The Benefits of Knowing ASL in an Educational Environment

ASL Program
December 22, 2022

As an educator or a person who works closely with children in an educational environment, you’ve more than likely seen a lot of different approaches when it comes to educating and communicating with a child, but what if that child is Deaf or the spoken language isn’t something they use? How exactly does one get around this obstacle and make the best of a unique situation? How does one make it advantageous to future children,with the same dilemmas, in an educational environment that mainly uses speech as a method of communication?

One of the fundamental pillars of a growing child’s mind is having exposure to proper schooling. Not every child has equal access to learning in schools, especially those who happen to have a disability like deafness. If they are born to a deaf family, they’re more likely to have direct access to home communication and proper education in schools thanks to parents that are already deaf themselves and know the immense power that early learning has on a child. The majority of deaf children who are born into hearing families sometimes end up without access to that same direct communication, therefore this sort of isolation impacts how they learn things in the future. Here are some benefits to learning ASL and using it in an educational environment. 

As someone who works in an educational setting or even as a parent, your job is to make sure the material reaches every single one of the children under your guidance. Whether they’re Deaf, Hearing, or otherwise, your sole drive is to make sure your teachings have a lasting effect on their upbringing and future. But more importantly, you also have to make sure you’re engaging with those kids and can ensure they understand what is being taught. 

In a lot of cases teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be challenging or overwhelming because of their complicated vocabulary and difficult concepts to visualize. With Sign Language being used, you’re able to explore the visual areas more and help your students understand concepts better. For example, the molecular structure of H20 is much easier to understand when explained through hands describing the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head and ears. With bonds that combine hydrogen and oxygen atoms, ASL makes the concept crystal clear. Or would you prefer its’ drier cousin, dihydrogen monoxide, instead?

Kids can learn a lot when given the opportunity. With their ever expanding minds, teaching them sign just adds more to their repertoire. From the alphabet to numbers and general signs for people, places, and things they are able to pick up lessons from a different angle. The school curriculum for a lot of public schools has been pretty stagnant as of late, so adding signing may spark a new interest in subjects and align modern learning down a more branching path.   

As former students ourselves, we’ve all had a teacher that we’ve treasured as a mentor or role model growing up. The ways they helped us and guided us during our times of need made going to school and learning more special. A good way to have a bond like that with your own students is making the effort of not just learning and using sign language in your classroom, but making it fun. Much like cartoons, body and facial expression in Sign Language is quite dynamic and eye catching to a child’s mind. Sign Language with expression can bring you closer to your students whether they’re Deaf, Hearing, or Hard of Hearing (HoH). This creates a long and lasting memory in their minds and should be your only priority, so why not use sign as a tool to help them learn? After all, signing can be something they take with them as a memory and a cool skill they can continue to improve on later in life. 

Grabbing and keeping that student’s attention in the classroom means direct communication. If students already use sign, they will gravitate towards those who use sign as well, making them feel more comfortable opening up. If they do not use sign, learning it for them and teaching it can be a great way to build a bond with a student who may be otherwise isolated, shy, nonverbal, or eager to learn something new. If a student is willing to communicate with you, you’re more than halfway there to a successful relationship with a child in a learning environment.

When proper communication delivers information in a clear and concise manner, children usually can get it right away. However, this is not always the case in a classroom. Many times, the English language or any spoken language can be confusing so people will usually absorb that information in various ways. When you use Sign Language, as a visual language, less words are needed to convey a picture or a goal. Signing can make information easier for a student to understand, rather than just going word for word out of a textbook or droning on in a long lecture.

A student with questions, regardless of their hearing status, is a sign that they’re trying to learn. With sign language in your back pocket, it can create an environment where children who may be shy or reserved can become more interested in the lessons. If the child is a bit older they may even be inclined to mimic your signs, which ignites their muscle memory, making it good for quizzes and exams! The more tools that help aid that child the more of an active learner they will be. With this being said, keep in mind that some children who are HoH will learn better in an environment that uses both spoken language and Sign Language, so teaching with both can improve the learning process.

It would be great if Sign Language had a bigger role in schools. Unlike spoken languages, Sign Languages, are languages that can be learned pretty quickly and come in handy in many scenarios. Also, educators have a unique opportunity to nourish the minds of the future. With their hungry eyes, the next generation of Hearing children should be exposed to different languages that can benefit them as well as the deaf, disabled, and nonverbal people around them. In a sense it shows them that you can be the change they’d want to see in this world.

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