Starting Off On The Right Hand

submitted by Vickie Wood, MEd., NBCT Early Childhood to Young Adult Exceptional Needs Specialist

Back to School can be both exciting and scary for teachers, children and parents alike. Teachers are meeting new students and their families, students and families are meeting new teachers and everyone is hoping to have a wonderful year filled with positive experiences. Using sign language in the classroom is one way to increase positive interactions and set the tone for an upbeat year. By teaching students some easy signs to use in place of or in addition to spoken words I can almost guarantee you will have them eating out of the palm of your hand!

Positive benefit #1: Children of all ages love the idea of having a “secret” language. What better way to pique interest and grab attention than by playing up the “secret” aspect? Like having a secret handshake and belonging to a secret club, knowing and using sign language makes kids (and adults too) feel important and special.

Positive benefit #2: American Sign Language (ASL) is an actual language, not “made up” signs. Why waste time making up secret signs or symbols when American Sign Language is already available? Sure, it’s not REALLY a “secret” language, but it is fun and easy to learn some basic signs and you just might inspire someone to learn more about ASL and perhaps even pursue it as a second language.

Positive benefit #3: Learning a new language is a huge self-esteem booster. Parents and teachers know how good it feels to share knowledge with their children and students. Just think how good kids will feel when they can share their knowledge of ASL with their friends and families.

Positive benefit #4: Students can be reminded to control their behavior by using sign language in place of a raised or angry voice. Stop, look, listen, pay attention, sit, be quiet can all be communicated quickly and quietly from close up or far away. These signs are even effective in noisy situations where children can see you but may not be able to hear you.

Positive benefit #5: Using sign language to acknowledge good behavior and achievements takes positive reinforcement to a new level and is way cooler than just words. Be sure to use facial expressions and body language to help emphasize the emotions you feel as you sign positive statements like good job, beautiful picture, great sharing, thank you and you’re welcome or as you silently applaud your students efforts using sign language.

Happy signing, and have a positively great school year!

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