March 6, 2014

Enrich Your Learning Environment with Sign Language: Post #5

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One of the benefits of using sign language in your learning environment is that it engages multiple senses. I envision taking in new information as a process of dropping little nuggets of knowledge into different bins in our brain. I picture these bins looking a lot like old-style card catalog drawers. When we need to call upon our stored knowledge, I imagine little critters rifling through the file drawers in our brain until they find what we are looking for. I realize that's a crazy image, but that's how I see it! Suffice it to say, sign language gives young learners the opportunity to drop their little nuggets of knowledge into more than one file bin.

Image Credit: ABDO Publishing Group 
Think about the letters b, d, and p. They are all similar in shape and sound, but they are very different signs. When you teach a child to see, say and sign the letter "b," they can clearly distinguish it from the letter "d," and they can store that knowledge in the visual, auditory and kinesthetic bins in their brain.

Those of us who are trained as teachers and/or adult educators are familiar with Kolb's Experiential Learning Model and the importance of designing instructional activities that reach learners with different learning styles. Sign language stimulates multiple senses. When we incorporate signing into classroom routines, we can reach our visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.

Auditory learners are just fine with all of our blah-blah-blahing, but our visual and kinesthetic learners need their other senses stimulated! That's why we usual visual aides and give our learners opportunities to touch, feel and practice. Signing incorporates all of these elements.

This past week I visited a local preschool as part of their annual Dr. Seuss Celebration. One of the stories I read was "Wear a Silly Hat."

Children made hats prior to my visit.

They heard me talk about hats.

They saw me model different hats.
They listened to me read my story about hats. And they learned and practiced the sign for hat
During the story time, I read, said, and signed the word hat, multiple times. Children heard the word and the melody (because we sang parts of the story), they saw the object, the word and the sign, and they could move their bodies to make the signs themselves. Multiple senses were engaged, and learning occurred. (Oh, and P.S. It was FUN!)

I'm working on getting video footage from this most recent school visit posted up to YouTube, but in the meantime, here is a clip from a previous school visit.  I'll post new video footage here as soon as it's ready.

And, for those of you who would like to lead your own silly hat story time, here are my "Start to Finish Story Time" notes for "Wear a Silly Hat." Happy Signing!

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