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Primary Education News
News How to teach … sign language
Sign language is not only a means of communication with and for people who are deaf, it is also an effective learning tool that has powerful impact on literacy
British sign language (BSL) was recognised by the government as a language in its own right in March 2003. It's the preferred first language of about 70,000 deaf people in the UK and is used by many more.
As well the obvious advantages of inclusion, and communication between the hearing and the deaf, sign language is an effective tool in supporting many learning styles and has been associated with enhanced results in literacy, particularly for more kinaesthetic learners.
The Guardian Teacher Network has some excellent resources to help explore sign language in the classroom and beyond.
A first port of call is Life and Deaf, an association of volunteers who use poetry and the arts to help deaf children explore their identities and also to increase the inclusion of deaf people in their communities.
Life and Deaf has just launched its Sign Good Morning campaign and schools can upload photos or videos of themselves giving the good morning sign, joining Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and a host of other celebs.
Thank you to Life and Deaf for sharing this inventive Poetry workbook, designed to be used by speech and language therapists, teachers of the deaf and communication support workers. Also don't miss this out on the inspirational and multi-award-winning film That's Not All of Me in which lines from over 50 of the poems by young deaf people have been woven together to create a film script to play in assemblies for all ages.
The charity Signature, which campaigns to improve the standards of communication with deaf and deafblind people in the UK, has shared a whole raft of resources from their SignSpell programme, which will help teachers to make a great start learning and teaching BSL.
Students can learn some useful words including: please, name, thank you, hello, goodbye, good, bad, friends and sorry using these attractive flash cards.
Find a lesson plan on pupils creating signs for their own names and sharing them with the rest of the class.
To find out more about the impact signing can have on hearing children's literacy, see this resource on inclusive approaches. Those who want to find out more should see this resource on signing as a kinaesthetic component of learning phonics.
Read about the impact learning and using sign language has had on Nicola Maycock's year 5 class in this case study from Wainfleet Magdalen school: "Tricky words and spelling are a lot easier to remember if you put hand actions to them. And the fact that the signs are BSL and can be used in the real world is a real benefit." Also find useful case studies from a year 1 class at Lakes primary school and a year 4 class at Town End academy.
Another sign language to investigate in the classroom is Makaton, put into the spotlight by Cbeebies star Justin Fletcher, who you may know as Mr Tumble from Something Special. TheMakaton Charity has shared some interesting resources on this language programme which uses signs and symbols to help people communicate. Find what is Makaton? and signs and symbols for school. Today over 100,000 children and adults use Makaton. Some drop the signs or symbols naturally at their own pace as they develop speech and others
Finally see Look, Smile, Chat - deaf awareness lessons for teachers by the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) about the simple steps teenagers can take to ensure deaf friends and classmates are never left out of conversations or social activities, including activities on lipreading, different ways of communication and perspectives.
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