Using Sign Language to Help With Spelling


How boring is spelling homework? Well, ask any grade school student to rate spelling homework on a scale of 1-10 and you may see an average in the negative numbers. As a parent, I understand that spelling homework is a good skill builder. As an educator, I know the importance of homework, despite some redundancy.

But as an adult with ADHD, I have deep empathy for any child who has to take out their spelling book and write again spelling words over and over! I remember how much trouble I would get in by not focusing and completing this kind of work in a timely manner. The dreaded spelling list!

This is why I propose learning two skills at one time.  Why not teach the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet, aka “fingerspelling,”  to help promote better spelling?!

Here is how it works:

First, teach the 26 manual alphabet letters. You can find them on abcteach

Next, give a list of spelling words to the child, with instructions to do the following:

1.   Write the word one time using a fun instrument, like a marker or crayon.

2.   Sign the word twice.

3.   Say the word aloud while spelling it in sign language again.

4.   Sign the word and say it aloud.

5.   Write it in a sentence, if able.

These steps are one example of something known as a multimodal method of learning.  Multimodal learning utilizes multiple techniques (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) to obtain and achieve a skill.

Hint: Sometimes it is best to practice fingerspelling before introducing the homework assignments. Start with two or three-word combinations, then proceed to four.  Once the student can master four-word combinations, move on to the teacher-generated list.

Reinforce spelling by playing SCRABBLE, HANGMAN and other letter/word /sentence building games in sign language!  Once the child gets hold of the ASL alphabet, move on to vocabulary words and numbers. (This can help with math concepts, too!)

Sign language can clearly benefit the hearing child as a learning method. But it can also allow him/her to make friends with those in the school or community who are using ASL as their primary or secondary language!

For more information about the benefits of sign language please visit SIGNING FAMILIES.   


About the author:  Louise Sattler is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Educational trainer and consultant and, the owner of SIGNING FAMILIES

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