This post is by Master Signing Time Instructor Joyce Edmiston, and is part of our Making a Difference series.
For the last two years, I have been teaching American Sign Language (ASL) classes at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Harrisburg, PA. The school has a preschool as well as a K-8 program with students of diverse ethnic backgrounds and religions. It’s a beautiful setting near the Susquehanna River, with cozy classrooms and a wonderful atmosphere of caring and learning.
The school is excited to have students becoming fluent in ASL and wants MORE Signing Time. It is amazing how Signing Time has become a part of the school. First Grade Teacher and Student Support Director Emily Hand said recently, “I see the impact your classes have on the students. I see the preschoolers signing to each other while they wait for their parents to pick them up after school.”
The Preschool and Prekindergarten classes are learning to sign with the help of the Baby Signing Time materials. We’ve been starting off the class in small groups of five. Sometimes there are four teachers, and we divide the Signing Time Flash Cards and the Signing Time Board Books between us, five children in each group and we review the signs. The children love the Flash Cards. We spend the last part of the class watching a Baby Signing Time DVD. It is amazing to see these little ones figure out how to sign. Some have more developed coordination than others, but what is so wonderful is that while they may not be able to sign some words as well as others, they do recognize the signs when they see them.
The Kindergarten class builds their signing vocabulary through the Signing Time Classroom Edition. We love all the extra materials that come with this curriculum! The Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Baskin, takes the paper flash cards from the lessons and colors them, laminates them, and uses them on a bulletin board for stories and songs as a visual aid during the week. Projects like “My Family Tree” helps us involve families in our signing program, too.
The First Grade class learns from the Signing Time Series 1 and Series 2 videos. We start by watching the Signing Time DVD of the week, then review the signs we have learned. The First Graders are really taking off with spelling and reading this year, so we have incorporated a new kind of test where I finger spell the new ASL words and the children sign the word back to us. They love this. They are not only learning to read the written word at this point, but also to read ASL finger spelling. This method reinforces the reading and spelling rules they have been learning all week in their classroom. Our Signing Time classes have so many extra benefits when it comes to language, reading and spelling.
When this group moves to the Second Grade class next year, we will continue with weekly themes. The children will pick out which they would like to learn from and create their own vocabulary list. Each student will look up a new word either from an ASL dictionary or an online Signing Dictionary. We will then teach one another our new signs. There will be game days where we will play together, communicating in ASL only.
I am looking forward to continuing my work with the Signing Time Academy and with St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Both of these organizations have enriched my life in so many ways!