November 8, 2012

Label When You're Able: Let Your Words Be Your Guide

If you've been trying out some of the signing tips and ideas in my earlier posts, you'll see that much of what I've discussed thus far involves signing without regard to context. We've talked about adding signs to the songs you sing with your child, and engaging in signing in the same relaxed and playful way that you engage in familiar finger plays such as "The Wheels on the Bus," or "Patty Cake." This helps you build your own signing vocabulary (and confidence!), and it gets your child into the habit of looking at your hands for meaning.

We've also talked about signing when you read and signing when you play with your child.

These ideas gradually shift us into the idea of signing within a context, or providing sign labels (in addition to verbal labels) for key activities or objects.

Think about how many verbal labels you provide in a day:  "It's time for a diaper change,"Let's put on your socks," "Yum. Yum. You like peas, don't you?" "Let's put some carrots in our grocery cart," "Here's your water," "Where is the ball?" "Look at you dancing!" "It's bath time." The list goes on and on. When we talk to our baby throughout the day, we are labeling the world around them.

To add sign labels, you simply add signs that go along with the words you are saying. In my last post, I discussed the idea of putting your questions about signing to "The Wheels on the Bus Test" when you are singing and playing. When you are labeling, I like to say, "Label when you're able. Let your words be your guide."

What I mean by this is to listen to yourself talk. Notice the words you tend to say over and over again, (such as "It's time for a diaper change, or "Let's put on your socks,"). You don't need to sign every word you say, nor do you need to sign every word you happen to know a sign for in a particular sentence. But as you talk, when you hear yourself saying a particular word that goes along with an activity or object you doing or seeing, add the sign for that activity or object (or make a note to look up the sign, links to online sign language dictionary can be found here), so you can add it the next time you say the same words).

Just like I don't subscribe to the notion that there should be a lot of rules (or shoulds and should-nots) when you sign as you sing and play, likewise, I don't subscribe to the notion that there are necessarily right and wrong ways to sign in context. That said, lots of people have questions about this aspect of signing, and I will aim to address those in my next post. If you have particular questions of your own, note them in the comment section below, and I will include your questions in my discussion!

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