Friday, September 11, 2015


Sign language is quiet, multi-sensory, and engaging. It’s a powerful strategy for classroom management, as well as for beginning readers. As one teacher once remarked, “Sign language is like bubble gum. It helps stick things in the brain.”

Even if you don’t know sign language, I’d challenge you to give it a try this year in your classroom. There are several free sites (,,, where you can download the manual signs for letters, and there are youtube videos where you can see them demonstrated. (This might be a good video for your students to watch during transitions to keep their hands occupied.) There are also several good sign language apps you can download.

Let’s get started with one of these ideas.

Classroom Management – Teach children signs for “pay attention,” “stop,” “sit down,” “me too,” “please,” “stand up,” “restroom,” “water,” “yes,” “no,” etc.
Hint! I might introduce one each morning and practice it throughout the day. 
Letters – Introduce manual signs to help children make letter connections.
*Use letter signs as you sing alphabet songs.
*Teach children the first letter in their name and use it to dismiss them to line up. 

Where Are the Letters?  Change the words to "Where Is Thumbkin?" to teach children how to make manual signs for the letters.
     Where is A?       (Place hands behind your back.)
     Where is A?       (Children repeat.)
     Here I am.         (Make "a" with your hand.)
     Here I am.         (Children repeat and make an "a" with their hand.)
     What do you say A?  (Wiggle hand.)
     What do you say A?  (Children repeat.)
     /a/  /a/  /a/      (Make the short a sound.)
     /a/  /a/  /a/      (Children repeat.)

Sight Words – Give children a kinesthetic way to “put words in their heads” by teaching signs for word wall words, vocabulary, or spelling words. 

Classroom Alphabet – Use manual signs with your classroom alphabet or word wall.

Alphabet Book – Use a digital camera to take photos of your students making the signs and use to make an ABC book. 

*This book can be sung to "He's Got the Whole World in His hands."

Songs and Poems – Teach children how to sing songs and say poems in sign language.

Hint!  Remind children when they do sign language to make "strong" letters and not wimpy letters.  When they tighten their muscles it will be like sending their fingers to the gym.