Engaging Remote Learners: Sign Language

As we continue to search for ways to engage our students online, I remain on the lookout for strategies to share.  On Friday, as I popped-in to celebrate Crazy Hair Day with one of our second grade classes I came across another awesome idea!  As I was leaving, Melissa asked her class to sign “thank you” to me.  What a brilliant tool for communicating and engaging our students…American Sign Language (ASL).

In talking with Melissa I learned that she teaches her class the alphabet, words, and phrases in ASL every school year but this year it has come in even more handy that usual!  We’ve all struggled with muting and unmuting, microphones working and not working, and struggling to engage kids in general.  Since leaving Melissa’s class I’ve been thinking alot about the power of ASL in both the remote and in-person setting, there are so many ways that you can use this tool in both settings that it’s almost silly not to try it out!!  

I went poking around for some more resources about using ASL remotely and it just so happens that one of my go-to resources had an article that was written a while back.  The author of this piece points out that most teachers are using nonverbal communication already, so why not use something that could be transferable and can help build understanding of how other people learn and communicate?  In addition, things like improved focus, increased webcam usage, and even a small opportunity to use the Total Physical Response of learning, are also indicated as benefits of implementing the use of ASL in your classroom (whether remote or in-person).

While investigating I learned a bit more about sign language too.  It was introduced most prominently in France around 1755.  I found this particularly interesting because Louis Braille also invented his system for reading and writing in France.  There could be some really rich conversations with students around sign language that could help build empathy while further engaging them in ASL.  Here is one resource that offers more reasons to teach/learn ASL while providing more resources for doing so.  This is an interesting piece that includes some history of sign language, it could be good for some of our more advanced readers or as a conversation starter with younger students.  Finally, do you know the origin of the huddle in football?  I bet you can get close to guessing if you’re paying attention 🙂

A huge shout out to Melissa for her willingness to share her name/ideas and let me publicly recognize the awesome ideas coming out of her classroom!!  Do you have ways that you’ve employed to better engage your students remotely?  Please share, I’d love to highlight and share as many good ideas as possible!!!  (Note:  If you’re not comfortable with me sharing your name, I can write this anonymously too!!!) 

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