Monday, June 18, 2012

Sign Language Story Time

Monday, June 18, 29 preschool children attended the story corner session on sign language and story telling. Miss Judy led the session with a discussion about her own hearing loss and how her hearing aids work, and they talked about children who are hard of hearing. Learning sign language is a valuable tool for hearing, as well as non-hearing children, because it engages more areas of the brain in learning. Read the attached handout for more discussion.

What Sign Language Can Teach Your Child   by Amanda Morin (condensed and paraphrased)
Did you know there may be a way to improve your child's reading before he or she even begins to read? In the past decade there's been a lot of talk about Baby Sign. Teaching babies sign language for communication before they can talk started out as a fad and has grown to be a phenomenon. But if your child is already walking and talking, you haven't missed your chance. The benefits of teaching sign language to preschoolers are just as powerful.

For years researchers have known that hearing children of deaf parents who learn sign language as a first or concurrent language have less difficulty learning to read, speak earlier than their non-signing counterparts and have richer vocabularies. Some researchers tell us that sign language improves vocabulary, spelling proficiency, self-esteem and a child's confidence in expressing emotion. Sign language is also utilized as a classroom tool to help children with expression and learning. Many preschool teachers incorporate sign into the daily routine, teaching children basic signs to accompany songs, using sign as a subtle way to indicate the need for the bathroom, or simply as a way to capture their students' attention. Interestingly enough, even the most basic use of sign seems to help young children acquire verbal language skills. How is that possible?

Many educators have the theory that sign language helps to bridge the two hemispheres of the brain. This gives children two ways to access a word and its meaning.  Signing is different than learning spoken languages.  We take in language on the left side of our brain as a sound and we take in sign language on the right side of our brain as an image--something that spoken languages don't do.  Additionally using sign with verbal language meets the needs of all different types of learners: auditory, visual and kinesthetic. 
Kinesthetic learning (also known as tactile learning) is a learning style in which learning takes place by the student carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration. People with a kinesthetic learning style are also commonly known as "do-ers".

It's  the kinesthetic and visual learners who are reaping the benefits in terms of literacy. In one study, hearing children experiencing significant difficulty with spelling were taught the ASL alphabet to learn to spell words. This tool allowed the students to jump from about 25% of the words correctly to nearly 90% of them correctly. That's a huge difference!

One preschool teacher uses reading and signing the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?  as another example of increasing literacy.  When you're reading the book, she says, you can ask your child to point to the animals. If you're reading and signing you can not only ask them to point out the animals, but also to make the sign for the animal.  "The child is more engaged in the learning because they are more involved," she points out. "You are also exposing them to more language because you are repeating the word more times than when you are simply reading to them."

There are many sites that talk about signing and its benefits that you can find  with Google.  You can also go on youtube and search for children’s stories and songs using ASL (American Sign Language)  The video we watched today is on youtube:

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