September 26, 2012

Sing and Sign When You Read (More Ideas for Getting Started with Signing)

Story Time with Signs & Rhymes
One of my favorite things to do is sing and sign when I read to kids. I routinely model this for teachers, librarians and parents when I facilitate in-service training sessions and literacy programs at community education events. After a guest appearance at a conference facilitated by one of my heroes, Nellie Edge, I was encouraged to capture a video of me singing and signing my stories with children. For logistical reasons, this still hasn't happened (lining up cameras and the necessary parental permissions during the same timeframe I've managed to fit in a fresh haircut and wardrobe check has not worked out quite yet).

However, after many gentle nudges from Nellie, I did finally film myself reading my book SEE THE COLORS. Nellie references  the book and video clip in her annual list of favorite new books (you have to scroll down a bit on her page to find it).

The video, (here is the YouTube link), is not nearly as fun or inspiring as it would be if I had a group of engaged kids surrounding me, but it does provide an opportunity to illustrate some of the ideas I encourage you to try at home or in your own classrooms. It provides an example of how the story might be signed if I were reading to a group of children, for example in a classroom or library story time session.

For family story times, cuddle your child(ren) on your lap.  Hold the book in front of you.  You can make some of the signs like "blue" or "green" in front of the pages of the book (instead of near your shoulder, where these signs are typically made). You can also make some of the signs on your child's body (for example, tug on your child's tee shirt for the sign "white," or move your pointer finger across your child's eyebrow for the sign "black").  If you prop your child more sideways (vs. forward) on your lap, you can make the signs on your own body, and you will notice that your child will look up from the book to watch your hands and face, where the signing action is taking place.

For some kids, you can also use their hands to make the signs. For example, I use the sign for "baby"(or for older kids, "child") to convey the repeating phrase "little one."  Try cuddling your child's arms into the "baby" motion to make this sign.  For the sign "brown," you can move your child's open hand down their cheek to approximate the motion.  Some kids really like having their hands manipulated in this way; others don't.  My daughter used to hold her hands out to me and say "help" when she was having trouble articulating a more complicated new word (such as "helicopter"). My son, on the other hand, would arch his back and aggressively move his arms and hands away from me saying, "by myself!" if I tried to manipulate his hands to make a sign.  Let your baby be your guide!

And be relaxed about it.  Don't be afraid to put the book down from time to time.  You can set it on your lap, or you can set it down next to you. You might find that you and your child(ren) get sidetracked talking back and forth about different signs.  That's fine.  The whole point is to interact and to explore language and literacy together!

I also encourage you to use books that you are really familiar with, books that you and your child really enjoy, and books that feel rhythmic and musical to you. For example, children's classics like "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" aren't officially singable, but they have a rhythmic quality to them.  Chant and sign along with those stories!

Many of my books from the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series can be sung, not just read. In my next post, I'll provide a summary of the familiar tunes that match up with my singable stories. In the meantime, please feel free to share other books you like to sing and sign along with in the comments section below!

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