As part of this effort, we envisioned a transition class for students leaving Pre-School and entering Primary School. This transition class would focus on an intensive effort to immerse and develop students’ language capacity in both English and Jamaican Sign Language (JSL), but especially in the latter language. Four (4) persons are part of the teaching team: Dawn Williams, Donna Harris, Osmond Hanchard and Zandrea Pitterson. All four persons attended Deaf Way II, where they collected information and ideas for an experiential class to develop language skills among students. Subsequent to Deaf Way II, Ms. Williams and Ms. Harris spent an additional three (3) weeks at Gallaudet University this past summer attending a specialised course on literacy for Deaf students.
K2 denotes Kindergarten Two and GOT denotes Grade One Transition. It must be emphasised that the class is an experiential one. The methodology is to be adapted from several strands of the progressive pedagogical approach: Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner), Reggio Emilio, and the Montessori as well as Clerc Centre Pre-College Programmes of Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. All of these approaches are child-centred rather than teacher-centred, which is a significant shift in practice from the current norms within JAD, indeed wider Jamaican, educational system. Consequently, there is allowance for variety in course curriculum and method with the K2/GOT project.
The K2/GOT class is active and engaged in a number of activities. The students are interested in a wide variety of topics: photography (35 mm. cameras and videocameras), violence (guns), fish, environment, and computers. We are attempting a cross-disciplinary approach towards instruction by utilising students’ interests, as listed above, to integrate mathematics, science, history, culture and language across the curriculum. Student enthusiasm has been steady and strong throughout the first month of term, which is beneficial.
For purposes of documenting the project, we are applying extensive use of videocameras in both formal and informal capacities with the students. We are filming students in the individual and group situation, with a special focus on their linguistic capacities – both expressive and receptive in both their Jamaican Sign Language and English proficiencies. Some observations are being documented via paper and pen as well, but the reliance on videocameras allows the teachers to provide undivided attention to the students during class time and then subsequently review the tapes to reflect on the day’s activities.