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Would your students like to talk through windows, chat to their friends in lessons without attracting the teacher’s attention and make new friends?
If the answer is yes, they need to learn to sign.
Learning to sign isn’t just about secret conversations though. It’s also a great skill which can improve your communication skills and give you a valuable insight into the enormously expressive world of deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users.
BSL is a complex language with its own structure and grammar. From science to philosophy, if you can talk about in English, you can talk about it in BSL. Becoming fluent in BSL takes years of study, but learning a few signs can be the start of a journey of discovery into the richness of deaf language and culture.
For the last six years, sign2sing has been giving students from across the UK the exciting opportunity to learn a few signs while raising money to help vulnerable deaf children in the UK and Uganda. Schools learn a specially written song with simple signs from fun line-by-line online tutorials presented by deaf performer Fletch.
There’s no need for teachers to be expert signers or musicians, as all the resources needed are provided on the sign2sing website – from fingerspelling posters and lessons plans, through to musical backing tracks and musical scores.
Teachers find that sign2sing complements many areas of the curriculum, including PSHE, communication, music and drama. Learning simple signs is a great way of starting a conversation in class about how others communicate and the barriers faced by deaf people when negotiating an essentially hearing world. It can also stimulate children to examine the way they themselves communicate in English; how, just as in BSL, they use facial expressions and gesture to convey and amplify their message.
Schools also find that sign2sing provides a way to encourage children to think about diversity, respecting differences and caring for others. Last year’s sign2sing song, ‘Reach Out Your Hand’ carried a strong anti-bullying message and was accompanied by a video featuring deaf and hearing children playing happily together.
Along similar lines, the 2017 song, ‘Together’, explores themes such as helping others, cooperation and kindness.
Jessamy Mayhew, Head of Performing Arts at Cottesloe School in Wing, says her students enjoy collaborating to learn the song and signs and perform them: “We love the fact that it encourages the students to sing and use their voices, which is really important in the music curriculum. And the fact that they learn signs as well, and that it’s accessible to all students.”
Music teacher Louise Vane from Oasis Academy Johanna in London has found that learning to sign helps children gain confidence: “The children absolutely love learning the song and signs. They learn so quickly and enjoy going home to show what they’ve learned to their families.
“Children who are normally shy about doing actions or joining in really respond well. You can see their confidence growing.”
Teachers across the UK find sign2sing a really positive addition to their schools calendar of activities. They particularly value its versatility, with schools adapting the event to suit their school’s style and ethos and the abilities of the students. Teachers frequently say they are amazed at how quickly the children learn the signs.
Adina Presman, Music Teacher at Archbishop Sumner School sums it up well: “There are lots of useful resources on the sign2sing website to help you learn the signs and songs. The songs are brilliant and the videos are great. You don’t need specialist knowledge – any teacher can teach the songs. It takes just a few minutes out of assembly for a week or so and I guarantee you’ll have lots of fun!”
To find out more, visit www.sign2sing.org.uk