Elementary students put their hands to work to learn sign language

NEIGHBORS

April 08, 1994|By KATHY SUTPHIN

Beginning on the first day of classes each school year, students in Brenda Teppig's fourth-grade class at Mount Airy Elementary School are encouraged to talk with their hands.

First the fourth-graders learn the sign for each letter of the alphabet and learn to finger spell their names. Then Mrs. Teppig teaches her students the signs for familiar objects in their classroom and school.

Their sign language education progresses until they are able to sign the words to the music of a popular song at the school's gala gym show held each April.

Sign language is an extracurricular subject taught to Mrs. Teppig's class that enriches their day-to-day activities.

In addition to being an enjoyable activity for her students, they can use finger spelling to practice their spelling words and to communicate with the teacher or classmates when speaking out loud is not appropriate or possible.

"It helps some of them to remember vocabulary and concepts," Mrs. Teppig said.

Mrs. Teppig, who sometimes serves as a volunteer interpreter for deaf friends, stressed that she continues to learn sign language skills. Her knowledge has been garnered from books, videos, watching others sign, and three classes, including one college class.

Students in Mrs. Teppig's class gain more than just another way to express letters, numbers and words.

Courtney Samuel said it is difficult for a deaf person to understand signs when someone wiggles around.

"When you do signing, you have to stay still," she said.

Colin Jones said his new skills have helped him communicate with his neighbors who are hearing-impaired. He advised that it is important to "mouth the words so they can understand -- lip read and do the sign language."

Facial expression is also very important when using sign language.

"You should put your signs up close to your mouth so they can see the signs and your mouth moving at the same time," Kristen Robson said.

Signing words to music was so much fun that Heather Colvin shared her manual communication skills with the school at a lunchtime talent show. She signed the lyrics to Garth Brooks' hit tune, "The River." "And did a wonderful job," Mrs. Teppig said.

Mrs. Teppig said her interest in sign language began when she went with a women's group from her church to visit the deaf ward at Springfield Hospital in 1989.

"They were so excited that we came to see them," she said. "I knew no sign language, and I wasn't able to communicate -- it was a real shock."

Although a sign language class was periodically offered at her church, Mrs. Teppig said she hadn't enrolled.

"The next time that they had one, I took it," she said. "I keep right on because I really felt like that was something I should be doing.

"I came to school and every time I would learn something, I would teach my boys and girls.

"That helped me to practice and helped them to learn. And while I was learning a better understanding of deaf people and to be more sensitive to them, I was trying to share that with the boys and girls in my classroom."

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The Mount Airy Elementary 1994 Gym Show held this week demonstrated physical education skills taught in gym classes by Linda Coons and Robin Townsend.

To the strains of "I Wanna Be Rich," fifth-graders "tinikled," demonstrated their agility dancing across and between long white poles. Fourth-graders in Donna Beeman's class shimmied with towels to "Splish Splash."

"It's a fourth-grade presentation but it's more of a culmination of our entire physical education program," Ms. Coons said.

Participants used lively music and an array of props including ribbons, balls, jump ropes, rhythm sticks and parachutes to entertain audiences during three shows held Wednesday and yesterday at Mount Airy Middle School.

One of the show's 11 acts was performed by Mrs. Teppig's "Sign Language Chorus." The fourth-grade class continued the annual tradition of interpreting the lyrics of a popular song at the gym show by signing "One Moment in Time."

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Heavenly ham, tasty turkey and outstanding oysters will be served at the Mount Airy Fire Company's second Spring Dinner beginning at noon Sunday at the Activities Building at Route 27 and Twin Arch Road.

An array of side dishes and home-baked desserts will be featured at the all-you-can-eat feast.

The cost of the fund-raiser will be $9 for adults and $4.50 for children 5 through 12. Children under 5 are free. Carryouts are available for an extra 50 cents.

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With a lifetime of experience as a local beef and dairy farmer, C. William Knill has a deep well of expertise to draw from for his Wednesday evening discussion of "Farming of Mount Airy -- Then and Now."

Mr. Knill, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau and an active member of the Carroll County Farm Bureau, will lead the second of four lectures and discussions held to commemorate Mount Airy's Centennial.

The free event begins at 7:30 p.m. in the lower level of the new Mount Airy fire station at 702 N. Main St. The public is encouraged to attend.

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