American Sign Language Project Ideas

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

American Sign Language projects can help your high school students apply their understanding of the complexities of signed communication. These hands-on projects help develop students' ASL skill set and knowledge of deaf culture.

American Sign Language Project Ideas

High school students studying American Sign Language can greatly benefit from projects that increase both their ASL skill set and their knowledge of the cultural context surrounding it. It's essential for ASL to be taught within such a context, as it is with any other language.

These hands-on projects allow students to complete thorough research, develop original content, and present information to a group. The first two projects can be assigned to individuals, partners, or teams. The last project involves event planning and will be most effective if implemented by a large group of students working in task-specific teams.

Culture and Language Timeline

In this project, students will complete in-depth research of the development and changes in American Sign Language throughout history. Additionally, they will place a strong emphasis on the role of ASL in Deaf culture and how the two are inextricably linked. Consider a focus for each timeline, such as political changes, education options, or communication technology. Students will create and present a timeline that showcases the information gained during research.

  • Materials: access to technology, research resources, research organizer, digital timeline creation tool or poster, markers, and glue
  1. Begin by asking students to select a topic as the focus for their timeline.
  2. After topics have been approved, provide them with access to technology, research resources, and an organizer for additional support.
  3. Provide adequate time and assistance for students to complete their research.
  4. Give clear examples of completed timelines, whether digital or poster. If using digital timeline software, provide examples of multimedia that students can incorporate, such as video clips, maps, audio, and images.
  5. Provide time and materials for students to complete their timelines.
  6. Allow students to present their timelines to a larger group. If crafting digital timelines, consider creating an online repository that students can show to family and friends.

Visual Dictionary

In this project, students can work as individuals, partners, or teams to develop a visual dictionary related to a broad topic of their choice. For example, students may choose to explore signs related to sports, fashion, the medical field, or politics. Then, students will create a visual dictionary showing vocabulary related to their selected topic.

  • Materials: technology access, extensive ASL dictionary resources, Deaf community reference sites, research organizer, video recording equipment, digital editing tool
  1. Provide students with a list of possible topics, brainstorm together, or have them choose their own.
  2. Give time for students to brainstorm a list of vocabulary words within their topic selection. Consider having them list these words on poster paper for easy reference as they conduct more research.
  3. Provide technology access, including ASL dictionary resources and Deaf community reference sites related to the selected topics. Give adequate time for students to find, learn, and practice the signs.
  4. Allow students to use their own recording devices or provide them with video recording equipment.
  5. They should then record themselves signing each of the vocabulary words, focusing on the nuances of signing, such as hand position, movement direction, and facial expression.
  6. After recording has been completed, have students use a digital editing tool to create their visual dictionary. Provide adequate time for them to build quality products.
  7. When projects have been completed, provide students a chance to present or share their finished products with a larger group. Consider adding their dictionaries to an online repository so they can share their work with friends and family.

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