What’s the Significance in Modeling Non Manual Markers?
Tuesday night, right from the onset Easy Signing‘s students of all ages jumped into their ASL learning through building a Communication Tower without verbalizing to each other how tall to build their group’s tower! Balls of clay, bent straws held together with toothpicks forming the towers while students smiled, watched each other and contributed their thoughts without saying a mumbling word. The students were having a nonverbal experience to gain a small sense of how it might feel to communicate your wants and needs without voicing it. When Deaf people converse in ASL, they do not use their voices. Rather their expression is through handshapes and Non Manual Markers ( NMM).
Next, students paired off and modeled each other’s non-manual markers. We saw all kinds of facial expressions, body language and gestures! Throughout the night for two hours, students modeled their teachers while learning their first set of ASL handshapes and NMM to use in conversations with a Deaf person or even a person with speech limitations. There were looks of curiosity as if to say, “Hmm-mm, I wonder what is the reason for doing this activity?” As the activity continued on, all of the sudden there was laughter, wild, slow, fast and exotic and oops, lazy forms of modeling. Deaf assistant teacher Benita caught those lazy ones. A Deaf person visual acuity is key in exchanging conversation. Because of this, their visual lens and visual perception tends to take keener awareness in conversation beyond that of a hearing person with auditory factors.
As the class continued through the night learning basic ASL handshapes and NMM, they soon realized they actually were conversing with a Deaf person about their choice of drink. Not only did the students decided if they wanted coffee, tea or water. They extended their conversation to sign what and how many ingredients they wanted in their drinks. Moreover, they decided if it would be a hot or cold drink and how they would drink it. We all broke out into laughter when one student declined coffee but asked for a hot chocolate drink! Whoa! The students were advancing their conversations with their learning of 36 commonly used handshapes and many non-manual markers to create meaning to the thoughts they were conveying to each other, especially to their Deaf teach Benita. By the end of their first class, Easy Signing’s students realized the difference NMM meant in American Sign Language conversations.