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Signing With Babies And Children: 2008

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

You're Smarter Than You Think

Are you overwhelmed by the thought of learning another language?  American Sign Language can be easier to learn than you think.  There are signs that are signed the same with the exception that the motion is repeated or prolonged instead of staying still.  Also there are many signs that use the same motion merely changing the sign of the alphabet letter being used.  

So, see which signs you may already know and which signs can easily be added to your vocabulary.  You're smarter than you think by merely building your American Sign Language vocabulary with signs you already know.  I will list a few examples along with the ASL alphabet from

Signs that require you to sign the same motion while changing the alphabet sign:
Respect- Honor
Aunt- Uncle (signs of relatives)

Signs that require you to merely use an alphabet sign with an added motion:
Days of the Week

Signs that require you to go from signing one swift motion to repeating or prolonging the motion:
Airplane- Flying

Many signs require you to know your alphabet.  So, for starters in your journey of learning a new language, learn your alphabet and enjoy learning a new language!

Written by Shawna Tran.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Keep forgetting? Don't worry!!

This time of year can be very hectic for most people. Sometimes people have the best intentions of signing consistently with their baby but when our routines get disrupted things that don’t come naturally to us may go by the wayside. You may realize that days have gone by and you haven’t signed to your baby. Don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourself! It is fully understandable that you may forget to sign especially if you are just starting out. If you are just beginning to sign with your baby maybe pick one word that you’d think you’d remember to sign every time you say the word, such as ‘milk’. It is more important that you sign a word consistently than signing tons of words. Rather than stressing about remembering to sign (that’s the last thing any of us need during the holidays), don’t be hard on yourself, simply pick it back up again in the new year when things have calmed down. A little break in signing doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to easily pick it up again and have great success with it! Happy Holidays! Laura, My Smart Hands

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Help, my daughter has stopped saying words and just signs now!!"

Today I heard about a 1 year old little girl, who had previously been able to say a few words, has recently stopped speaking and is just signing.
Physical deficits and lack of verbal stimulation were quickly ruled out. There were also no major traumatic events in her life at the time.

Of course what the other moms in the class thought was “OMG, what if the rumours are true and Signing DOES stop speech development? Does it make them lazy?”

Let me emphatically say ‘NO IT DOES NOT!’.
40 years of research has proven that Signing enhances verbal development. To my knowledge there has never been any evidence to suggest the contrary.

I have seen this a few times in my 5 year career as Baby Signing teacher. Around the age of 12-14 months, babies hit a major developmental milestone. Apart from the physical (starting to walk or pull themselves up), their understanding of the world also increases – and with it their vocabulary. Some babies go through a brief time where speech is put on the backburner while the information is processed – only to then burst out with a language explosion which surprises the parents! This is perfectly normal in the area of speech and language development and other areas of development as well.

My advice for those who are going through this experience is: Don’t stop Signing, carry on and make sure you always say the word. Be patient – and prepare to be amazed!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kids of All Ages

Just yesterday, my  9  1/2  year old son asked me to "turn off my voice" and speak to him only in sign.  As I did, I watched his face go from understanding to confusion and back again.  He then said "Cool Mom.  But I only got part of that... I need you to teach me again."    :)

Last week on the subway, my kids were sitting together and I was across from them.  It was too loud to hear each other well from across the aisle, so my  7  1/2  year old son signed to me "When is our stop?"    :)

While we do not sign together consistently anymore, sign language continues to be a part of our lives and our communication.  It has been extremely helpful in clarifying their thoughts, expressing feelings that words just can't, and solidifying new (English) vocabulary.   It is a means of communicating clearly when we are too far apart to hear each other, or in a place where we need to be discrete.  

Incorporating sign language in your family with your young baby has wonderful benefits....  And remember that kids of all ages can continue to thrive with sign around them. 

Both of my children began to sign when they were just over six months old!  You can read about our journey at on the Our Story page.   Check out our products page for books that can help get you started, and consider joining a class in a neighborhood near you.

(Lora Heller, Founding Director, Baby Fingers LLC)

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Festival of Lights everywhere! Streets and homes are decorated with lights in many colors and shapes. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saturnalia, and Yule, just to name a few.
What an amazing opportunity to teach your child the sign for LIGHT. Many kids confuse the concept of ON and OFF. ON and OFF have a similar sound and concept. Signing can be the perfect visual tool to teach the difference between the two for promote literacy.

In the matter of fact, any opposites can be taught by signing in such a easy way: HOT or COLD, ON or OFF, UP or DOWN, YES or NO and more. Play with the signs and have fun as a game. I am a true believer that what starts as a game can be easy taught to any child (especially when you want to say NO).

Have fun signing LIGHT this Holiday Season. It all starts with the present within, the light we create in our hearts.

Let the Sign Shine!


Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's A Visual Interactive Way of Life

Now that you are teaching your children the alphabet signs along with other signs, watch how it is helpful in creating a visual way of life.

Consider the letter "d" and "b" for instance.  They nearly look exactly the same to a child considering one is just faced the other way.  The letters "d" and "b" in sign language are completely different.  This helps differentiate the two letters.  

Since sign language is such a visual interactive way of teaching, your child begins to learn how to visually interact with other things in his world.

Take for instance a child that is nearly four years old and has never written his name.  He knows all the letters in his name and can visually pick them out of a crowd of letters.  You ask him to write his name on paper.  To your amazement, he wrote his whole name on his own with nearly every letter legible.

You merely ask, "how did you know how to write your letters?"

He replies, "I just saw them in my head and then I drawed them." ^_^

A few days later that same child is sitting at a table drawing on a doodle board.  He has mostly made lines and circles in the past, but this time his lines became an image with wheels attached and your little one just created a big rig.

He again replies, "I just saw it in my head and then I drawed it."

Open the door to the visual interactive world within a child's imagination.  You will be amazed at how learning sign language not only facilitates language skills but the skills to create.  See on what journey Sign Language takes your child.

Written by Shawna Tran

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yes you should - Learn your ABCs!

People often ask me if they should learn the manual alphabet in order to teach their child and my answer is always 100% yes! There are several reasons why I encourage parents to learn the alphabet. One, many of the signs that you will learn will have letters of the manual alphabet as a reference, for example, the word water uses the ‘w’ hand shape. It will be much easier for you to remember the sign for water if you know what the ‘w’ hand shape looks like. Another reason it is good to learn your alphabet and teach your baby is because infants are generally more interested in songs that have movement. They love to watch your hands move as you sing. By signing and singing the alphabet at the same time you will see that they will be more focused on you and the song. There are many more benefits to using the alphabet with your child that can help promote their literacy skills later in life. I will touch upon these other benefits in my future posts. For now, here is a video of me and my daughter, Fireese, teaching you how to sign your American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet, enjoy!

Written by: Laura Berg, Founder of My Smart Hands

Monday, December 8, 2008

Independent Learning Opportunity

My Husband and I started signing with our daughter, Paige at 6 1/2 months old. By 7 1/2 months Paige signed "MILK". We continued to sign with her feverishly! My husband stayed ahead of the game by watching the first 3 volumes of "Signing Time" (that's all they had out then). When volumes 4 (family and feeling), 5(ABC's) and 6(colors) came out - we bought 'em and started playing and watching them with Paige. Mostly as background music during playtime and occasionally while in the exersaucer for a needed mom potty break. However, neither my husband nor I had "formally" shown Paige the signs from the DVD's other than what we had been using prior to their arrival at our home.
One evening after dinner, I was washing dishes - by hand! I turned the water off to begin drying the pots and pans... only to hear splashing water... from the dog dish... in the kitchen!!! The then 13 month old Paige was playing in the dog's water dish - again! I turned to look at her, past my husband, spoke in an "angry" mommy voice asking, "Paige, do you see this face?" pursing my lips and lowering my brow.
Paige turned towards me, pulled her right hand out of the dog dish and signed "GRUMPY"! My husband and I burst out laughing! We missed the discipline opportunity but gained the wonderful moment of self teaching that Paige had accomplished on her own - WOW! Conferring, my husband and I realized we had not shown Paige the sign for "GRUMPY", Paige learned it straight off the new Signing Time DVD we had simply played for background music.
Don't under estimate the learning ability of your little one - especially in play mode!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Basic tips for Early Literacy

Following on from my last Blog contribution about Signing and Literacy, here are some basic tips how to start off teaching your child to recognise letters:
You can start this as soon as you begin signing to them, no matter how old they are.

STEP ONE: Learn the manual alphabet !


· Start showing your child the first letter of their name when you say their name (=namesign)
· Add more namesigns for other people who are important in your baby’s life
· When you think you and baby are ready, occasionally emphasize the first letter, ie ‘B-B-B Ben!’
· Progress to other things around you ‘T-T-T tree’

TEACHING GRAPHEAMES (written letters)
· When your child can sign some of the letters herself, start showing them the printed letter for their name
· Add a letter a week
· Encourage her to sign the letter when she sais its sound
· Invent fun games to play, ie: spot the letter ‘H’ on the cereal packet or in the shops. Make up memory cards and play this

Always make it fun and make it into a game. As soon as it becomes difficult, stop – and carry on another day.
The aim of the game is to explore your child’s potential without forcing her to exceed the limitations she has – remember every child is different!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What if...

What if you could understand what your baby was thinking? Wouldn’t that be a huge help as you take care of your little one? Well, you don't have to guess anymore!
A familiar scenario: It is 4 am and you wake up to your child’s cry. You go to their room, try to figure out what the problem is, and then try to make things better. It is late (actually, extremely early), and you are very tired. The guessing game begins - wet diaper? Hungry? Fever? You try everything, but your baby continues to cry. “I wish he could tell me what the problem is,” you think to yourself, “I feel helpless!”
Now imagine this: It is 4 am and you wake up to your child’s cry. You go to their bed and s/he signs “scared” and then “elephants.” You are puzzled for a second, but quickly realize that there is a loud noise coming from a car on the street. “Oh sweetie, it is just a car outside!” You close the living room window, the noise is reduced, your child stops crying, and everyone goes back to sleep. You may think this sounds far-fetched, but it is based on a true story.

Read Monta Briant’s testimonial:
“I have been signing with my daughter from about 6 ½ months old. She is now 13 months, and she does about 40 signs. She will learn a sign after being shown only once, now, and I am in a race to try to come up with more signs. She wants to know the sign for everything! She can tell me just about anything. The other night, as I was putting her to bed, she asked me to close her windows, because there are elephants outside (she thinks) and they might get in (For some reason, she thinks car alarms are elephants, so she hears them out there!). In the past I could only imagine her fears, and we just dismissed her cries of terror as a protest about going to bed?! Thank you so much for this. I try to convince any mother who will listen, to please do it with their baby.” – Monta Briant, CA

Let the Sign Shine!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Understanding the Signs

In any language, it is easier to understand a meaning of some thing when it relates to us.  If you were to learn a new word from a different language, it would help to have it explained in words that you already know.  This is the same for children. Every day they are learning new words and trying to put meaning to these words.

As caregivers, we have the opportunity in helping to create understanding and meaning to every day words by relating to our children with words they already know.  Using sign language helps to put this world of learning in a very visual interactive light!

Here are some examples of helping your children understand meanings of words with the use of American Sign Language.  

Remember to sign the word and then explain to your children what this word means with a use of words/signs they already know.

Patience: wait & nice
Respectful: listen & nice
Appreciate:  show & love
Responsibility:  special &  job (for you)

Written by Shawna Tran

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Please, THANK YOU, Sorry - Teach basic manners with sign language.

Thanksgiving gives families a chance to pause, think about all we have in our lives, and express deep gratitude.
We all share the goal of raising children who are well-mannered, kind, and perhaps can even share their toys without too much protest! Teaching gratitude starts from a very early age, but it can be a difficult endeavor. For example, many parents struggle between the desire to give their children everything and the knowledge that kids won’t get far in life with a sense of entitlement unaccompanied by good manners. Teaching gratitude happens most effectively in the simple moments, when we are thankful for the intangible (see examples below).
Emphasizing manners through sign language with babies and children teaches etiquette from a young age and it becomes a natural part of the way they interact with people. It gives visual support, to remind our little ones to be kind, and also makes it fun. Manners are an abstract concept, but kids will catch on when they watch you end every request by signing PLEASE. When your child hands you his or her toy, respond by signing and saying THANK YOU. It will become a habit and will make a difference in the long run.
My daughter, ZoĆ«, learned to sign PLEASE at 13 months. When she began to speak, she still signed and said PLEASE when she really wanted something. Somehow, she understood that signing AND speaking had more of an impact. I’m sure that you, too, can teach your child these important signs that will serve as a great foundation for good manners.

Here are a few basic signs to start with to teach children manners:
Meet and greet others: Hello & Good Bye
Behave in public places: Share, My Turn, Your Turn, Excuse Me.
Improve table manners: May I Be Excused, Thank You, Please.
Develop social skills: Share, Take Turns, Please, Sorry, Friend.

It's Time to Shine,


Monday, November 24, 2008

Gesture of Love

Why should hearing children learn sign language?

Playing in his crib at 10 months old as his mother folded laundry, Ezekiel calmly got her attention and signed "more music." Realizing only then that the mobile had stopped, his mom wound it up again and Ezekiel continued playing happily. A hearing child in a hearing family, he has been exposed to sign language since birth to aid in overall language development, early communication, and later acquisition of speech. Not only was this baby able to express his needs clearly without tears of frustration, but he also used a two "word" phrase at 10 months old. This level of language is rarely present until 18 months, or more typically two years of age.

How can Deaf children participate in and enjoy music?

Three year old Larry proudly led his integrated preschool class in "Old MacDonald" during the end of the year show for families. A deaf child of hearing parents, he first learned sign language in preschool. Larry's ability to express himself developed further through his exposure to music in a group and individual setting. Through signing songs and playing instruments such as drums and chimes, auditory discrimination improved, vocabulary flourished, interest in language and self esteem increased.

What is music mediated sign language instruction?

Maya, a two year old with delayed speech, was adopted as a baby from China. She has been exposed to sign language at home to aid in her overall language development and motivation to communicate. It was during the hello song in a music mediated sign language class that Maya first signed her own name; during a song about feelings she was able to sign and demonstrate the broad range of emotions.

Among the MANY benefits of music mediated sign language instruction: more rhythmic speech; growth in balance, spatial reasoning and motor skills.

For more articles about the benefits of baby sign language, music, and more, visit  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Toddlers learning phonics - the easy way!

“Multisensory Learning” is the buzzword in schools and Nurseries. Research has proven beyond doubt that if we want an efficient Learning environment for our children we HAVE TO involve auditory, visual and kinaesthetic stimuli.

I have conducted a pilot study with 12 children aged 2 years to 3.5 years to see how they respond to being taught phonics through BSL fingerspelling. It was a 6 week course, each session was 1/2 hour.
Focussing on just 7 letters, the course used games, songs and activities to reinforced the graphic, the sound and the fingerspelling (AVK)

The results have amazed the mums and myself!
After the course, out of 9 assessments I received back, the toddlers

  • knew all the 7 letters
  • could fingerspell most of them.
  • 5 children knew more than 10 letters
  • They all developed an enormous interest in the letters and their sounds around them
  • 4 children started to blend the sounds together and were able to read simple 3 letter words.

None of the currently used Phonics methods can claim to be AVK, AND a systematic spelling system AND inclusive of children who are already using BSL to communicate.

To find out more see
and watch

Friday, November 14, 2008

Making Cents Out of Counting Money

It's some times hard to teach the concept of money: a quarter equals twenty-five pennies, two nickels equal a dime, four quarters equal a dollar. Children at a young age can grasp the concept of money and make sense of how to count in fives, tens, twenty-fives and so forth with the use of signing numbers.

All our numbers can be signed on One hand. This is so useful in helping your child learn to count as they begin to understand the concepts of not only money but also adding, multiplying, and dividing.

Start by:
  • teaching your child numbers 1-10 in sign language
  • counting by 2's, explaining to your child that each time you sign the next number, go up by two
  • ask an adding multiples question such as "2+2+2" and count by multiples using signs
  • begin exploring the ideas of counting money "counting by 5, 10, and 25"
  • use the concept of counting money to teach the concept of multiplying and dividing: "two 10s equal 20 because 10 + 10 is 20" and asking "how many tens are twenty" as your hand is holding up the number sign two
I will demonstrate through the video below. Have fun making sense of counting with your little ones by using your Numbers in Sign Language.

Written by Shawna Tran.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baby Sign Language FAQs

Why are Baby Fingers classes based on American Sign Language? American Sign Language is the language of the Deaf, a true language with its own grammar and syntax. The signs are not made up. As Joseph Garcia stated regarding Sign with Your Baby programs: Since the birth of the United States, ASL has been evolving to become the accepted sign language in North America. It is now standardized throughout the United States and Canada. The advantage of using a standardized sign language as a foundation is that most people who share knowledge of that language will be able to identify and respond to the signs that your baby knows. ASL structure is compatible with the nature of language development in infants. One sign can relate an entire concept. Young children begin communicating using one-word sentences (or in this case, one-gesture sentences) to express complete thoughts or needs. ASL signs are also very iconic, in many cases resembling the objects or activities they represent. A foundation is provided for continued learning of ASL [or any language] in later years.
For more FAQs, articles, links, and helpful hints visit

Friday, November 7, 2008

Effective Communication for Growing Minds

Communication is an inherent need of all humans. It’s part of our DNA. Unlike reading a book or riding a bike – we are born communicating. Facial expressions, body movement, vocalizing and even grunting and crying are all forms of communication. An individual that is anti-social is still communicating through their resistance to human interaction.

For those of us that have been involved in a “serious” relationship at some point in our lives, we’ve more than likely experienced the communication technique referred to as “the grunt”. Though it is primitive and not overly effective in its usefulness, we seem to accept it as a form of communication as demonstrated in the following scenario: Male arrives to the dwelling place prior to female’s arrival. Upon entry, female asks, “How was your day, Honey?” of the male strategically positioned in front of the television in the den, remote in hand clicking feverishly. Male responds with “uughh”. Female accepts this guttural noise as “Fine and yours?” then proceeds to explain the significant happenings of that days’ journey in her life.

Typically developing Infants and Toddlers have an amazing capacity for learning. We know from scientific research studies that we develop our motor skills months before we have the ability to speak words, especially words in their proper context. Furthermore, infants are visual learners to begin with. Then the sense of touch takes over and lastly the auditory portion of learning will kick in. It’s strange that our educational system is largely built on “lecture”, when we are from birth, naturally visual/kinesthetic people.

Understanding some simple mechanics of the brain with regard to the language areas will help to paint a more complete picture of language acquisition. Our brains hold and store language information mainly on the left side, also called the “left hemisphere”. At different positions within the left hemisphere are significant areas or buckets (as I like to think of them visually), where the physical support (tongue and lip movement), auditory support (comprehension and understanding) and production support (actual speech producing area) are held. Each spoken language that is acquired has its own bucket. These buckets again are stored on the left side of our brains. Language acquisition begins as early as 5 to 6 months of age in typically developing infants. The brain categorizes sounds and noises in its most basic process of acquiring language. This is called “phonology”. Creativity, memory and movement are held on the right side or hemisphere of our brains.

Teaching an infant or child American Sign Language creates buckets in both hemispheres as American Sign Language is a language with syntax and linear processing. However because of its gestures (signs) it is a “movement language” - right side of the brain stuff!

Additionally, “Midline: crossing is key in language development.” The reason is because when you cross your arms over the “midline” of your body (the Adams apple to the belly button) the right and left lobes of your brain beef up their communication with each other and form super highways known as the synapses.

So for a child to grasp language and expand vocabulary, American Sign Language creates more resources in the brain for the brain to find things—like letters and their sounds. This develops what the Education World calls “Reading Readiness”. It actually does this at a faster rate than typically developing children with no American Sign Language background.

Using American Sign Language with infants and toddlers is proven to be an extremely effective form of two-way communication. It helps to reduce frustration for both the baby AND the parent. This, in itself, is a wonderful gift—having calm parents and a clam baby. It’s useful in continuing the bond with mother to baby, and is helpful to create father to baby and baby to parent bonding.

Shortened version here. For full length visit

Written by: Kelly Barnhart, Learning Style & Communication Specialist and Children's book author ( &

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Signing and adopted children - Chloe's story

The case of a little girl called Chloe really brought home the benefits of Signing with adopted children. Chloe was 22 months when she was adopted from China.
She joined my Baby Signing classes a week after she arrived in the UK. There was very little body language between Chloe and her 'new mum' never mind any eye contact or signs of bonding. Both mum and daughter looked very unhappy.

The subject that day was ‘Food’. I had brought different types of food in to show the children and to teach the signs. Obviously, ‘Food’, ‘More’, and ‘Drink’ was also taught. When we finished, Chloe was sitting very close to me, pointing, and even smiling! When it was time for free play, she turned to her mum and asked her for food…biscuit…more…
The following week the difference was amazing! Chloe sat on her mums lap, held lovingly, there was eye contact, some smiles and even a kiss!

Several weeks later I had a letter from Emma. “Thank you for giving us the gift of Signing with Chloe. To be honest, before I came, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life. The situation brought our family to breaking point. Now that we can communicate with her, everything has changed. Signing has saved my marriage and given me a bond with my beautiful daughter!” This was 1 year ago. Chloe has since integrated well into her Nursery and is communicating fluently -mostly in English but still using some signs occasionally.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Routine Signs

From a mom active in the Baby Fingers program in NYC: Every morning, I make coffee or we go to Starbucks. I always sign "coffee." I always thought, "Why do I care if he knows this sign?" But I went ahead and did it - he seemed interested, and eventually started doing the sign for coffee himself! One morning, it was getting late and I hadn't had any coffee yet. Ayers and I were just rocking and relaxing, but he kept looking at me and doing a sign. I couldn't figure out what sign he was doing. A lot of his signs look alike, especially when he first starts using them, though I usually can figure them out through context. With this sign, I was drawing a blank. So as we just continued rocking, he signed this unknown sign, and I told him I was sorry but I wasn't sure what he was saying. Finally, out of the blue, I said, let's go to Starbucks and get some coffee. Well, he got really excited and started doing "that" sign again! He was really "talking" to me as if to say, "Yes, Mommy, I was wondering when you were going to get your coffee!!!" Remember how important routines are at home, yours and your baby's. Whether it's one sign or a handful, signing during routine times of your day will be a start to solidifying new vocabulary and supporting communication.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Intergrading Sign Language with Preschool Co-ops

Have you ever been involved in a preschool co-op? I know each one operates a little differently than the next. But as a person that loves to share the power of signing with your own children, be open to sharing it with the people around you.

A preschool co-op can be overwhelming and fun at the same time. There are programs out there designed with its own curriculum, and at other times, we are given the opportunity to come up with our own curriculum (including activities and songs). Both scenarios offer a chance to intergrade sign language with learning.

Whether you just joined a preschool co-op, are in charge of one yourself, or take any part in one, it's never too late to introduce signs to both the children and parents involved.

Don't be surprised with various reactions from parents and children alike once you begin intergrading sign language. In some parts of the country, you'll have no problem as many mothers/caregivers are looking for opportunities to learn sign language and have it be a part of their children's lives. Some of you on the other hand may be in a place where people don't have much to say about sign language quite yet. In either case, go for it.  Here are some steps in getting started:
  • Inform your co-op that you teach sign language to your child
  • Let them know that you are willing to teach sign language to other children
  • Use opening and closing exercises (routines) to introduce signs
  • Even if it's simply teaching the alphabet signs, be willing to do your part in teaching (the children and other members alike)
  • Keep intergrading signs within your own home if other members of the co-op do not seem interested
I, myself, have been in front of friends and their children in a preschool co-op setting. While signing with songs, I have felt occasional questioning faces peering up at me or directly at me from the eyes of the mothers. As I took the time to ask the mothers about their thoughts on sign language, I was impressed to know that although their actions showed otherwise, they were very happy to be influenced by the power of signing!

Don't be afraid to look online for resources, such as ASL dictionaries, to help add signs to your preschool activities and songs. Please email me with any questions or with any need of ideas.

Links for helping you get started in integrading sign language into your co-op:

Written by Shawna Tran.
websites: &

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Finger Spelled Words

There are many finger spelled words in American Sign Language.  Consider the fact that each word in sign language can also be finger spelled. This creates a fun way to learn how to sound out words and recognize site words in any given place.

All you need is your hands for props. And for all ages there are different games to play with your young ones when it comes to using your hands and sign language. These games can turn into valuable learning tools.

Take for instance a simple learning activity such as sounding out your words with your four year old. You would usually need a pencil and some paper for your props or lots of talking involved to tell your child which letters to sound out. Instead start with three signed letters... keep signing each letter with its sound: s-a-t. Change the first letter of each word until you are ready to switch to another set of words: c-a-t. Sign the letters slowly, and let your child sound out each letter at a time until he can run the sounds together and make a word (speeding up the signing along with the sounding out until the sounds are recognized as a word).

Watch the video as an example.  Add some fun to learning by signing! Hands-on!

Written and recorded by Shawna Tran.  

Monday, October 6, 2008

Music and Sign Language

From Lora Heller, Music Therapist and Founding Director of Baby Fingers LLC (

By Steve Kokette 1995 (shortened below)

For many years now it has been widely recognized that students benefit from being encouraged to move to music. In this brief essay I wish to propose that the use of American Sign Language (ASL) with hearing children may be a beneficial form of such movement. My reasons for making this suggestion stem from the proven value of using bodily movement in teaching music, especially applications of the "Dalcroze Method," and the proven effectiveness of signing in teaching language arts to children who have no hearing impairments. As early as the 1800's, some educators working with children who had hearing impairments advocated that Sign language be taught to children without such an impairment, because they noticed that the hearing siblings of deaf children often developed better skills in reading, spelling, and writing if they were exposed to Sign language at home. Teachers who knew Sign language and used it while teaching in the classroom observed that children paid greater attention to the lesson. Music teachers noticed that children paid greater attention and learned lyrics better, if the teacher were signing while singing the text. They further observed that children seemed able to recall lyrics more readily, even weeks or months later, if the music educator used Sign while teaching.

Dalcrose theorized that lessons in rhythmic gymnastics helped children in their other lessons, for they seemed to develop keener powers of observation and analysis, greater understanding and more acute memory. Teachers of subjects other than music, according to Dalcroze, often found that rhythmic training to music made students more responsive, more elastic, not only in movement but in personality. Learning signs with words and music enhances the beauty of the song's performance. Sign can improve the motor skills of young people, and indeed it is good exercise for people of all ages.

Music classes are a part of general education for life, and they have always concentrated on the joy of hearing. It is possible that music combined with Sign may make a contribution beyond the joy of hearing and keep communication skills alive, even when hearing is no longer possible.

Short version of an article Copyright 1995 Steve Kokette.

shadow puppets music video

Sia's song and sign video is really special.
Enjoy watching.

From Baby Fingers LLC

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Political Signs

It would be hard to miss all the media coverage about the upcoming presidential election. Magazines, television, newspapers, and websites – they’re all filled with information about the two candidates, their running mates, their personal histories, and their political leanings. What’s especially striking, however, is the attention that is paid to the candidates’ family life. The spotlight is almost equally shared with their spouses and children. Why is this? Perhaps we realize that having a close-knit, happy family says a lot about a potential leader and, regardless of political party, we trust in that closeness.
So what makes a close-knit, happy family? The answer is certainly not a simple one, but ultimately, happy families are built by healthy relationships and healthy communication. And such connections start at the very beginning, as soon as you become a parent.
Hillary was at the market with her 10-month-old son, Ryan. As she pushed her cart through the aisles, Ryan sat facing her. Hillary told me: “Ryan started brushing his hair with his hand. He was trying to tell me something. I recognized the sign, LION.” Hillary was puzzled. Where would he have seen a picture of a lion – perhaps on a box or package? She looked, but didn’t see anything. “Ryan kept signing LION over and over, but I couldn’t find it,” she said. Finally, Hillary saw a stuffed animal lion on top of the freezers. “I acknowledged it by signing LION to Ryan and his eyes lit up. He was so happy to be understood! The rest of the shopping day we talked and signed about lions. When daddy came home we told him about the lion we saw.”
So what does this simple story have to do with the upcoming elections? It’s all about connecting – with voters, yes, but more importantly it’s about connecting with your most important constituents of all time, your children. It’s never too early to build the foundation of the sacred parent-child relationship, just keep your eyes out for lions.
Signing with your child is one of the first steps in developing a close relationship. Signing goes beyond the basics of daily vocabulary, it is about feeling understood. It is about empowering your little one to tell you what he or she want, needs, and thinks. By using sign language within the larger context of a communicative style of parenting, we believe in the miraculous effects of signing upon the entire parent-child relationship.

Let the Sign Shine!

read article:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Case Study: integrating sign language into a preschool curriculum

Learning English as a Second Language: A Case Study of a Chinese Girl in an American Preschool
Several studies have shown that including sign language in play and activities with teachers' instruction in preschools helps young children retain information and provides a richer language base in their later life (Crawford, 2001; Daniels, 1994a, 1994b, 1996; Reynolds, 1995). For example, Daniels (1994a) found that integrating sign language into a preschool curriculum can help children gain receptive English vocabulary.

Crawford (2001) indicated that "preschoolers build vocabularies much faster when taught to identify words by sight, sound, and sign" (p. 30). Sign language enables young children to learn through movement and they respond with enthusiasm and enjoyment (Reynolds, 1995). Reynolds (1995) posits that "the greatest learning occurs when the tactile and kinesthetic channels are engaged or paired with the auditory and visual modalities" (p. 5). Thus, dynamic interactions between teachers and children can offer multiple ways for strengthening young children's language development through interaction and play, including sign language in preschools.

Chizuko Konishi. Childhood Education. Olney: 2007. Vol. 83, Iss. 5; pg. 267, 6 pgs
to read full text:

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SignShine on the Stand News Again- KidsLA Magazine!

SignShine featured on *KidsLAMagazine; Fall 2008.
The article explores the benefits of signing with older kids. Read how signing helps kids with academics, is an excellent second language facilitator, creates special bond between parents and children and more.

*Get your copy at Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Borders and

Friday, August 22, 2008

SignShine features on Fox 11

I am so proud of the little ones signing! Thank you, it was such a great experience.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Waiting on the World to Change"

Signing Interpretation of John Mayer's hit song
You've maybe never considered it, but deaf people enjoy music as much as anyone else. Typically it is the vibration of the music they love to feel. Closed captioning on music channels gives another way to enjoy music through the lyrics. Now, an organization has taken it one step further and put together interpretive signing videos to popular songs. I enjoyed watching this one particularly, I probably watched it 10 times when I first learned of it. My daughter wanted to watch it again, and I wouldn't be surprised if the video interests the youngest of viewers because of the young signing toddler shown twice. Babies love watching other babies! Tell me what you think.

See the video

* by Sign4Baby

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sing and Sign!

Many parents ask me about videos of favorite family songs preformed with signing. So… we created for you fun, sign-along videos you can practice at home:

If You’re Happy and You Know It
Itsy Bitsy Spider
I Love You
You are My SignShine
…and more

Click here to watch the videos (may take a few seconds to upload)
Email us your feedback: