Diversity in the preschool classroom contributes to an environment where every student has the opportunity to share and learn. However, first year teachers often discover that trying to reach every student can be a challenge. In any given classroom, you may encounter children who are learning English as a second language or who have speech delays and hearing loss. Fortunately, ASL is a wonderful common denominator that kids quickly pick up, and you can use these tips to strengthen your ability to use ASL in the classroom.
Take a Course
As with any skill, you cannot teach ASL until you have mastered at least the basic concepts yourself. Learn how to do ASL by taking a class, like with ASL DEAFined, and make practicing the new skills a priority. Find a classmate or another teacher who is interested in learning and spend time practicing your communication. It is also effective to focus on the signs that the students in your class will need to know the most.
Teach Meaningful Signs
Once you learn ASL language skills, you will be ready to bring them into the classroom. Naturally, preschoolers may not be able to master complicated signs or string sentence together just yet, but you can expect them to be able to do simple things such as sign "yes" or "no". As your students begin to pick up basic signs, ask them about new ones that they would like to learn. You will also find it helpful to show the parents a few of the signs you use in class so that they can reinforce it at home.
Practice Your ASL Skills Every Day
Just as you will need to practice your ASL language skills frequently while you are taking your courses, you will also need to provide opportunities in the classroom for children to use the signs that they have learned. Remember to keep an eye out for a child who is using a sign since it may not always be obvious in a busy classroom setting. However, the effort is worth it when you see a child who is nonverbal finally light up when they can communicate.
Working within a diverse classroom setting is full of special moments as you find ways to help each student reach their full abilities. By learning ASL and implementing it in the classroom, you strengthen your teaching skills and give each child a new way to communicate their needs.