a plethora of signs with this hand shape.

So then we'll split it and then the second -- this table right here, this row do the number 2. This row right over here, number 3. The one next to it, number 4, and the last row towards the end number 5. 

So I'll probably give you about three to five minutes so you guys can brainstorm all together and then we'll come back together and create a song together with each segment.

All right? All right. Go!

[Brief cut in video]

Leala: All right, are you ready? Are you ready? I have so many different in my mind, I'm thinking, I'm so curious to see what you guys came up with. I'm really excited.

So let's start with number 1. So, what are all the signs that you came up with from that side of the room, for number 1?

Lonely. Oh, I'm already sad, is this going to be a sad song?

Cry. lonely.

Yay, achievement.


Walking along.


Some candy.






Hum, what kind of song can we come up with all that?


All right. Let's see. I'm going to think of -- what are we going to do with the number song? So we have 1 and then what sign should we -- lonely, I don't want to do lonely. One lonely -- so let's do 1.

Worm or candy.


Jonathan: One star. 

Leala: One star. 

[Leala and Jonathan begin swaying back and forth signing one star.]

Leala: Beautiful. All right.

So for number 2. What do we got? Oh, we have a raccoon.





Jonathan: Watch.

Leala: Watch.



Stupid. I don't want to use that one. [Laughter]



That's a good one. That's a long list. That's a word bank,-definitely have a word bank. Let's see which one we're going to pick for the song. Um, for number 2, which one do we do?

Jonathan and Leala: Two raccoons or scissors.

Leala: Scissors. All right. Let's do scissors.

Jonathan: Stealing.

Leala: Two scissors. 

[Leala and Jonathan sway back and forth signing “two scissors”.]

All right. This part of the room for the number 3 hand shape. What do we get?



Cars racing.

What does that mean? 

Heart. Listening to the heart. Oh, my goodness! 

Leala and Jonathan: I've never seen that before. Oh, that's so beautiful. 

Jonathan: I like that. 

Leala: I like that. Oh, I got all teary-eyed.

So, for the number 3 hand shape,- the three of us strolling along, walking. The three walking.

The three hand shape is kind of limited with the vocabulary when it comes to this hand shape.

Awkward, awkward. Yup.

The hand shape for number 3 is awkward, very awkward. Awkward.


Let's see, which one do we pick?

Rooster? Rooster?

We're going to go with rooster.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Leala: So three rooster.

[Leala and Jonathan swaying and signing “three rooster”.]

Leala: Awesome. All right.

Jonathan: Cool.

Leala: All right, for the hand shape of number 4 hand shape, what did we come up with this? 

Open. Creative, made up.


Jail! [Laughter]


Pregnant. Oh, okay. [Laughter]

Pregnant. Uh-huh.



All right. Line up. We're in a line.


So that's number 4. Number 4 hand shape.

Which one -- rainbow. I like the rainbow one. I think I like the rainbow. Rainbow or fence, I like those. Rainbow, okay. We'll do rainbow. 4 rainbow. 

[Leala and Jonathan swaying and signing “4 rainbow”.]

Leala: Awesome! And last, but not least, number 5. 

Oh, in the back. Oh, getting someone's attention.

Football. Football.

What else?


A long long long long time ago. Wonderful. Wonderful. I kind of like that one.

What else?


Jonathan: Movie.

Leala: Oh, movie.

Jonathan: Cheese.

Leala: Movie.

What is it? Walk. Walk.

All right.


Throwing up. [Laughter ]

Deer. Deer's throwing up. [Laughter ]

I think you guys have a lot of fun with that one.

So deer. okay, deer.




Do we want to go with deer? 

Jonathan: Or movie.

Leala: Movie. Movie. Movie's a good one. 5 movie.

[Leala and Jonathan signs “5 movie”.]

Leala: All right. So now let's bring it all together. What was number 1 again? What did we pick?

Star. Star, that's right.

Number 2, we did scissors.

Number 3 hand shape, rooster.

Number 4 hand shape, rainbow. 

Number 5 hand shape, movie. All right. Let's try and do it all together.

Jonathan: Everybody ready, on your feet.

Leala: Everybody get up.

Leala: How many should we do? Three? So let's do it three times for each hand shape. Are you guys ready? All right.

Let's go ahead.

[Leala, Jonathan, and audience sign together.]

Awesome! [Applause] Great job! 

Jonathan: Great! 

Leala: That was fun. That was definitely fun.

Jonathan: Yeah. I feel like the little me inside is dancing and playing. For sure. That was definitely fun.

Leala. Make sure that you share that with your students and your children when you get in there. Language, games,- just play around, have fun.

[PowerPoint slide appears with photos of hands signing the numbers 1-5.]

Jonathan: Okay.

So we just did that song about hand shapes. And we're going to talk a little more about that, a little more about other parameters. 

Location rhymes. Remember the song with the black cow and the colored animals?

So it's just forehead, chin, chest, hand, and space in front of you. Those five locations. So we'd like those same five groups, the ones who had number 1 hand shape, choose signs that happen on your forehead. The group that had the number 2 signs, you have signs that happen around your chin.

The group in the middle that had the 3 hand shape, signs that happen on your chest. The group with the 4 hand shape, on your hand, remember, those are signs that involve contact. And the last group, use the space in front of you,-- the location is the space in front of you. All right.

Leala: Go ahead.

Jonathan: You've got about three minutes to get some ideas together on your location signs, on each of those five locations.

[Audience member asks question.]

Jonathan: Question for clarification. Does it need to be the same hand shape, the same number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 hand shapes?

No. Now we're just focusing on any sign that happens on that location on your body. Regardless, of the handshake.

Leala: Any hand shape. Yeah, any hand shape.

[The video cuts for a moment.]

Jonathan: All right, guys. Okay, everybody. Are we ready? Let's see what signs you came up with? Let's see if we can put a rich word bank together. I'd like to see us build a rich word bank. So the location on the forehead, what signs happen on the forehead?

Concept. Gullible. Smart.




Lion. Black. Cow. Envision. Dream. 

Think for yourself. Inform. Learn a lesson. Trauma.  Those are great. So which sign do you want to pick there, Leala? What do you think?

Leala: Ooh.

Jonathan: I kind of like them all.

Leala: Let's do imagine.

Jonathan: Who loves to dream? Who loves to imagination? Everybody, right? You know, thinking about what we're cooking tomorrow for dinner, what projects we're working on. Anyway, great. Next group, signs on your chin. What did you come up with?



Sweet. Cute. Frustrated.

Cigar. Colored. Drool.


Close by.





Oh, boy, a bunch of great signs. Okay.

Leala and Jonathan: Everyday. Imagine every day. 

Leala: This could be interesting. Imagine every day.

Jonathan: On your chest, what signs happen on your chest? Sorry.


Denmark. Happy. Fine. [Laughter]


Touch my heart.


Enjoy. Hmm. Enjoy.

Leala: Do we pick enjoy? Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan: We're going to take enjoy. Okay. Imagine every day enjoying. Signs involve contact, on your hand.

Jail. Coffee. Margarita. [Laughter] Margarita or coffee, um, tough choice.

Win. Cookie. Oh, I want cookies, too, okay. What else?

Writing. Criticize. Football. Chocolate. Worn.

What do you think? What do you want? So many good choices. I want chocolate cookies and coffee.

Leala: Margarita. No, no, no. Really, I just want to make sure -- I envision every day -- there's so many things -- chocolate. 

Jonathan: Chocolate?

Leala: Let's do chocolate. Yeah, let's do chocolate.

Jonathan: And the last -- the space in front.

Cheer. Ongoing. Encourage. Walk. Proceed. Ski. March. Swim. Motorcycle. Snowboard.

Mountain. Mountains. That's the prior location.


Leala: Every day -- why don't we do -- every day and frequently, kind of the same. Every day, frequently,-no, doesn't work.

Jonathan: What's another sign? Give us some more. More signs. Hum. Chocolate lake. [Laughter] Chillin'. We may already have this. Envision every day enjoying a chocolate -- what makes sense after that?

Leala: Wonderfulness.

Jonathan: Chocolate chillin'. Wonderful.

Leala: Which one?

Jonathan: Chillin'.

Leala: Great. So what's the rhythm here?

Jonathan: Right. We've talked about rhyme. We should mention rhythm. So, one one or two one? 

Leala: I think simple, two two. We should just keep it simple.

Jonathan: Two two. 

Okay. We'll do two and two. Just follow along, okay? Up on your feet, everybody. 

[Audience stands up]

Jonathan: Follow us. Now, remember, it's a lot of signs, just remember the five locations. What's next? 

Okay. Forehead to the chin to the chest to the hand to space.

Leala: So we do imagine every day.

Jonathan: Chest.

Leala: Enjoy.

Jonathan: Your hand.

Leala: Chocolate.

Jonathan: And in space.

Leala: Chill.

[Leala, Jonathan, and audience signs the sentence they created together.]

Leala: Beautiful.

Jonathan: Give yourself a hand, all right. [Applause]

Leala: Great job.

Jonathan: The most wonderful part is together we made up two new songs. One based on hand shape and one based on location, and it came totally naturally to everybody. And that's what phonological awareness is all about.

Leala: Phonological awareness, when it comes to -- like singing, have, like, harmonics and harmony and being able to kind of feel those feels inside and feeling all fuzzy, it's the same thing when it comes to visually seeing everyone doing this together. It just brings chills. I love it. Did you guys feel it in the room? For sure. All right.

So, last, but not least, the last activity we're going to do is we're going to focus on the movement Portion. So, there's many different signs that have different types of movement.

[A PowerPoint appears that says, “Movement Rhymes” and has photos of hands signing 1-5.]

Leala: We go up and down, left and right, in the circular motion, hopping around. It's just a big variation. So this, we want to be able to go up and down. We're going to focus on the up and down motion.

For example, let's say up. So, grow. And sunrise. 

Jonathan: Looking skyward. 

Leala: Look up. Giraffe. I'm already giving you some ideas. Down. Sunset. Head down. [Laughter]  That. [Laughter]

Just be inventive and be creative. 

So everyone is going to think of a sign that's a motion, movement upwards, and then a sign with a movement downwards. So we'll all take about two or three minutes to be able to brainstorm those.

Leala: All right, is everyone ready? Are we ready? All right. Are you ready? Ready? 

Jonathan: I love it. Are you ready? 

Leala: All right. So let's start with the movement upward movement. So what signs are going up?


Bottle. Moon. Alert. Umbrella. Mountain. Flying. Rocket.

Air balloon. Climb. Swing. Really fast. Up the stairs. Fire.

Grow. Elevator going up.

Bright-eyed. Shiny.

Leala: What is? Subway? That's down. Submarine is going down. They're doing down. Submarine. Submarine.

Jonathan: Down. Okay.

Leala: So now we're going down. We got transition. Rainbow. That's up. We need to go down.

Jonathan: Valley.

Leala: Valley. Stubborn.

Rain. Chopping down a tree. Skiing. Climbing down a ladder, digressing. Landing. Depleting. Snow. Tired. Depressed. Fall off.

Okay. All right. We have a lot to work with. 

Jonathan: Okay.

Leala: Ooh! Where do we start? Okay. Hum, let me think.

Alert. Stubborn. Sunrise. Sunset. Rise and decline.

That's a lot to remember.

All right. Let me see -- let's try to go with the location.

So alert. Smile. Frown.

We go on the chest. Happy. Sad.

Or happy! Sad.

See with this location, what do we find? What do we have here?

Grow. Die. Decline.

In this outside location, umbrella. Rain Umbrella. Rain! All right.

Okay. So let's see if we can remember. Alert. Sad. Smile. Frown. 

[Leala and Jonathan signs this again and again to the crowd.]

Jonathan: Cool. 

So see what just happened? So she caught herself needing to find some structure because there was too much going on. So she added that structure of counter of opposites. So that helps your predictions and she wasn't able to -- she doesn't didn't have a structure you could predict what was happening in the song so she added the five locations to make the song easier to remember.

Leala: Right. Exactly. That helped a lot. Especially when there's similarities, it's easier to remember. So especially when there's absolutely no structure when it comes to similarities, especially in the signs, it can be really hard.

So it's really good, especially for children, you know. You have to think of children that are 3 years old, you know. It's hard to rhyme in English, especially when they're similar words. So, this can be a very deep concept. You want to be able -- you're not going to be able to see that to be able to do that structure.

So in sign language, it can happen the same thing. When we have those areas and locations, when we have the similar hand shapes and they're signing, it's easier to have some structural within -- within to be able to have that go smoothly.

[A PowerPoint slide appears, that says “Group Challenge”.]

Leala: All right. Let's do a group challenge. I'm just kidding. You already did it. [Laughter]

Guys, I just want to say thank you. You guys did a wonderful job. And we wanted to show you one more video. And I wanted to be able to have a comparison. We're talking about sports. Give me any sport. What's a good sport? Just any sport. Volleyball. Okay. Soccer.

Oh, a lot of people say volleyball. Okay, let's go with volleyball. So let's say a person has absolutely no idea about volleyball. Has never seen the game before, doesn't -- is unaware of the rules. And is watching a volleyball game, let's say a pro team and is watching a pro volleyball game.

You kind of can see that the ball goes over the net and then it goes over, it kind of seems simplistic, Right? So now a person is extremely knowledgeable about Volleyball. Oh, my goodness, that was a great serve? Wow, that was an amazing save?

Those technical words --  have no idea about volleyball myself. I love volleyball. But you know that spike or that toss or that serve, when you watch the game, it's a lot more enjoyable when you know those techniques and those little intricacies. So a person that has absolutely no knowledge, can be, like, oh my gosh, this is a really boring game, it's really not complex. They don't understand the complexities that go into it.

So now in the song, now that you have more awareness and know -- and you can take all this information that you absolutely -- that you just learned about location and rhythms and areas and movement, now you can watch a video and have a little bit more -- you have more phonetic awareness and you can have a better appreciation. So are we ready to watch? You'll get more out of it than what you did in the beginning of the workshop.

Jonathan: And I have one -- when you're watching, the hand shape matched the animals, you'll recognize that. Watch.

[A PowerPoint slide appears that has photos of hands signing the numbers 1-5. Under each number and photo, there are different animals. 

So, in that song you'll see, you'll be using the structures, the 1 through 5 hand shape structure. So number 1 will be mouse, 2 is raccoon, 3 is rooster, 4 zebra, 5 deer. All right. We're ready. 

[A video of Jonathan signing as cartoon animals pass behind him.]

Leala: Awesome job.

Jonathan: Does that person look familiar? I think I met him before.

Leala: He's very handsome. Very handsome. [Laughter]

Jonathan: Again, one song, but you can notice all these different pieces of phonological awareness. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You have one hand shape, two hand shapes. 

You saw how the animals walk differently. Mice don't walk with two legs, right? And you see how the mice -- the mouse moved along. You see how the raccoon moved along. The rooster, using the same hand shape, walked along using the 3 hand shape. Four zebras, they moved along like this. Five deer, traveled in a group, using that same hand shape. All of those things involved, but even fun. So you're learning a lot of linguistic features and having fun in the process.

Leala: Um-hum, um-hum. So, we've come to a close. I think we have about five minutes left. So, if anybody has any questions or comments, we're going to leave that open for that. Remember in the beginning of the presentation, the first video that we showed you, signing a really fun son. I think many of you didn't quite understand the rhythm or the rhyme of that. I don't know if you guys noticed that so we're going to play it again so you guys can see it.

[Video from beginning of presentation, where a young Jonathan is signing.]

[Leala signs as the video plays next to her.]

Leala: So, all of the signs had a palm orientation downward. I don't know if you saw that. Everything that was done had that palm orientation downward. All the signs that were used, work, active. Now we switch.

[The video plays as Leala signs.]

Leala: These are all movement rhymes. And the movement we're using in particular is that one circular movement through time. Repetitive motion through time. This third one, now you know the mnemonic about the location, we're using that here, we're using the same one. The same sequence that we've used here.

And during that I follow, that I will show you on my own person the locations. 

[Jonathan replicates the video as it plays.

Jonathan: ]So you were able to see, it's easy to predict where I'm going to go with the next location.

Leala: And then look at this non-manual I'm making, this is the one that's in all of these sequence, if I'm not smiling, but this is what you'll see him do for the rest of it. I have no idea what I just did there. That's all a non-manual rhyme.

[Part of the video plays again.]

Leala: Now it has grammatical meaning, just like the signs all have grammatical meanings, and then basically  that particular nonmanual has a similar meaning all the way through.

Jonathan: And right now we're going to have you -- you've already practiced the three parts, hand shape, location, and movement. Up and down. We don't have enough time to do the other two, which are non-manual markers and palm orientation.

[Part of video plays again.]

Jonathan: This is hand shape.

Leala: The hand shape 5, the open hand. 

[Hands Land logo appears.]

Jonathan: Hands Land.

Leala: Oh, thank you all so much. We have really enjoyed this --

Jonathan: Yes.

Leala: So much. It's a lot of fun tonight being with you. If you're interested in some of these videos that we have, they're available on Amazon, so if you just type in Hands Land, that's us. And this is the way we sign it. 

Jonathan and Leala: Hands Land.

Leala: With the rhythm, of course. So that's where you can find us. So I think we have a little time, we're open for questions or comments or anything. Is it just dessert?

Jonathan: I think they're ready.

Leala: Ready for dessert.

Anna Paulson: Yes, I want to thank you so much. Thank you. [Applause]

Anna Paulson (off-screen): Oh, sure.

Jonathan: Any time. There's one thing, I wanted a selfie with all of you. Can we take a selfie with all of you? 

Come on. Okay. Get in. Stand up.

[Audience stands up.]

Jonathan: Thank you. 

Leala: Thank you. 

Anna Paulson (on screen): Thank you. 

Jonathan: Thank you for having us.

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