American Sign Language, ASL,
and Children's Songs
American Sign Language, commonly known as ASL, is one of the most common languages spoken in the United States. It is a language that was developed to help deaf people communicate, but has substantially demonstrated that it provides hearing children with a wonderful way to learn, remember, and use words and concepts. When combined with children’s songs it becomes and even more powerful learning tool.
Tips for using American Sign Language with children’s songs.
- We use ASL in a format called Contact Sign Language - that is, American Sign Language vocabulary and concepts used in a spoken word order. It also means that we do not sign every word in any signed children's song, just the key words. Watch this demonstration from Play-Along Songs Volume 2 and see how not every word is signed in this chldren's song called Five Little Monkeys.
- Use your dominate hand. Signs can be two handed or one handed. For one handed signs and for the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and colors, you will use your dominant hand.
- The basic signing principle is that signs are formed in a box area from your shoulder to your waist and from side to side. Letters and numbers are signed up and near your shoulder.
- Movement and location will change the meanings of signs. For example, the letter R is stationary near your shoulder, but if you shake it side to side the sign now means restroom. A 5 hand at your forehead is Father, but at your chin it now means Mother.
- Many signs used in kid’s songs look like the word. This adds a visual component to physical, verbal, and musical learning. Car is signed like driving a car. Cow is signed with hands representing the horns on a cow. Bed/Sleep are like a pillow under your head. Telephone is like you're talking on a phone.
- Watch video demonstrations of signs. There are many signs that don’t fit these rules. It is helpful to watch online or video demonstrations of the signs that you will use to see exactly how they are made.
- Play-Along Songs books, especially Songs to Sign with Children Volume 3 provide clear pictures and text for signs used in the song. We also provide FREE ONLINE video demonstration and instruction for every signed children's song in our collection. This ensures that you will successfully and correctly sign the words to each of the songs.
5 Important Tips for Signing with Children’s Songs!
- Learn and be proficient at correctly signing the words that will be used in the song. If you use a dictionary, keep in mind that some signs are directional. Like the sign for HURT in the demonstration of Five Little Monkeys above. Hurt is signed at the location of the pain. If you hurt your head it is signed there. If your tooth hurts, hurt is signed by your mouth. If you hurt your knee, the hurt is signed by your knee, and so on.
- Choose as few or as many words as you are comfortable at using. You do not need to know anything about signing to bring ASL and signed kid’s songs into everyday activities. Choose as many or as few of the signs suggested to use in any song and add more as you become more comfortable.
- The younger the child, the simpler and fewer signs you will use. When you start, simply choose the key words you want your children to learn. Once they become proficient you can add more words in, a few at a time.
- Keep in mind that the younger the child the less developed are their fine motor skills. You can help children form words with their hands, but you will find that some complicated signs, or signs that occur too close to each other in the song, may not work. In this case just leave out the difficult sign until they can perform the sign proficiently.
- What is great about ASL is that you can use the words, spoken and signed or just signed, to communicate and to reinforce the signs learned in songs. For example, in the song Five Little Monkeys demonstrated above, you can use the sign for hurt if someone gets hurt, the sign for telephonewhen someone gets a call, and even bed for when its time to go to bed.
Our 12 steps for teaching songs to children.
LEARN MOREAbout Benifits of American Sign Langauge.