I’m so excited to share with you this printable guide to using Nita’s First Signs in the classroom or storytime! Check it out for tips and tricks for sharing signs during the story, and following up with other fun ASL activities. Click here or on the picture below to download and print your own copy.
If you’re looking for resources to share American Sign Language with your students or storytime attendees, check out the Little Hands Signing Storytime & Craft Ideas board on Pinterest! It’s where I pin my favorite ideas from around the internet for sharing ASL with kids, and gather links to my own videos showcasing signing rhymes and songs. Check it out!
Published by Familius Press!
- Text by Kathy MacMillan
- Illustrations by Sara Brezzi
- ASL/Deaf Culture Advisor: Dr. Barbara Kannapell
American Sign Language makes it easy to communicate with your child, and Nita makes it fun! Nita’s First Signs teaches ten essential signs for every parent and child to know, including eat, more, hungry, milk, all done, ball, play, love, please, and thank you. A simple story about Nita and her parents teaches each sign in context, and repetition throughout each story makes them easy to practice. Even better, each page slides open to reveal accurate instructions on how to make each sign, plus tabs on the side of each page make it simple to locate every sign for later reference.
Makes a great baby shower gift!
Instructor: Kathy MacMillan, NIC, M.L.S.
Asynchronous eCourse beginning Monday, May 7, 2018 and continuing for 6 weeks (Participants will have 12 weeks to complete course materials)
Estimated Hours of Learning: 36 (Certificate of Completion available upon request)
Sign Language is most commonly used in storytimes for babies, but the applications can go much further. In this new 6-week eCourse, Sign Language expert Kathy MacMillan explores the benefits of signing with all children. In addition to learning basic American Sign Language (ASL) vocabulary appropriate for use with children in library and classroom settings, you will also learn to teach stories, songs, and other activities that incorporate ASL. MacMillan provides you with a linguistic and cultural context to help make your programming more accessible.
After participating in this eCourse, you will:
- Have a working knowledge of approximately 180 signs (introduced through video)
- Create two storytime/classroom activities using the featured vocabulary that you can implement in your storytimes
- Understand relevant aspects of child development and early literacy
- Understand signing in a linguistic and cultural context
Instructor Kathy MacMillan is a writer and nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter. She is the author of Nita’s First Signs (Familius Press), as well as the author or co-author of many books from ALA Editions, including Little Hands & Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together and the Storytime Magic series. She was the library/media specialist at the Maryland School for the Deaf from 2001 to 2005 and has worked in public libraries since 1996. She presents storytelling programs introducing sign language through Stories By Hand and offers training and resources for enhancing storytimes through Storytime Stuff. Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse, was published by HarperCollins in 2016.
“Little Hands Signing” was featured in the June 13 edition of the Carroll County Times! Click here to read the article.
These excellent videos are perfect for both Deaf and hearing families! Native signers Missy Keast and Manny Hernandez appear in front of the pictures and English text, telling the story on each page in American Sign Language. Weston Woods, long known for its high-quality visual adaptations of picture books, applies its signature style to these DVDs, making them fully accessible for both Deaf audiences and hearing non-signers. Each DVD also features:
- optional English text on screen and English voiceover
- a vocabulary section showing featured signs in isolation, arranged alphabetically by English translation
- a 10-question quiz that assesses comprehension and memory
- an optional read-along feature that highlights each word as it is spoken
Titles available in this series:
Big Al by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Yoshi: Big Al is large and scary-looking , so the little fish are afraid of him.Then he gets to prove what a good friend he can be!
Blue Burt and Wiggles by Derek Anderson: An unusual friendship develops between a bird and a worm, showing how common concerns lead to unusual friendships.
A Creature Was Stirring by Carter Goodrich: A little boy says that, despite what everyone thinks, he was the only creature stirring in the house that Christmas Eve.
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow: As soon as they say goodnight to Mama, five little monkeys start to jump on their bed. But trouble lies ahead.
Gladys Goes Out to Lunch by Derek Anderson: One day Gladys smells something delicious and leaves the zoo to find out what it is…and the adventure begins.
Little Quack by Lauren Thompson: Splish! Splash! Splosh! Can Little Quack find the courage to join his brothers and sisters in the pond?
A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman: Corduroy, a lovable stuffed bear, gets lost. After an all-night adventure he is rescued by his owner.
If you are interested in signing with children, don’t miss ASL Nook! Featuring Deaf adults Sheena McFeely and Manny Johnson, and two absolutely adorable little girls named Shaylee and Ivy, each short ASL Nook video features a theme, from school signs to patriotic signs to animal signs. But instead of just the here’s-the-picture, here’s-the-sign approach that so many videos use, ASL Nook presents language in context, showing the adults and children interacting. Funny, entertaining, and completely accessible to both hearing and Deaf audiences, ASL Nook is a game-changer in the world of signing with children. You can subscribe to receive updates when new videos are posted, or you can catch the videos on the website, or you can follow ASL Nook on Facebook. But whatever you do, don’t miss out!
I am so pleased to share with you this article by my good friend, early childhood educator Louise Rollins of Maryland/DC Hands & Voices. Though this article specifically addresses techniques for using wordless picture books with deaf and hard of hearing children, these ideas will benefit hearing children as well. So if you thought wordless picture books couldn’t make for a satisfying storytime – think again! This article originally appeared in the Hands & Voices Communicator, Summer 2015, Volume XVIV, Issue 4 and is posted here with permission.
When you search for books for your child, you can identify high-quality children’s books in part because they convey much of the story through the pictures. This is especially important for children who are learning language, as our deaf or hard of hearing children are, since they may not always understand the story through language alone. Wordless picture books are a category of books with very little or no text, where the story is conveyed entirely through the pictures. The same skills that children practice while reading books with text can apply: retelling, understanding story structure, taking multiple perspectives, and making predictions, inferences, and personal connections. Additionally, wordless picture books present unique benefits for deaf or hard of hearing children using any communication modality.
Wordless picture books are excellent for helping your child understand the sequence of events in the story. During book sharing with a traditional book, a child sees part of the story in the picture and perhaps understands part of the story through the text that is read to her, then has to piece together a narrative from those two fractured elements, filling in the blanks on her own as she is able. Using a wordless picture book, your child can understand the events through the picture first, then learn from you the language that describes what she sees. This process helps develop your child’s story comprehension and build her vocabulary.
Because the pictures may be open to some interpretation, wordless picture books create an interactive reading experience where you and your child can discuss what you think is happening in the story. You can encourage your child to take on the role of narrator; even if your child cannot read print yet he can “read” these books independently or to you. Storytelling opportunities help your child practice organizing his thoughts, including sufficient information for his audience, and selecting relevant details. In other words, while practicing reading, your child is also practicing important writing skills, without even picking up a pencil.
When you read wordless picture books, you can modify your storytelling to use single words or shorter phrases. You might want to do this if your child does not yet understand longer strings of connected language, or is still developing his attention span. If you are learning to sign, you do not have to feel bound by the print and feel pressure if you don’t know every sign in the text. If you are learning to cue, you do not have to worry about cueing long passages at one time. Instead, you can focus on telling the story and enjoying book sharing with your child.
What about older children?
Wordless picture books are not limited to simple stories aimed at younger children. You can find intricate and sophisticated stories appropriate for older children as well. The flexible nature of these books fosters creativity and reduces the pressure for your child to produce the “right” answer. If you have a reluctant reader who feels anxiety when presented with print, she may be more comfortable with a wordless picture book. Successfully interacting with a book can empower your child to see herself as a reader and engender a love of reading.
The genre of graphic novels has been rapidly expanding over recent years, creating more age-appropriate opportunities for older children and teens to enjoy wordless picture books. You will find graphic novels that range from little or no text to very print-heavy, but all are sure to convey the story clearly through pictures. An excellent graphic novel to check out is El Deafo by Cece Bell. Although it is text-heavy, it features a deaf main character and positive themes for deaf and hard of hearing readers, and has been well received by fans and critics.
Favorite wordless picture books
By Lita Judge:
By Suzy Lee:
By David Wiesner:
I had such a hard time paring down the list of my favorite wordless picture book titles or authors! For many more titles, click here and look for “wordless” in the book descriptions.
A final thought
Wordless picture books can provide you and your child with less pressure and more freedom to enjoy story time together. Please remember that you can try every single one of these suggestions with traditional books as well. Ignore the text, read the story in a way that matches your or your child’s language skills, make up your own story, let your child take a turn – whatever you do, make reading fun!
Louise Rollins has worked with deaf and hard of hearing children and their families in early intervention, school, and recreational settings in Maryland for thirteen years. She loves high-quality children’s literature and book-sharing with families.
Hands & Voices is a non-profit, parent-driven organization dedicated to supporting families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Author Dawn Babb Prochovnic answers the question: “How do you physically hold a book and sign along with it?” with a series of links, videos, and more to help you put more signs in your stories! Check out the post at Dawn’s blog.
Congratulations to Greenberries on the opening of their second location! I am proud to continue to bring parent-child sign language classes to the Columbia location and excited to start up at the new Hampden location!
Diaper & Potty Signs: Saturday, January 31 at 9:00 am at Greenberries Columbia, 6925 Oakland Mills Rd, Columbia, Maryland 21045
$14 per adult | $20 per couple Click here to register.
First Signs: Sunday, February 22, at 11:00 am at Greenberries Baltimore, 915 W 36th St, Baltimore, Maryland 21211
$14 per adult | $20 per couple Click here to register.