Signing with Preschoolers
American Sign Language, ASL enhances learning for Preschool Children, especially when combined with music.
Signing is a playful, language-rich, movement and visual activity that is fun and engages preschool children, their parents and teachers. Even if your preschooler did not learn signs as a baby or a toddler, this should not in any way detour you from signing with them. They have different needs and abilities. With babies parents sign to provide babies with a way to communicate wants and needs long before they can talk. With toddlers parents use ASL for a variety of reasons including shaping behavior, enhancing communication, expanding vocabulary and as playful fun. For preschoolers, signing will also expand vocabulary and language skills but it also provides additional benefits. Signing can help to support the learning of Core Educational Concepts - ABCs, Numbers, Colors, Rhymes, Animals and more. When combining this learning with signing sons you are allowing preschoolers to learn, using a wide variety of learning styles - physical, verbal, musical, and visual.
There is a large national push currently to increase the level of knowledge preschool children learn before entering school. A few years ago Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, the Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement, US Department of Education has stated, “we know that the precursors to literacy start at a much earlier age than kindergarten.” (Whitehurst p3) Preschool children are now expected to know letters, sounds, numbers, colors, rhymes, word play and much more. Many of these things their parents did not learn until they reached 1st grade.
The previous First Lady, Laura Bush, has stated, “The years between diapers and the first backpacks will determine whether a child will succeed in school and make it to college and that parent's, teachers and caregivers need to provide preschool children with the language-rich activities. G. Reid Lyon, Chief, Child Development and Behavior Branch, National Institutes of Health affirmed this saying that "there is a remarkably strong and stable link between what preschool kids know about words, sounds, letters, and print, and later academic performance. Most kids who don't have this information upon entry into kindergarten will not only struggle there, but will have difficulties learning to read through high school." (Lyon p1).
Signing offers to parents, teachers and caregivers
Research demonstrates that when signing is added to the preschool curriculum, children not only find signing fun but also show a “significant improvement in receptive English vocabulary” (Daniels p40-41), and retain information for a longer periods of time. Marilyn Daniels found that the significant “vocabulary gains made in their pre-kindergarten years are sustained throughout their kindergarten year and remain with them. There is no memory decay over time” (Daniels, p49).
Signing and singing songs with preschoolers is great a way to involve them in the learning process. The use of music as an instructional tool has been used by people and cultures worldwide for thousands of years. “Music is a vital part of our biological makeup and is one of the ingredients that make us human." (Habermeyer p4). Researchers and teachers alike know that the combining of singing and movement is “one of the most important instructional tools available to the educator” (Taylor p200).
We Sign is America's #1 interactive DVD series featuring ASL, instruction and activities, for hearing children (babies, toddlers, preschoolers and elementary ages) as well as for parents, teachers and other caregivers who wish to bring signing into the lives of their children. The Series has won over 50 National awards and has been highly acclaimed for over 15 years.
Daniels, Marilyn, Dancing With Words, Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy, Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT, 2001.
Habermeyer, Sharlene, Good Music Brighter Children, Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 1999.
Lyon, G. Reid, Child Development and Behavior Branch, National Institutes of Health, Address at the White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development, July 26, 2001.
Taylor, Barbara J., A Child Goes Forth, Simon and Shuster, 1999.
Whitehurst, Grover J., Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Eduction, Address at the White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development, July 26, 2001.