Katie, a student with Down’s syndrome, was having a difficult time in class. She had trouble speaking and being understood, which led to her frustration and tantrums. To solve the problem, the teacher incorporated basic sign language in class. Not only did this enable Katie to make her wants known, it improved classroom management as a whole, as students became more attentive to instructions and learned to deal with each other in a more peaceful manner.
“Using sign langugae in class makes learning more inclusive,” said Carol Garboden Murray, MSEd, in a recent edWeb.net webinar entitled “Sign Language, Songs and Felt Stories: Literacy Learning in Early Childhood”.
Signing commands attention while requiring less talk. It is engaging for students and allows them to “speak” without disturbing the class as a whole. Murray’s presentation included tips to help with classroom management, how to teach sign language, and how to use signing to make story time more multi-sensory and engaging.
Here are some basic signs and how they can help:
Murray also displayed signs for “together”, “happy,” “friends,” and “clock” (showing time ticking down). She suggested teaching the signs through familiar songs such as “This is the way we sign (thank you/help/please) so early in the morning” and “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”
In the second half of the webinar, Murray showed how to make story time interactive by incorporating signs for things and animals, as well as using a felt board and felt characters, with stories such as “Goodnight Moon,” “Brown Bear Brown Bear” and “Mr. Gumpy’s Outing.”
There are several sources for simple sign language. Here are a few sources: