When one thinks of sign language, he or she may think it is a language utilized only by the deaf or hard of hearing. Previously, parents had to wait until their child’s vocal chords developed in order to understand their needs and wants. Sign language enables children to communicate at a much earlier stage of development. With a recent newfound interest in the language, one must ask why it isn’t being utilized as a teaching strategy to help in the classroom?
Often times, a staff’s biggest challenge is student’s behavior throughout the day. Creativity can often be seen being replaced by a teacher who raises her volume to grab the attention of her stimulated students. As educator’s it is imperative that creative and new means are utilized in order to help ensure an environment that enables the children to thrive.
Sign language allows a teacher to accomplish this goal while engaging the children and teaching them something new and challenging. The first step is to introduce the language into the classroom. Whether it is through a hired staff member, or the teachers themselves taking the initiative to learn some of the basic signs and then pass the knowledge along. This can be done by going online. There are great websites available, where signs are modeled making it simple for everyone to learn, and words can be looked up the same as they would in a dictionary.
Students will enjoy being assigned animals. Allow the children to pick the animal they wish to be, or help them to establish a “sign name”. After this is done, help the children to practice and learn their new classmates sign. Another important sign is restroom. How many times is a teacher interrupted by the shouting of “Can I go to the potty”? Instead, the children can use their new language to ask to use the restroom, and the teacher can acknowledge giving permission without missing a beat. Another perk, are the signs stop and please.
Throughout the day re-direction is ongoing. Often times a teacher can grow weary of asking a child to discontinue with an action. Signing stop please or asking the child to move to another area, as well as, a quiet transition can be a nice change to what is often an over stimulated and non-responsive environment. Creativity in implementing this knowledge is imperative. If used and taught properly, one will quickly find that the need for the term to “use an inside voice” will soon disappear. It does not happen overnight, and each group of students brings a different dynamic to the table, but with time, patience, and perseverance this language opens a vast horizon of changing the atmosphere in one’s classroom.
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