Teacher Tips Using ASL

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Manitas in Motion in the Pre-K Classroom Teacher Tips for Using ASL…

There is a growing body of empirical evidence describing the positive effects of the use of ASL resulting in enhanced and accelerated gains in oral language.  ASL facilitates communication it doesn’t hinder it.  Incorporating ASL into an early education literacy curriculum as a valuable instructional strategy is an enlightening and purposeful choice.  The effect it has on children’s learning is powerful and long lasting. I encourage parents and teachers to use ASL because it is an existing, legitimate language and we can offer consistency if staff agree to use ASL in their educational programs.

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1. Incorporate ASL into your already existing curriculum.
Understand that you are not teaching ASL as a language but utilizing ASL to support language development and enrich vocabulary by adding visual and kinesthetic stimuli to an auditory input. Remember to pair ASL with the verbal so you need to sign it and say it simultaneously. The goal is to enhance oral language not replace it.

2. Introduce three to five words in ASL during your daily routines and activities.
Signs that are easy to execute and are simple and meaningful are good to start with. Choose signs that your students can use to make a difference in their world. For dual language learners I recommend words that will immediately aid the child’s comprehension or allow students to make requests, especially if the language of instruction is different from their home language. You might consider starting with the following signs: “more/más”, “eat/comer”, “all done, finished/terminé”, “milk/leche”, “please/por favor”. Once you’ve mastered those, continue with: “stop/pare”, “toilet, bathroom/baño, “drink/tomar”, “hurt/dolor”.

3. Use ASL during snack and teach snack foods.
such as: “cookie/galleta”, “cracker”/galleta”, “fish-for goldfish/pez”, “chip/papita”, “candy/dulce, caramelo”, “juice/jugo”, “water/agua”, “cup/taza”, “drink/tomar”, manners: “please/por favor”, “thank you/gracias”, and key phrases: “Do you want… .?/¿Tú quieres… ?”, “Do you have… .?/¿Tú tienes… ?”, Do you like… ?/¿Té gusta… ?, “Are you hungry?/¿Tienes hambre?”, “Are you thirsty?/¿Tienes sed?”.

4. Label objects or activities in the classroom.
I’ve created a list of 74 School Classroom Signs written in Spanish and English but also intended to be signed.me”/mírame”, “quiet/silencio”, tranquilo”, “listen/escuchar”, “sit”/sentar, “stay/quedar”, “start/empezar”, “yes/no-sí/no”.

5. Use ASL for Classroom Management Signs.
when you transition from one activity to another. Transitions can be noisy or at times difficult for students. You can reduce the confusion and noise by providing ASL sings: “line up/poner en fila”, “wait/esperar”, “bathroom, potty”/baño”, “wash hands/lavar las manos”, “clean up”/limpiar”, “good-bye/adios”.

6. Use ASL for Classroom Management Signs when you transition from one activity to another.
Transitions can be noisy or at times difficult for students. You can reduce the confusion and noise by providing ASL sings: “line up/poner en fila”, “wait/esperar”, “bathroom, potty”/baño”, “wash hands/lavar las manos”, “clean up”/limpiar”, “good-bye/adios”.

7. Use ASL finger spelling to teach the alphabet and children’s names. Phonological awareness techniques such as this encourage pre-literacy skills and will allow for greater cross-linguistic transfer to occur from one language to the other.

8. Encourage more engaged learning through the use of ASL during circle time.
Typically teachers call on a student to perform their “job” during calendar or weather of the day while the rest of the class observes, becomes restless, and bored. By introducing the numbers, days of the week, weather words, etc. kids are actively participating in the learning process.

9. Teach ASL signs to support vocabulary during story time.
Listening to a story is also a passive listening activity that can be enhanced by adding a couple of vocabulary words the kids need to sign whenever they are heard during the story, preferably ones that repeat. You automatically increase engaged learning when you implement this strategy.

10. Incorporate ASL into themes.
and have the ASL act as the “bridge” between Spanish and English. For dual language learners this affords them the opportunity to be exposed to cognates. You’d be surprised how many Spanish/English cognates are appropriate to teach at the preschool level. Here are just a few: “telephone/teléfono”, “bicycle/bicicleta”, “train/tren”, “computer/computadora”, “elephant/elefante”, “crocodile/cocodrilo”.

11. Encourage students to sign to each other and not just to you.
You might want to have access in your classroom where they can practice their signs, look at books with signs, exposure to computer with ASL games and activities. ASL can help children from different language backgrounds initiate play and communication with each other.

12. Use ASL as a “bridge” of communication for preverbal children.
Virtually all children who are learning to talk use gesture before they use words. Language comes in three modes: Gestural, Oral, and Written and we learn to use these modes in this order.