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December 12, 2003

Plainfield Students ‘ Sing ' By Signing At Winter Concert

From: New London Day, CT - Dec 12, 2003

Day Staff Writer
Published on 12/12/2003

Plainfield –– When she was in first grade, Kelly Livernoche met a girl she wanted to be friends with but didn't know how to talk to.

The two had a lot in common and enjoyed each other's company, but sharing a simple story was a challenge. The girl, Livernoche's classmate at Sheppard Hill Elementary School, was deaf, and Livernoche did not know sign language.

"I really wanted to learn to talk to her," said Livernoche, now 10 and a fifth-grader at Plainfield Memorial School. "I knew another person who is deaf and it was frustrating because a lot of people didn't know what he was saying when he talked with his hands."

Livernoche said her first-grade class was taught to communicate with the girl through sign language. Since then, Livernoche has continued to take sign language classes.

Thursday, in front of roughly 250 fellow classmates, Livernoche and 14 other fifth-graders signed the words to "Don't Laugh At Me," a song written by Allen Shamblin and Steve Seskin, during the morning performance of the Plainfield Memorial School's Winter Concert.

"It feels good to know you can do something that hardly anyone else can," Livernoche said.

Sandy Collins, a special education teacher at the school, together with Michael Spottiswoode, has worked with the students throughout the year to teach them sign language. For the past three weeks, she has concentrated on teaching the class, a mix of special- and regular-education students, how to sign to "Don't Laugh At Me," which Peter, Paul & Mary made popular.

"It's beneficial for all students to learn (sign language) because it can be used as a visual aid for every child," Collins said Thursday after an impromptu practice in the hallway outside the school gymnasium.

Alexis Roberts, 10, shared Livernoche's passion for signing, saying she was nervous for her performance but excited about showing her classmates what she has learned.

"I wanted to learn because I thought it would be educational and if I ever come in contact with a deaf person I can talk to that person now," Roberts said.

After a brief run-through, the group returned to the gymnasium, where the concert was held, to sit and wait for its cue.

As music teacher Lloyd Salisbury finished directing the 167 members of the school chorus and a drum soloist in "Feliz Navidad," Collins' group quietly jumped from folding chairs and fell into line.

With the first strum of Salisbury's guitar, the group's members began using their fingers and hands to sign the words to the song as the chorus sang.

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