December 4, 2013

How to Enrich Your Learning Environment with Sign Language (Summary Post)

Photo Credit: K. Prochovnic, 2012
Recently, I've written several posts about the benefits of signing with hearing children of all ages (infants/toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged kids) and 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).

Each post in the series offers practical tips and information about the benefits of sign language and how to incorporate ASL into your home, classroom and/or library programming. You can find links for each post below:

Enrich Your Learning Environment with Sign Language Series:

Post #1: Introduction and Research Links

Post #2: How Sign Language Can Help with Concentration

Post #3: Sign Language Keeps Hands Busy with Something Permissible and Positive

Post #4: Sign Language Develops Fine Motor Skills (Pencil Practice!)

Post #5: Sign Language Engages Multiple Senses

Post #6: Sign Language is a Natural and Effective Classroom Management Tool 

Post #7: Sign Language Can Be a Tool To Help Kids Use Their Manners

Post #8: How the Sign, "Stop" Can Help Kids Safely and Respectfully Communicate Frustration

Post #9: How to Play "The Quiet Game"

Post #10: Sign Language Can Bridge the Communication Gap in Bi-Lingual Learning Environments

I will continue to add to this series over time, so keep checking back (or sign up to follow my blog via the links in the upper right column of this page). If you have specific questions you'd like me to address, or 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. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. Happy Signing!

December 3, 2013

Enrich Your Learning Environment with Sign Language: Post #3

Click Here for Creative Commons Photo Credit 
One of my favorite benefits of signing with children is that it keeps their hands busy with something permissible and positive.

Several years ago my son played basketball with a VERY active classmate. This was the kid who was constantly moving and fidgeting and who required frequent redirection to stay on (or to get back on) task.

During a particularly memorable basketball game, this kid was on the court during the same shift as my son with an index finger up each of his nostrils shouting (in a nasally voice), "Pass me the ball! I'm open. I'm open." I will never forget that image (or the comments from my son on the way home from the game, indicating that he did not want to touch the ball after this kid had it in his hands).

I remember thinking at the time that this kid NEEDED sign language in his life. Seriously. If there was ever a child that could benefit from having something positive and permissible to do with his hands, this was the child!

Young children are busy by nature. It's developmentally appropriate for them to MOVE their little bodies. And yet, so many classroom lessons require sitting still (in some cases, for much too long).  

Signing is a great way to give active children (particularly your kinesthetic learners) a way to move while they are learning and while they are officially "on task."

In my last post, I offered some ideas for how to incorporate signing into your read aloud story times. To build on this idea, consider teaching a "sign of the day" (or a "sign of the week") at the beginning of each day (or week). Ask your kids to keep their ears open for the key word and to sign the word each time they hear it. For example, if they key word is wait, each time you say something like, "I'll wait until voices are off," students will have an opportunity to sign wait.

Ask your particularly fidgety kids to sign the alphabet (or finger spell their name) if they they need to move when it's not an ideal "moving time."

Here is a resource to help you implement these ideas: In the beginning of each of my books in the Story Time Series there is a page of multicultural alphabet handshapes (beautifully illustrated by Stephanie Bauer). My publisher, ABDO Publishing Group, makes this page (and the full glossaries for all 16 books in the series) available for free download via their website (click here for the direct download of the alphabet handshapes, or click here and scroll to the bottom of the page, past the Star Wars info, for links to the glossaries and several other free sign language goodies on ABDO's site).

I hope you'll try these ideas and then use the contact form to the left (or leave a comment below) to let me know how it goes. I love hearing YOUR sign language success stories!