ASL and Your Reading Program…

When learning a new developmental skill or a basic academic subject like reading, writing, or math, children have to first be able to focus or attend to what they are learning.  Helping children learn to pay attention and focus are important factors in school readiness.   Once they get to Kindergarten they will need these skills to learn.  Therefore, the question becomes how as early childhood educators and families can we help young children in developing their attention span?

It is important to understand the brain is a pattern seeking organ.  Therefore in order for young children to attend to their environment they have to be able to predict what will happen next, this is where daily routines are so important.  Creating morning routines or evening routines helps develop attention skills.

The brain also likes novelty; children will pay attention and gravitate towards new materials, toys, and centers/activities in their environment. Rotating toys and providing a variety of activities from time to time will help children develop skills to observe, attend, and will keep them in engaged.

At this point we like to use the vocabulary of American Sign Language (ASL) to keep children engaged. There are lots of signs you can use (while continuing to speak) to keep them involved with you, which also helps with the brain development. Signs like “apple”, “book”, “shoes”, “ball”, etc. A great resource we recommend is to find lots of ASL words and a visual on how the signs are made.

We also know from research by Abraham Maslow, that in order for children to focus they need to have their basic needs met.  Basic needs are things such as food, shelter, and feeling safe.  For instance, if a child comes to school without eating breakfast this child will have a harder time focusing and learning until lunch time.   Children also need to form bonds with the adults in their lives in order to have a sense of security and learn in their environment.  Activities such as giving a child a high-five, reading a story, singing, signing “I Love You!” and playing with the child leads to forming a strong bond.

The following videos will give you lots of ideas on how to incorporate signs into your daily routines.

Other things we can do to support attention are:

  • Using sign language, such as using the word ‘focus’ to help children remember to pay attention
  • Reading stories, while highlighting words in ASL
  • Music and Movement  especially linking to following directions like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Helping children define boundaries by using “Brain Mats”
  • Keeping activities short than building up the time
  • Planning activities that are fun and engaging
  • Helping children learn strategies to focus by modeling, role playing, or discussing the best ways to focus and learn

Are you looking for even more activities to integrate ASL?  We have TONS.  Check out our teacher resource sites filled with wonderful ASL resources to use in your program, visit us at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Also, come join the fun and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Are you looking to learn more ASL?  Check out the Sprouting New Beginnings YouTube site and feel free to join the fun and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  Or find us on one of our teacher resource stores.  Please visit Teachers Pay Teachers and have fun incorporating ASL into your reading program!

We love sharing the gift of ASL with others.

Happy Signing II