Even if you never encounter a student who is deaf/hard of hearing in your own classroom, there are lots of terrific reasons to teach sign language basics to your students. Perhaps most importantly, it introduces kids to the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community, which has a rich history and important culture of its own. It provides kids with a way to communicate with those in that community, wherever they may encounter them. Embracing diversity in all its forms is a lesson that’s always worth including.
We’ve rounded up some excellent resources to help you teach sign language to your students. It’s important to note that these resources are for those using American Sign Language (ASL). (Other countries have their own versions of sign language, including British Sign Language.) Many of them focus on teaching the fingerspelling alphabet and other basic and important signs. If you’re looking for signs not included in these resources, check out the site Signing Savvy.
Teach sign language for classroom management
Many teachers have embraced basic signs to help with classroom management. These signs allow kids to communicate with you quickly and quietly, without interrupting the flow of the lesson. Learn how one educator uses this method at For the Love of Teachers.
If you do choose to teach sign language basics as part of your classroom management strategy, be sure to set those signs in their larger context. Show your respect for the community that communicates in ASL on a daily basis by taking time to learn more about it .
Watch sign language videos for kids
Ready to introduce ASL basics to your students? YouTube is a great place to start. There are lots of videos that teach sign language to kids of all ages. Here are a few of our favorites.
Learn ASL With Blue’s Clues
Start by learning the ASL fingerspelling alphabet, then learn signs for emotions like “scared” and “excited.” Along the way, you’ll figure out Blue’s Clues!
Jack Hartmann Animal Signs
Animal signs are especially fun to learn and easy to remember since they’re so descriptive. It may be helpful to pause the video after each animal and demonstrate the sign to your kids the first few times.
Let’s Make Friends (Signing Time)
Signing Time is a popular TV show for kids ages 4 and up who are interested in learning ASL. This episode teaches the signs kids need to make new friends, which is one of the very best reasons to learn any new language.
ASL Alphabet Lesson
If you know the ASL fingerspelling alphabet, you can spell out any word you need to. This video for kids is taught by a kid, and it takes the time to really explain each and every letter at a speed new learners will appreciate.
20+ Basic Sign Language Phrases For Beginners
Older students will like this video, which presents basic conversational ASL words and phrases. It explains how and when to use greetings, introductory phrases, and more.
Get free printable sign language activities and ideas
Reinforce the video concepts with free printables. They cover fingerspelling, basic phrases, and even popular kids’ books and songs.
ASL Alphabet Flashcards
These free fingerspelling flashcards are available in several styles, with options that include the printed letter or just the sign itself. There’s even a line drawing style that is perfect for coloring!
Learn more: Look We’re Learning
ASL Numbers Chart and Cards
ASL has its own signs for numbers too, allowing you to communicate any number using only one hand. Print these free posters and flashcards in color or black and white.
Learn more: iCANsign/Teachers Pay Teachers
ASL Alphabet Puzzles
These puzzles help kids match upper and lower case letters with their fingerspelling method. Use them as part of an alphabet learning station or group activity.
Learn more: Look We’re Learning
I Have… Who Has… ASL Alphabet Cards
We love playing “I have… who has…” in the classroom. Use these cards to help your kids master the fingerspelling alphabet.
Learn more: HearMyHands/Teachers Pay Teachers
ASL Colors Flashcards
Learn the ASL signs for colors with these free cards. We suggest pairing them with this Sign Time video to see each of the signs in action.
Learn more: Breezy Special Ed/Teachers Pay Teachers
Old MacDonald Signs
“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” is the perfect song for beginning signers! The chorus gives them the chance to practice some fingerspelling, plus they’ll learn lots of new animal signs.
Learn more: hellobee
Top 10 Beginner Signs
This poster is a nice reminder of some basic signs. (If you need to see them in action, drop by the Signing Savvy site and look up videos for each.)
Learn more: Sprout On Your Own/Teachers Pay Teachers
ASL Sight Words
Active learners can really benefit from associating fingerspelling with traditional spelling. The physical movement can make it easier for them to remember the correct letters. Get free printable cards for 40 sight words at the link.
Learn more: Mary Lirette/Teachers Pay Teachers
Brown Bear, Brown Bear in ASL
Include ASL in your next storytime adventure! This free download includes the entire book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? If you like it, find more in the creator’s TpT store.
Learn more: Mimi’s Book Nook/Teachers Pay Teachers
Everyone Is Welcome Sign
We can’t think of a better way to remind kids that in your classroom, everyone is truly welcome. Get the free printables at the link, then use them to create a sign or banner for your wall.
Learn more: Aloe There/Teachers Pay Teachers
Do you use or teach sign language in your classroom? Come share your tips on the WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook.