I've just wrapped up teaching this month's song using sign language. I received several "technical" questions on how to use sign or ASL to teach a song. Seeing that I am no interpreter and am assuming a lot of other choristers aren't either, I've written up a few things that have worked for me.
I like to occasionally use simplified sign language to teach songs in primary. It's also termed CASE: Conceptually Accurate Signed English. The Junior primary loves the large muscle movements and seems to retain the words better when they can put an action to it. And Senior primary seems to enjoy the challenge of remembering what hand motions go with what words.
Since I don't know sign language - AT ALL, I just kind of "wing it" every time I teach it. I've actually had a few teachers tell me that they didn't know I knew sign language - ha! Fooled them!! Is it always correct? No. But that's not my intention. I couldn't teach the correct ASL to those little kids - especially where I don't "speak" it, myself. It would also be really overwhelming to me and the kids. So I omit most of the signs and usually only teach signs for the key words.
To learn those key word signs, I use SEVERAL resources combined. Below are some of my favorite websites:
My first go-to website is the church's Primary songs in ASL (this is SO complicated for me but it's a start!):
The church also has a list of simple ASL videos of the more unusual vocabulary we use in the Church (I LOVE this resource!):
This link is an ASL dictionary (for any words that aren't on the church's site):
And here's another one (I'm more familiar with this link):
Woot productions on YouTube has several of the current year's primary songs in simplified ASL:
Then there are several who post videos of their own. Here are a few samples:
I'm never afraid to ask others to help out where I lack the talent :)
Then I like to create my own notes. You can find some examples of my notes HERE (scroll through all of the posts). I personally wouldn't take a video into primary to teach from but that's just my preference.
If you have any children in your primary who know ASL, a great suggestion may be to have them help you teach the song. I've never experienced this - if you have, I'd love some feedback!
In order to teach the signs, you MUST know them beforehand - both the words to the song and the signs. I like to bring my notes because sometimes I get stuck and need a reference but I don't want to be stopping to read my notes throughout my entire lesson plan - BORING!!
I've also brought in scarves:
I bought mine from Amazon here:
If clicking on the icon above doesn't work, you can also find it HERE. They were a little expensive but have proved to be a very valuable tool in primary - I have also been able to use them for other activities in primary.
I just have the kids tie one on their pointer finger and we do our actions with the scarves. They provide a fun visual! I only bring these out AFTER the signs have been learned. They can be a distraction from learning the actual signs.
Now, once you have your signs and song learned, you need to teach them to the kids. To introduce the song, I have the kids watch me sign the entire song while it is played on CD. Usually by the end, they are all trying to sign with me anyway ;). Then I like to quiz them to see if they recognized any of the signs I did that correlated with some of the words.
When I learn the signs, I usually learn them backwards (or with the wrong hand - I mirror what I see in the videos). Then when I start signing in primary, I practice with the kids mirroring some simple actions. I'll wave with my left hand and ask them to pretend we are looking in a mirror - what hand would they use? Then we practice with the other hand by patting our heads or something. So when I move my left hand, they move their right and vice versa.
Once we've established which hands should be used, I just add one sign and phrase at a time, usually beginning with the chorus. I sing the phrase (sometimes posting that phrase on the board) and sign it. Then I discuss the sign (maybe give them a silly way of remembering it), show them the action, they repeat it without singing, then we sing the phrase while we sign it. Then add on - next phrase with the next sign. We'll sing that phrase while signing it. Then we'll sign and sing everything we've learned so far. Clear as mud? :)
I like to try to have one song learned in ASL for the program. In the past, we've performed a song by only signing it, then repeating it with singing and signing. It's pretty neat!
I've created a "Sign Language" label over on the right under the "Labels" section for quick reference. It includes any of my lesson plans I've taught using this method of teaching songs.
What are tips that you use when teaching sign language in primary? Leave a comment with suggestions!