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Five Ways to Bring ASL into the Classroom

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

Classrooms have immense benefits to gain when they incorporate American Sign Language (ASL) in students’ learning. Aside from ASL being a multi-sensory experience, it is also a fun and interactive way of engaging various learners. Learning the language is also becoming increasingly imperative because Newsweek reports that around one million people use ASL in the United States. Incorporating ASL in the classroom creates a sense of belonging for members of this community who primarily communicate through sign language. In The Everything Sign Language Book, Irene Duke shares insights on how learning sign language can promote inclusivity. According to her, this can be done by giving children an effective means of communication regardless of their ability to hear and speak. Duke’s instructive guide includes more than 300 illustrations of the ASL alphabet, as well as ways to sign the most popular questions and expressions such as numbers, money, and time. She also provides key information on signing etiquette such as casual and frantic waving, and name signs. She also emphasizes that learning ASL can be used to aid child development and encourages students to learn more about the culture of the deaf community.

Now that we know these inspiring benefits of ASL, here are five ways you can bring ASL into the classroom:

1. Greetings and Responses Creating a morning greeting routine in ASL is an excellent way to introduce sign language. This can include the signs for hello and goodbye, as well as please and thank you. By incorporating this habit in the classroom, students will be more aware of how simple ASL can be used in day-to-day settings.

2. Sign as you Sing

Songs are always an interactive way to learn a language because of their rhythmic and repetitive nature. Nursery rhymes, children’s songs, and even popular music can be translated into sign language, and the ASL translation can be learned together as a group. Having a year-end presentation showing a medley of these songs can promote the use of ASL and allow the students to show off their skills.

3. Invite an ASL Expert The New York Times Disability Reporting Fellow Amanda Morris emphasizes how ASL evolves much like any other language. Getting in touch with someone from the deaf/hard of hearing community who can share their knowledge on the history of the language can give your students valuable context and background of the community’s culture and history. An ASL expert can even provide an introduction to ASL through elementary signs. Sharing their expertise can increase students' appreciation of ASL and aid their learning.

4. Use apps and software As an educator, you can harness the power and efficiency of technology to make ASL learning easier for all classroom members. You can even encourage parents to supervise their children’s use of these software for continued home learning. Our blog post entitled ‘Five Fabulous Free ASL Apps’ listed versatile apps that require no payments or commitments. Some of these apps provide a catalog of videos demonstrating video signs, or word lists to improve ASL vocabulary. These apps, including Sign Me ABCs and Marlee Signs, are perfect gateways to engage beginner ASL learners.

5. Tell stories through ASL Good ASL storytelling involves role-playing, body shift and eye gaze, and a wide range of ASL vocabulary choices. Storytelling expands a student’s ASL skills beyond essential words and phrases and can cement learning for children. Through Sign Me a Story, you can maximize the visual and tactile nature of signing by employing literary devices and plot elements in an interactive application.

ASL offers a wonderful opportunity for students to embrace inclusivity and diversity within and beyond the classroom. Learning the language can break down barriers, and these five methods are good ways to start.

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