The following is a post from contributing writer Megan Spires at House of the Rising Sons.
Did you know that teaching your children American Sign Language (ASL) can help improve their reading and spelling skills, encourage an interest in books and even improve their confidence and self esteem?
Did you also know that, from an educational standpoint, ASL qualifies as a foreign language in most states?
Our passion for American Sign Language grew out of necessity when our second son was born with a severe hearing loss in both ears. We were devastated at first, but with early intervention services and the decision to learn sign language and teach it to all of our children, we thrived. Communication, for our family, was redefined and we wouldn’t change it for anything. We’ve witnessed all of the benefits mentioned with each one of our children.
Now, six years later, I look back and wonder if I would have taken the time to learn ASL and teach it to my children if we hadn’t needed it. Would I have even considered it as a second language option? I would love to think that I would have, but my honest answer is, probably not. Even though this language is gaining popularity among families with babies and toddlers, it doesn’t seem to be a foreign language or second language option that most families consider past the age of 2 or 3.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons families don’t consider this language is because of how little information there is available in how to learn it. So many early learning articles discuss the myriad of beneficial reasons to learning a second language, but oddly, ASL is hardly ever mentioned as one of those languages.
This needs to change.
When we learned ASL, I quickly realized that it is best learned through interaction, games, reading children’s books together and fun crafts and activities. It is possible to learn from ASL text books. There are many of those out there, but sign language is such a multi-sensory language that it just flows so naturally into the way children love to play and learn. It’s just not easy to learn ASL from a text book.
With the help of some great tools and online resources, creative ideas and consistency, learning and teaching ASL to your kids can be a very natural and fun thing to incorporate into your homeschooling days. One of the first things your child learns when learning to read and write is the alphabet and how to spell their names. Here are some fun ways to teach your kids these skills with ASL to get you started:
Make an “All About Me” placemat or small wall poster with their names on it.
The first thing you’ll need to do is download a free ASL font on your computer. You can do that at: Simply The Best Fonts. Once you’ve done this, open up a Word type document or other publishing software and start typing your child’s name. You’ll want to increase the font size quite a bit for this project.
Type out the alphabet with a space in between each letter to leave room for cutting. You could even use different font colors if you choose to. Then print out your letters and begin cutting out each letter. Be sure to leave enough room so that you can write the letter of each sign individually, if you choose to.
Start decorating and placing the letters on your favorite colored paper. You can make this piece of artwork as simple or complex as you’d like, depending on the age of your child. You could even include a photograph of them if you’d like. If you have a laminating machine, this would be a perfect project to laminate.
We made simple bookmarks with some of our favorite words in ASL on them. Your kids could also make them with their own names on them.
A very easy way to teach your kids the alphabet in sign language is to create a chart. Laminate it if you have that option and ask them to spell certain words, while signing the letters at the same time. I do this with my boys and then have them write out each word using a dry erase pen. They could always write their words on another sheet of paper as they practice their signs.
On the flip side of this page, I will write the written letters randomly on the page. Then ask my kids to spell a word without the help of the ASL pictures to see if they can remember their signs after practicing.
Label items around the house
Once you’re getting comfortable signing letters, you can begin typing up some words with your ASL font and labeling things around the house. Since so many ASL signs actually include the ASL letters in the words, learning the letters is such a great place to start. For instance, the word “family” is signed by connecting two letter “f” signs with both hands.
Once your kids learn the ASL alphabet, it’s so easy to then move on to learning more signs. I’ll share more fun ways to learn and teach ASL to your kids next time.
Megan writes about her journey raising and homeschooling four little men at House of the Rising Sons. She enjoys writing about her faith, love for her family and friends and teaching ASL.