Make it Fun!
Teaching a new language to children is not unlike teaching any other concept. Sign language especially can be included in so many fun ways! Play based learning is a great opportunity to introduce new signs and give children more practice using the signs. Children learn so much through play and exploration that it is natural to include a new language in their play. Designing games and allowing it to happen naturally during play are equally important and beneficial.
Language is inherently social and helps children express their wants, needs, and feeling with others. This in turn helps them understand themselves even further. Including social games and interaction along with new vocabulary words (in the child’s native or newly learned language) strengthens the connections made for learning. This helps children acquire the language faster and in correct context.
The most successful way to teach a child anything is to make it an experience. Whether the child is involved in a sign language game during circle time or is practicing signs during pretend play they are developing their language skills. Making signing fun also makes it productive and tends to make the information “stick” in the mind better. Add this to the rapid rate at which children are acquiring knowledge about everything around them and you have a great recipe for teaching sign language!
The video below includes a great list of sign language games to play and adapt for play in your program. Some are intended for older children, while others involve younger or newer signers. Consider options for adapting these games for your group and how these ideas may benefit them.
Optional Resources for Further Study
- Teaching Young Children to Sign by Signing Savvy
- Teaching Hearing Children to Communicate with Sign Language by Signing Time
- Ways to Introduce Your Kids to Foreign Languages by Grace Hwang Lynch for PBS Parents
- How can young children best learn languages? By Tracey Chapelton for The Voices Magazine as part of the British Council
- 7 Foreign Language Vocabulary Games to Banish Boredom from Your Classes by Fluent U Educator Blog