ASL students learn through tic-tac-toe

ASL students play a card game.

One cool language class that FCPS offers is American Sign Language (ASL).
“The ASL program at Falls Church High School’s Academy program is very new and is unique in that it is not just a recognized world language,” ASL teacher Amy Parks said. “In a program that demands academic rigor for college prep, it is also an excellent path toward various occupations such as Deaf Education, ASL Interpreting and Social Work.”
AHS students who enroll in this class attend it as an academy class at FCHS.
“ASL is one of my favorite classes this year,” senior Kushmita Kaur said. “This is my first year taking ASL and I think this class is fun and would recommend anyone who has the room in their schedule to take it.”
Parks, who teaches all the ASL classes at FCHS, has a lot of experience working with the language.
“I was an interpreter in the ’80s and had very hard core, intensive training to get it right,” Parks said.
The experiences that Parks creates for her students differs this class greatly from any other language class.
This class is a very hands-on class with a lot of student collaboration the majority of the time compared to a normal language class where it will be half student collaboration and half written assignments.
“So far we’ve done a lot of class activities where we have to go around the class and do Q&As with each other in sign language,” Kaur said. “I like when we do this because I get to meet new people from the other schools.”
Parks tries to get her students to interact and sign to each other whenever she can.
“American Sign Language may spring from your hands, but it lives between its users,” Parks said. “Books are a great resource, but co-creation of engaging moments is where the magic is.”
Something unique that happens in class is students are taught ASL through playing traditional games like, Tic-Tac-Toe, Hangman, and Charades.
“One activity we did was we played Heads Up in class and just fingerspelled the words,” Kaur said.
All of the games are used to teach the students new vocabulary. Some of the games are also meant to teach other aspects of ASL.
The Tic-Tac-Toe games teach the student about how it’s important to understand the perspective of the other person in a conversation and Hangman helps students practice spelling words with their fingers.
These traditional games that are played in ASL are effective with the students.
“It was fun when we learned how to play Tic-Tac-Toe in sign language,” Kaur said. “The position of the letters on the grid was confusing to sign, but I got used to it.”
Parks believes that these types of unique activities are necessary in order to teach students.
“There is a time and a place for Lecture & Learn, but in the words of Maya Angelou, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel,’” Parks said.