By: Brigid Snyder, First Grade Teacher
During the Lutheran Education Association Convocation I attended an interesting and informative sectional on using American Sign Language in the classroom. While we had a quick lesson in signing the alphabet, popular animals, colors, and family members, we were also told about the benefits of using sign language with our students.
Teachers know that children learn differently. The challenge is finding a way to reach each child. This can be done by teaching the same material several different ways or by introducing the class to American Sign Language. If you have never used ASL, you may want to think about these facts. Sign language can activate five different areas of the brain at once: visual, language, hearing, emotion, and motor. This is important because the more senses that are engaged in learning, the more information is retained. The brain's most reliable memory area is the motor cortex, which is engaged when signing. Research shows that children learn best when they are actively involved and anytime a child is signing they are active learners. Phonics and vocabulary retention are higher when using ASL and it can also help children remember spelling words and song lyrics.
I am excited about teaching my students the alphabet and then teaching them to sign their names. If you are interested in using sign language with your children at home or school, there is a lot of information available online including ASLpro.com and Lifeprint.com. Children can even learn to sign a book like Brown Bear, Brown Bear or The Kissing Hand. Many already know the sign for "I love you".