November 1, 2013

Enrich Your Learning Environment With Sign Language: Post #1

Click Here for Link to Photo Credit from Creative Commons
This post marks the beginning of a new series of posts where I will share information about the benefits of signing with hearing children of all ages (infants/toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged kids) and offer suggestions for how to weave sign language into your own learning environment. This information is drawn from a popular workshop I teach entitled, "Our Hands are Full: How to Enrich Your Learning Environment with Sign Language."

The workshop title is meant to suggest that teachers, librarians, parents and caregivers are BUSY (Our HANDS are FULL), but our hands can also be TOOLS for communication (meaning they are FULL of potential and opportunity).

So let's start with some introductory information:

1) ASL = American Sign Language

2) ASL is the sign language used by people in North America.

3) Sign language benefits children of all ages:

*Babies can sign before they talk and sign language helps babies develop/strengthen language and early literacy skills.

*Sign language helps preschoolers/early readers learn how to read and spell and it can help all children follow directions and express themselves.

Want some evidence? Here are links to additional information/studies about the language and literacy/early literacy benefits of sign language:

Signing with Babies and Children (a white paper that offers a comprehensive summary of the academic research on the impact of signing on cognitive, linguistic and social-emotional development commissioned by the makers of Signing Time).

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Changing Brains (a science program for non-scientists from the University of Oregon's Brain Lab that offers information and recommendations based on scientific evidence for parents, educators, and policymakers on topics including language and motor skill development).

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Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy (the classic text for those seeking to advance the literacy of children through the use of sign language, by Dr. Marilyn Daniels).

Sign Language and the Brain (a summary of research from the University of Washington).

What Sign Language Can Teach Your Child (an article from

*Sign language can even help your aging brain stay sharp! Want more details?  Click here for a summary of a research study presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting).

*Interesting Factoid: BSL (British Sign Language) is different than ASL (even though people from England and people from the U.S. both speak English). For a more detailed discussion, click here.

*Another Interesting Factoid: ASL has a French influence. Why? Because French scholars came to the U.S. to help us start our first educational organizations for the Deaf. For a more detailed discussion, click here.

Okay, enough of all that bookish information! Do you want practical tips and information about the benefits of sign language and how to incorporate ASL into your home, classroom, and/or library programming? Stay tuned! I will share new ideas with each new post. Next up: How sign language helps with concentration.

If you're interested in scheduling your own workshop (in person, or via SKYPE), let me know in the comment section below, or get in touch through the contact links at SmallTalk Learning, or you can find me on Facebook. I'd also love to know if you have any questions you'd like me to address.

Until next time!  Happy Signing!

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