I grew up learning American Sign Language. My younger sister has Down Syndrome and as a family we used a lot of sign language to communicate. When I started college the original plan was to become an interpreter. It wasn’t until I took an education course as an elective that I decided to become a teacher. As a teacher I LOVED introducing this beautiful language to the students. Within weeks the children were picking up signs faster than I could introduce them. I would look around the room during the day to see the children communicating with one another. Within months of introducing sign language, the principal paid me a visit. My class shared a wall with her office and I was always hyper aware of the insane noise level. However, her visit that day wasn’t to tell me that my class was a little disruptive. It was my room was so quite she thought we left the class.
As we walked down the halls I gave directions in sign language. When we sat at rug I used sign language. When we attended assemblies you better believe I reminded the children of our class rules in sign. Sign Language was implemented in every part of the class room. From behavior modifications to teaching literacy, it was used everywhere. Sign Language didn’t just live in the classroom; the children took the language home. Daily I had parents asking me what a sign was their child was doing. I found myself teaching parents almost as much sign as their children.
So…I know what you’re thinking…that’s great, but I don’t know any sign language. A wise person once told me that you only need to know one thing more than a child for them to consider you an expert. So that’s what you are going to do. Here is a weekly breakdown of how you can implement sign language without being fluent.
Look up and learn three signs to use during the week. Think about what you are working on and start there. I would always introduce a letter, a word that started with that letter, and a conversational sign like, “yes, no, please, thank you, mom, dad, friend.” Think of words the kids use a lot and start with those.
At the first rug introduce and practice all the signs. Then try to use it throughout the morning. Come second rug time see if anyone can remember. We would always play, “Name that Sign!”, it was a ton of fun and a great way to practice.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Repeat practicing the signs at rug and using them throughout the day.
Ask the children what signs they want to learn the follow week. It is a great way to insert voting and numbers. Add the winning sign to the list for the next week. Repeat.
So where are you going to find all these signs you ask? I HIGHLY recommend ASLpro.com. It is a video dictionary and extremely easy to use. It is also where you can go in a moment’s notice if a child asks you what a sign is. You can talk about what a dictionary is and then look up the sign together.
I love when teachers start using sign. Share in the comments below what worked and didn’t work for you.