Using Sign Language in the Classroom

Instructor: Elizabeth Hemmons

Beth has taught early childhood education, including students with special needs, for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education.

In this lesson, we will discuss how sign language makes learning more multi-sensory and it increases student engagement! We will also explore ways that teachers can incorporate sign language into their classrooms on a daily basis.

Using Sign Language in the Classroom

The use of American Sign Language in today's classrooms is becoming more and more popular. Our classrooms have become full of diverse learners, including Special Education students, English Language Learners (ELL) and students with other disorders such as ADD, ADHD and ODD. Sign language has become a universal form of communication that nearly all students can use and benefit from. Sign language is an exciting, multi-sensory way to engage students throughout the day.

Classroom Management

''Okay everyone, quiet down, Can I have your attention, please?'' Sometimes getting your class to settle down and listen to you takes raising your voice and speaking loudly over their chatter. When using sign language in the classroom to settle your class down, you don't need to make a sound. Once you teach your students a few signs for simple classroom directions, they will be able to learn to see the signal and may quiet down on their own without you needing to project over them. Make this a part of your daily routine and you will have an overall quieter and more focused classroom. Signing will take the place of trying to compete with their volume and your students' focus will need to be on you to be able to understand the directions.

This benefits your students with special needs as well, because it lowers the overall noise distraction and sensory stimulation in the classroom. It is important to incorporate sign language into your daily routine so that students are exposed to it on a daily basis. You can do this by starting each day with a greeting or message in sign language or singing a song in sign language.

Literacy and Math Benefits

In an early childhood classroom, sign language can be used to assist with the learning of letters and sounds. Learning the sign for each letter of the alphabet not only gives them a visual prompt for the letter but it also provides movement with a kinesthetic prompt. Kinesthetic learning is the process of using a physical action with learning. Some students, especially younger, are more kinesthetic learners and need to be more hands-on. With elementary aged students, sign language can be used for spelling and sight words and memorizing other concepts such as songs and phonics rules. Sign language can be used in math classrooms by providing signs for steps in math equations and problem solving.

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