Teaching sign language to infants and toddlers has become a popular method for helping them learn to communicate before they can talk. Specifically, sign language helps preschoolers learn letter recognition and build their vocabulary. Not only it is greatly useful for growth and development, sign language can also be fun for students, teachers, and parents.
The Gardner School incorporates the use of American Sign Language (ASL) to encourage communication skills with our youngest students. ASL is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. We believe sign language can open an exciting new world between you and your child. Here are some ways sign language is making a difference for The Gardner School preschoolers.
Why We Incorporate Sign Language with Preschoolers
The Gardner School uses sign language as a basis to teach our youngest preschoolers to communicate at an age when they are not ready to verbalize their needs and wants, so that their teachers, parents, and friends can understand them better. Lauren Honea, Executive Director at The Gardner School of Midtown in Nashville affirms, “We introduce sign language with preschoolers during songs, specifically ‘The ABC Song.’ We also use sign language for everyday words such as, ‘more,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you.’ We introduce a new sign every week that correlates with the week’s theme.”
How Often Sign Language Is Used at The Gardner School
Sign language is used daily at The Gardner School, especially in the infant classrooms. Karina Cadiz, School Director at The Gardner School of Chicago–Lincoln Park says, “Many toddlers can be seen using the signs they learned in the infant room and carrying that knowledge over to the toddler classroom. Generally, the younger children who are first learning how to communicate are constantly being taught to sign their needs/wants. Toddlers will often use signs with words to help their learning process.”
When a Child Starts Using Sign Language
Children who exhibit fine motor skills will typically be the first to embrace sign language. Karina Cadiz added, “If used often enough both in the classroom and at home, the more sign language, and any language for that matter, will resonate with the child.” Preschoolers at The Gardner School will often see other children in their classrooms using sign language and then quickly grasp the skill in the same way they would a new classroom routine.
How Sign Language Improves Development for Older Preschoolers
It's also becoming more and more popular to use sign language with older children. Sometimes, children who can already talk might not yet display clearly developed speech skills, so sign language can provide further information on what the child is trying to express. Lauren Honea added, “By correlating sign language to verbal communication, we are empowering children. Our children can communicate clearly, and teachers help them learn and transition to the appropriate words they are looking for.”
How Sign Language Skills Can Continue at Home
At The Gardner School, our sign language program provides guidance and tools to parents and caregivers on how to continue sign language communication with their preschoolers at home. As one parent at The Gardner School of Midtown in Nashville verifies, “[Sign language] has been tremendously helpful, especially at meal time. My daughter was only eight months old when she started communicating with us at home. She could tell us when she was ‘hungry,’ when she wanted ‘more’ food, when she was ‘all done,’ and she learned it all at The Gardner School. It was incredible to be able to communicate with her before she developed her verbal skills.”