October 18, 2019

Cowgirl-Themed Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan

At long last, it’s time to share a lesson plan for a cowgirl-themed sign language story time.

I’ve written many books and many blog posts that incorporate sign language, but thus far, none of these posts have channeled my inner cowgirl.

That changes today! Yee-Haw!

My picture book, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? galloped into the world earlier this month, and earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sharing some fun cowgirl-themed activities with folks who came out to the WEST Slope Library to help me celebrate.

This post is a mash-up of many different activities you could incorporate into your own cowgirl-themed story time or event. It’s unlikely you will be able to fit all of these activities into any one event, but this way you’ll have lots of ideas to choose from in one handy place!

So saddle up, and let’s get this show on the road.

Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan:

Welcome, Icebreaker, and Introductions

Supplies/Preparation: Put several copies of Cowgirl/Cowboy Name Generator for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? (see below) into protective plastic covers. As participants arrive, encourage them to create their Cowgirl/Cowboy Name.  If you typically use name tags in your programming, you could add Cowgirl/Cowboy names to the name tag.

NOTE: Definitely allow participants the freedom to create a different name they prefer if they don't like the name created by the Cowgirl/Cowboy Name Generator.


NOTE: If you have difficulty accessing the image file for the Cowgirl/Cowboy Name Generator, you can access a printable document here. You are welcome to re-print this resource for use in your programs, but I do request that you retain the credits, as listed.

Introduce the Signs You Plan to Incorporate Into the First Story

Where: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/WHERE/478/1 (Pointer finger looks/searches)
Cowboy (Can use in place of cowgirl): https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=502 (Think of a gunslinger)
Potty/Toilet: https://www.signingsavvy.com/search/toilet (The “T” handshape wiggles)

Fun fact: The sign for potty/toilet (the noun) and the sign for to use the potty/toilet (the verb) are the same.

Howdy, Pardner! Let’s Read: Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? 

by Dawn Prochovnic and Jacob Souva


Invite all participants to sign where, potty, and cowgirl/cowboy each time these words appear in the story, OR break the group into thirds, and assign one section of the room to sign where, potty, and cowgirl/cowboy respectively, each time these words appear in the story.

Invite all participants to make the sounds that appear on every other page of the book.

Introduce/Review Signs in Preparation for Song #1:

Dog: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/dog/ (Like you are calling a dog)
Pony (Use Horse): https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/horse-4/ (Like the horse’s ears twitching)
Snake: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/SNAKE/4531/1 (Like snake’s fangs)
Bison: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/BISON/1015/1 (Like bison horns)

Yee-Ha! Let’s Sing!

Sing and sign to the tune of “Have you Ever Seen a Lassie?” Incorporate some of the animal words from the book:

Should you potty with a ranch dog, a ranch dog, a ranch dog? Should you potty with a ranch dog? NO! That is not the right spot.

Should you potty with a pony? (use sign for horse)
Should you potty with a bull snake? (use sign for snake)
Should you potty with a bison?

*Don’t feel compelled to introduce every possible theme-related word/sign you can think of. Start with a handful of words that fit with the theme and are relevant for your group. Here are some options to choose from:

Yip-Yip-Yahoo! Let’s Read another Cowgirl-themed book!

Some options include:

The Princess and the Pony (Kate Beaton, Arthur A. Levine Books). A humorous story that also includes a tad bit of potty humor.

I Wanna Be A Cowgirl (Angela DiTerLizzi and Elizabet Vukovic, Beach Lane Books, 2017). A cowgirl’s imaginary adventure.

Lexie the Word Wrangler (Rebecca Van Slyke and Jessie Hartland, Nancy Paulson Books, 2017). Lots of wordplay and cowgirl lingo.

Are You a Horse? (Andy Rash, Arthur Levine Books, 2009) A humorous cowboy quest.

I Want to Be a Cowgirl, (Jeanne Willis, and Tony Ross, Holt, 2009) About a city girl who wants to be a cowgirl.

Invite all participants to sign cowgirl/cowboy, horse, (and any other themed words you choose to incorporate) as appropriate throughout the story, OR break the group into sub-groups, and assign one section of the room to sign particular words as they appear in the story (in words or in pictures).

Introduce/Review Signs in Preparation for Song #2:

Ride: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=1832 (Two fingers “ride” on hand)
Hat: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/HAT/181/1
Thank you: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/THANK%20YOU/426/1

Whoo-eee! Let’s sing another song!

Sing and sign to the tune of “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.” Incorporate some of the settings and animal sounds from Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?

She’ll be riding in the pasture when she comes. Neigh! Neigh!
She’ll be riding in the pasture when she comes. Neigh! Neigh!
She’ll be riding in the pasture, she’ll be riding in the pasture. She’ll be riding in the pasture when she comes. Neigh! Neigh!

She’ll be riding through the canyon when she comes. Yip-yip-yow-oooo!
She’ll be riding up the hill when she comes. Baaa-aaaah!
She’ll be riding through the sagebrush when she comes. Hissss-sssss!
She’ll be riding cross the range when she comes. Sno-ooort!
She’ll be riding to the lookout when she comes. Big Splaat!
She’ll be riding to the ranch house when she comes. Yee-ha!
She’ll return to get her hat when she comes. Thank-you!

Let ‘er Loose with a Short Shindig (or a Western Wingding, or a Horsey Hoedown)

Turn on some music and dance. Here are some hoot’ hollerin’ tunes to consider:

-Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? Animated Book Trailer and Theme Song (co-written by Dawn Babb Prochovnic, co-written, composed and performed by singer/songwriter/performing muscian, Marshall Mitchell, animated by Jacob Souva).

-Cowboy Music for Kids, from Marshall Mitchell.

-I’m a Cowgirl, from Little Kids Rock.

-Born to be a Cowboy/Cowgirl, from Kidsongs.

-Rodeo Rider, from Kidsongs.

-Cowboy Bob, by Munchkin Music.

-The Cowboy Song, by John Jacobson. Kids Sing version with cowgirl lyrics and some cute dance moves.

-Carlton Moody’s Cowboy Songs for Children.

-Kids Country Song & Dance CD, samples and downloads available from The Learning Station.

-Leah’s Farm, (by Two Little Hands Productions, the makers of Signing Time). This is more “farm-y” than western-y, but it is lively and has some overlap with the western theme, particularly with the animals, and incorporates related sign language.

Extension Activities (Some of Which Can Be Self-Directed/Open-Ended)

Learn to Fingerspell Some Cowgirl Lingo!

Supplies/Preparation: Paper, scissors, tape, index cards, list of cowgirl words and illustrated ASL handshapes for the letters of the alphabet. For cowgirl words: You can find a variety of cowgirl expressions/exclamations in Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, or you can find more words on these lists.

For illustrated ASL alphabet handshapes: You can find free downloads from the Story Time with Signs and Rhymes series at this link, and you can find online ASL dictionaries linked from the desktop version of this blog,  (under “helpful extras” on the right-side column of the blog).

Option #1: Instruct participants to use list of cowgirl words and illustrated ASL handshapes along with other supplies to create “ASL Alphabet flashcards” and then use those flashcards to create “cowgirl words” with ASL handshapes.

Option #2: Instruct participants to use the available resources to practice fingerspelling “cowgirl words” with ASL handshapes.

Pin the Tail on the Pony

Supplies: Draw a pony’s back side on white poster board. Make or buy “pony tails.” Use bandanas for blindfolds.

Activity: Participants take turns being blind-folded and pinning (actually taping or sticking) the tail on the pony.

Cowgirl Says (Played like Simon Says)

Activity: One person is chosen to be the leader, or, Cowgirl. Cowgirl stands facing other participants,, but apart from group. Cowgirl gives commands such as “Cowgirl says, hop.” “Cowgirl says, stop.” “Cowgirl says sit.” “Cowgirl says stand up.” If cowgirl gives a command that is not preceded by the word, “Cowgirl,” and if a participant does that command, they are out. (i.e. if leader says “Put your hand on your head” and a player puts their hand on their head, the player is out, re: the valid command would be, “Cowgirl says put your hand on your head.”) Play continues until there is only one player remaining. Be sure to incorporate cowgirl kids of words such as gallop, skip, whinny/say “neigh,” etc.

Variation #1: To incorporate sign language into this activity, use signs for “Cowgirl/Cowboy” and the action words instead of or in addition to speaking them.

Variation #2: If you’d like to incorporate sign language into this activity and add challenge, incorporate commands that require participants to sign (i.e. “Cowgirl says sign horse.”) A player is out if they cannot make the sign.

Giddy-Up, Whoa! (Played like Red Light, Green Light)

Activity: One person is chosen as the leader. The leader stands at a “finish line,” some distance away from other participants (15+ feet). Other players stand across the “starting line,” facing the leader. When the leader calls “Giddy-Up,” the players move toward the leader until the leader turns around, calling “Whoa!” Sometimes the leader calls “Whoa,” when participants are expecting to hear “Giddy-Up.” If a player moves when “Whoa!” is called, they must return to the starting line. Play continues until someone reaches the finish line.

Have some real ponies visit! (this definitely changes the event from simple to complex, but it would be hoot hollerin' fun!)

Image by JacLou DL from Pixaby 

Need More Ideas? Explore the Educators' Guide for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? (coming soon from West Margin Press). It includes discussion questions, resources for Readers' Theatre, a printable cowgirl-themed word search, and more! 

Need the Signs for More Words That Relate To This Theme? Here goes:

Ranch: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/RANCH/4271/1 (Like rancher wiping sweat from jaw)
Pony: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/PONY/2158/1
Coyote: Fingerspell C-O-Y-O-T-E
Hawk: Fingerspell H-A-W-K or sign Bird: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/BIRD/47/1
Animal Horns: https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/HORNS%20ANIMAL/1505/1 (shape of horns)
Cowgirl (fingerspelled): https://www.zazzle.com/cowgirl_asl_fingerspelled_sign_t_shirt-235509914240383706
Cow: https://www.signingtime.com/dictionary/cow/ (Like cow’s horns)
Girl: https://www.handspeak.com/word/search/index.php?id=908 (Rub thumb on jawbone)

*Don’t feel compelled to introduce every possible cowgirl-related word/sign you can think of. Start with a few general words that fit with the theme and are relevant for your group.

*If you plan to introduce several signs at once, it’s more fun (and easier to learn) if you introduce the signs by singing vs. simply showing the signs and asking participants to sign along/practice with you. You can sing a song such as “This is the way we sign for ranch/pony/cow/girl” to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush,” or any other familiar tune that allows for plenty of repetition.

You can find more cowgirl-themed (and potty and pirate-themed) lesson plans and resources here.

Fun fact: Dawn loves to travel, so get in touch if you’d like her to personally present a story time program of this nature (pardon the pun) in your learning community.

Now giddy-up and have yourself a real good time!

..oh, one more thing.. if you share photos of and/or blog about your story time / event, be sure to tag me so I can share in the fun. Even better if it’s something I can link to in my round-up of resources for my readers!

Instagram: @DawnProchovnic
Twitter: @DawnProchovnic
Facebook: @DawnProchovnicAuthor

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