Sign Language in the Classroom?

I saw this Washington Post article and thought it interesting. The premise is that some teachers are using sign language to communicate with students who need permission to go to the bathroom, get water, sharpen a pencil, etc. In that way, they can see the signal from the student and give back a yes or no signal without interrupting the lesson. From the article:

"The very first year I taught, I realized how much time I was wasting in my classroom for my students to be constantly raising their hands," said Fran Nadel, 25, a second-grade teacher at Woodburn School for the Fine and Communicative Arts in Falls Church, Va. "I realized if they could do this without talking, I could send them somewhere with a flick of my finger."

"On a recent morning, Nadel huddled with a reading group of four students while the rest of her students worked independently at their seats. Every so often, a hand would shoot up from the back of the room. Nadel would respond almost imperceptibly, and the reading lesson would continue uninterrupted as the student scampered off to the bathroom, pencil sharpener ("S" for supplies) or the trash can (the letter "T")."

Of course, each teacher has to set out, at the beginning, rules about getting water, etc. But especially for elementary students, it seems like a good thing to try (plus they might get interested enough to learn sign language).

I recall using something non-verbal like this with my sons when they were little. If I was reading or doing something with one and the other one was clamoring for my attention, I'd touch his hand or forearm and give it a squeeze which meant, "I know you are here and I'll be with you in a minute." It seemed to acknowledge their presence without interrupting what I was already doing.


Maureen said…
My kids' school teaches a significant amount of ASL in kindergarten. They use it for things like asking to go to the bathroom, but also to sing a version of the alphabet song with the phonetic sounds (instead of the names of the letters) accompanied by the signs for the letters.

My son, who seems to be a kinesthetic learner, would often sign the letters of a word as he struggled to sound it out. It was fascinating to watch. I think it really helped him.

Many of the parents learned some signs as well, I still use "Thank You" and "Slow" with the kids at school.
Robert said…
love it! I would also love to get my preschool kid into the peer program at the Lowell PS program for deaf and hard of hearing children... But just can't with our work schedules. If you are in the area with PS kids and you have the flexibility call the Lowell front office and I am sure they can forward you on!
Jet City mom said…
I think it is a great idea. Not only can you communicate without stopping the verbal lesson, but information about communication in languages other than English is introduced- an important concept.

My daughter attended a private school that had some ASL students and a teacher and an aide that were translators, it was an enriching experience for the whole classroom.
Phernie said…
This is being done at my daughter's first grade class at Bryant School. Using the "T" sign means toilet, and "W" means water. The teacher can simply nod her approval, or indicate with a sign of her own that the student should wait a moment before leaving.

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