Here are a few ideas I've gathered from a number of people on
improving signing skills:
I tried something this week that turned out well, and wanted to share
the idea. We were working on vocabulary, so I took a 'Hands Down' game,
and made my own set of cards on the computer. They had pictures of the
words we wanted to study (in the upper left corner), some known and some
new. We played the game according to the regular rules, then after a match
was made we had to sign the word as we laid it down. Sort of sneaked in
the learning, as our son seems to balk at things that look like 'school
One lady tells me she goes through a kind of mental game when listening
to her child's song tapes in the car; she tries to mentally imagine
herself signing the song. She also does this while reading children's
books. She says this gives her a good idea of the vocabulary used by
Along with taking classes, join a local group that includes many signers. Some
possibilities are: a deaf place of worship, or gatherings associated with a state school
for the deaf, etc. You will then have wonderful reinforcement for your new knowledge and
will experience true communication in addition to classroom learning.
Get on a mailing list for a Deaf organization such as the state association of the deaf
and try to attend some events that are of interest to you.
Try sign videos or the new CD-ROM's that provide lots of practice in vocabulary
acquisition, sentence structure and sometimes education in issues of cultural sensitivity.
Often tapes and CDs can be borrowed from public libraries or from local school programs
that provide services to deaf or hard of hearing children.
Videos such as "Children of a Lesser God" can be helpful in broadening sign
Another way to increase signing skill is to practice fingerspelling while doing other
daily activities. When I drive and stop at a stop light, I often fingerspell all the
names of the intersecting streets. I try to do this to increase my spelling speed
and accuracy. I think it impacts my dexterity.
Keep a few sign books in the car or your backpack or tote for times when you have a few
moments to spare waiting at the gas station or picking up someone. Even a few minutes of
study at a time can be a significant help.
Have silent dinner times where voices are off in the family. A "kitty
jar" can be fed if spoken words are used during this allotted time. Signing
videos could be purchased with the proceeds.
We have dinner weekly with deaf friends and not only our signing, but also our cooking
has improved! ;-)
Post photos of a friend signing certain household signs of the object in question.
Tape the sign for refrigerator on the fridge, etc.
Learn a series of signs associated with a special event such as Valentine's Day or
I took an 8 week Signed English class in college out of curiosity. Then I started
going to the local Deaf club at least once a month. As I made more friends, I joined
the bowling and golf leagues. After a few years, I was being mistaken for having
Try to find if the local Deaf school or Interpreter training program has immersion
(silent) weekends. These are great opportunities for the whole family to be
surrounded by language.
We made a choice that ASL would be the language of our home. Even though the
first weeks of no-voice were a bit frustrating, the results have been great.
In our area there was a college training program for sign interpreters. Each of them
was required to do so many hours of interpreting prior to graduation. When we were
just starting out I arranged for one to come to our house an hour per week to help me with
Invite your child's deaf friends over. Just spending time with them will help you
stay on your toes.
Take the ASL classes that your child's school offers.
Volunteer in your child's classroom once every two weeks or so (this gives you the
chance to see what level your child's' peers are at and to see where he's getting those
signs that you don't know about!).
Have a chat with his teacher using ASL ( kinda lets the teacher see your skill level
and give you a chance to ask any questions you may have) If you drive your child to and
from school yourself as opposed to their being bussed this is a lot easier to
Hire a tutor to teach you/your family ASL. I've heard of some families doing this
when they can't come to class at night or they are having a hard time learning it and need
one on one help. If you can't afford to pay someone maybe you can barter with them,
you know exchange services with them, you could bake something or baby-sit for them
I made up little sheets with signs that may need to be used in each room of the house:
for example in the living room I used a sheet of construction paper and glued on copies of
signs for all of the furniture and for sounds that may be heard in the room, and did the
same for all other rooms of the house. Then had them laminated so that we could keep
them neatly. I kept the signs in the room posted where they could be gotten to very
easily. I also did the same thing with basic kinds of phrases that we would use, and
then each week would add vocabulary words. We would pass them through our family to
help us to become familiar with them. I also made little books of signs based on
themes for example: sports, clothing, animals, etc. I know that they sell these
kinds of books, but it was a real learning experience for me and my daughter to work
together to make these books, and we kept them in the living room for all of us to look
over when needed. And now they are currently my youngest daughter's favorite books
to look at (she is 17 months) we added many pictures from magazines and drawings by both
of us to make the sign very easy for both my husband and myself of course able to read,
and then for our young daughter ( at that time) could also understand them very easily due
to the picture. We truly were learning together, so this was very important that
everything had pictures also for her to understand it clearly.
Our school district provides free sign classes for parents and family
members of children enrolled in regional program for the deaf. Other
community members can take the classes for a very low fee (I think about
$25 per semester). Surrounding school districts also can send their family
members free to sign classes, if their districts don't offer them. These
districts may have to pay the $25 fee for the classes. The community colleges offer non-credit classes at about $80 per
semester. Credit courses in ASL are also offered through some local
colleges. These vary in cost. There are also excellent classes offered
through some of the local churches. Another idea is to use a video course
and get a group together to learn that way. Your public library may have
the set of 16 tapes of the Bravo family. These are GREAT. If they don't
have them, you might be able to convince them to buy these tapes if enough
people are going to use them. There are also other good sign curricula
offered on videotapes. If there is a local interpreter program, check to
see if they will allow you to use their video lab. Ours has a HUGE number
of tapes available. Another idea is to get some sign-language tapes
through Captioned Media
Program. Some of these services have a large
number of sign tapes. Also, check with your state school for the deaf.
They may have a resource library that you can use (even by mail). Finally,
sponsor 'Silent Night' activities for you and other families and friends.
Invite some deaf adults to come. You can interview each other, play games,
and just visit using sign only. All these activities can increase your
fluency and knowledge of sign.