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Teaching Sign Language in Early Literacy: 3 Really Simple & Fun Ways

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

By Cynthia Long - ASL Teaching Resources

Sign Language, specifically American Sign Language (ASL), is a powerful tool that has found its way into classrooms around the world. This versatile language system not only serves as a bridge of communication for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community but also offers numerous benefits for all students. In this blog post, we will explore three key points that make ASL an excellent addition to the classroom, and we will discuss why schools should consider offering ASL as part of their curriculum.

Early Literacy and Language Development

ASL is a dynamic and multi-sensory language that engages learners through kinesthetic, visual, and auditory means. These sensory channels are essential for comprehensive learning, and incorporating ASL into the classroom can be a game-changer. Here's why:

  • Enhanced ABC Recognition: One of the striking features of ASL is that many of its signs closely resemble their written counterparts. This similarity aids young learners in recognizing and internalizing the alphabet more effectively. As children learn to associate signs with letters, they develop stronger connections between visual symbols and their corresponding sounds, which is a fundamental aspect of early literacy.

  • Improved Reading and Comprehension Skills: Studies have shown that students who are proficient in ASL often begin reading at a younger age than their peers who do not know sign language. This early exposure to language and literacy has a positive impact on their reading and comprehension abilities. ASL helps build a strong foundation for language skills, making it easier for students to transition to written language.

The Case for Teaching ASL in Schools

ASL Alphabet Song and Dance

  • Activity: Create a catchy ASL alphabet song with accompanying signs for each letter. You can find many ASL alphabet songs online or create your own. Play the song in the classroom and teach the students the signs for each letter.

  • Benefits: This activity combines kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learning, making it engaging and memorable for young learners. The physical act of signing while singing helps children associate the handshapes and movements with the letters, enhancing ABC recognition.

ASL Flashcard Games

  • Activity: Create a set of flashcards featuring both the written letter and the corresponding ASL sign. Organize fun and interactive games like "ASL Memory" (matching written letters to signs), "ASL Bingo" (calling out signs instead of letters), or "ASL Scavenger Hunt" (finding objects that start with a specific letter and signing the corresponding ASL letter).

  • Benefits: Flashcard games are a hands-on approach to reinforce ABC recognition and letter-sound associations. These games challenge students to engage with ASL signs and written letters actively, promoting a deeper understanding of language.

  • Hundreds of Sign Language flashcards to begin using here.

Sign Language Classroom Decor

  • Activity: Consider adorning the walls with ASL alphabet posters and colorful signs depicting common phrases or greetings in sign language. Encourage students to participate in decorating their classroom.

  • Benefit: Such an interactive and visually stimulating atmosphere not only fosters a sense of belonging for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students but also sparks curiosity and enthusiasm among all students. It reinforces the idea that ASL is a valuable and integral part of their learning experience, promoting inclusivity and cultural awareness.

Simple and Fun

Sign Language in the Classroom - FREE GUIDE

Incorporating these fun activities into your classroom can create an exciting and immersive environment for early literacy and language development through ASL. By catering to different learning styles and senses, students are more likely to enjoy the learning process and build a strong foundation in language skills that will benefit them throughout their educational journey.

Decorating the classroom with sign language elements can be an impactful way to immerse students in the world of ASL while creating an inclusive and welcoming environment.

Ready to get started? Get your free Guide, Sign Language in the Classroom: 5 Things You Need to Know, and begin implementing ASL with your students today.

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