Everyday Sign Language

Signing, Sign Language

UDL 1.2 UDL 4.1

Everyday Sign Language is a complete, complex language that incorporates hand movements, facial expressions, and body postures that students can use to convey meaning while communicating nonverbally. While Everyday Sign Language is typically taught to students who are deaf or hard of hearing, everyday Everyday Sign Language can also be taught and used by all students to express their thoughts throughout the school day. A teacher can introduce Everyday Sign Language letters, numbers, and short responses/phrases (e.g, yes, no, agree, disagree, hello, goodbye, thank you, water, toilet, snack) for students to use during academic and social situations to effectively communicate ideas. While other body language techniques can be a way to non-linguistically communicate, Everyday Sign Language differs in that it involves simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express a speaker’s thoughts.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Flash Cards

Illustrated Sign Language Cards

A set of core vocabulary words cards (i.e., words have a functional and academic purpose) illustrated with American Sign Language symbols. Use these as a reference when teaching students new core vocabulary words, as labels for AAC devices, or as word icons for students using a picture communication system. The set includes six high-frequency words and a customizable, blank template.

Grade K, 1 · English Language Arts, Reading, Speaking · 2 pages

Implementation Tips

Supplying Visual References
Print large visual references of Sign Language letter symbols, similar to this [[ | printable alphabet chart ]] with clear hand formations, or common phrases (e.g., help) as shown in this [[ | sample ]], for students to reference as they learn each gesture. Smaller, individualized versions can also be provided for practice.
Introducing Sign Language
Introduce Sign Language to students by presenting the symbols for the [[ | alphabet ]]and [[ | numbers ]]. Challenge students to spell their names using Sign Language. After, explain that other specific words can be signed using a single gesture. Click [[ | here ]]for the top 150 common words to sign with video tutorials.
Supporting Students With Cognitive Delays
Modify how frequently signs are presented to students with cognitive delays by introducing new signs every couple of days or once a week instead of daily. Also, post enlarged Sign Language visuals or provide individualized copies for students to reference to support understanding of any unmastered signs.
Pairing Sign Language With Classroom Themes
Use the current time of the year themes (e.g., the holidays) or classroom unit topics to highlight new Sign Language symbols, such as these [[ | sample signs to pair with a unit on families ]] (i.e., mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa). Also, invite students to practice signing with a peer.
Daily Sign Language Practice
Incorporate daily Sign Language practice into the school day (e.g., as part of the morning meeting routine, end of day post-pack up routine for 3-5 minutes). Students can review previously learned signs with a peer, or new signs can be introduced during this time to build Sign Language knowledge.
Turn It Into A Game
Invite students to practice and recognize previously learned signs by playing a Sign Language game. For example, play Telephone using Sign Language. Have students sit in a circle without looking at each other (e.g., heads down). Direct the students to tap one another when it’s their turn to sign the message.


Communication Strategies With Minimal Distractions
During independent writing, a teacher becomes continually interrupted while conferring (e.g., other students begin calling the teacher’s name and raising their hands for assistance, to use the restroom, to get a drink of water). Since it’s difficult for the teacher to know each student’s needs without walking over to them and interrupting the conference, the teacher decides to teach the class three Everyday Sign Language symbols (i.e., water, bathroom, and help) that can be used to indicate their needs. The next day, students are shown the gestures and are given time to practice. As students apply these symbols during future work periods, the teacher can easily distinguish and manage student needs accordingly.

Sample Sign Language Descriptions:
--Water: tap the symbol for “W” back and forth at the lips
--Bathroom: place thumb between index and middle finger while making a fist, turning it left and right
--Help: make a fist with a thumbs up with one hand, while the bottom hand lifts the fist hand as a helper
Non-Verbal Discussion Strategies
While practicing debating skills, a third grade class discusses whether or not sports and games are as important as studies. In previous debates and discussions, the teacher noticed that some students favored leading the conversation while others remained quiet and listened in. To support the more shy and reserved students as well as other students that less frequently participate, the teacher models how to sign “[[ | I agree ]]” (e.g., a fist with the thumb and pinky fingers out, moving forward and backwards) and invites students to use these non-verbal symbols as a way to participate in the conversation.

Related Strategies