Hands-On With Building Vocabulary: Using Sign Language with ELLS
(Contributed by Matt Hilton)
Integrating a new student into a school can be a daunting task for an ESL teacher as well as school faculty, particularly when the student has no knowledge of English or has had limited exposure to English. In some cases, students may not understand the most basic words or commands, let alone social or academic language. This brings an important question to the surface, “How will the student communicate their basic needs?”
A small sample of research supports the use of sign language to help students and teachers communicate. Teachers have used sign language to ask students if they understand a concept during large class activities. Students signed yes or no when the teacher asked, “Does everyone understand?” Teachers can also use sign language for students to ask basic commands; for example to ask for help or to use the bathroom. The biggest area is using sign language in conjunction with vocabulary words. This works by the teacher signing the word while saying it verbally.
The idea behind using sign language is building a student’s confidence, allowing for a sense of control, and building vocabulary by providing another connection with a vocabulary word. Another bonus to this is that the cost is low to free in gathering resources. Teachers don’t need to teach the students a new language but rather use it as a tool for commands and building vocabulary. Also the prep time is minimal because the teacher is only using sign language with one or two words at a time. However; the research shows sign language is an area worth looking into. The link provided below is one teacher’s account of using sign language with her ELL students.
Resource: Signing Math and Science http://bit.ly/RTtpdp (requires IE 6 to see avatars)