An ASL Dictionary

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

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Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

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Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

When and How to Start Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby

When and How to Start Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, February 4, 2016

By Jillian Winn

When to start signing with your hearing baby?

Experts recommend to start talking to your child at birth – even newborns benefit from hearing speech and talking to your child is an important part of how they learn language and to speak. You can talk to them, describe what you are doing as you’re doing it, describe what’s going on around you, tell stories, sing songs, and read books.

Because we would talk to our son when he was born, it just seemed natural to also start signing right away as well.  Plus, research has shown signing activates the area of the brain that makes learning a new word easier,1 2 so why not! It’s never too early (or late) to start signing with children. Babies as young as 4 months old can start using signs (signing them) if they have been introduced to the signs for at least a month.3 The wait for the first sign is usually the longest, but often there will be an increase of signs used.4 Don’t be discouraged if your child is older, it is never too late to start learning sign language and there are benefits to learning sign language at any age.

How many signs should we start with?

There isn’t an ideal number of signs to start with.  Many children grow up in bilingual households and are able to learn multiple languages.  How many signs you start using with your baby really depends on what works for you and your family.

  • If you are a fluent or native signer, use sign language all of the time.
  • If you are not a fluent signer, but have a deaf infant, try to learn ASL yourself and use it as much as you can.
  • If you are excited about learning sign language, learn as much as you can and incorporate as much as you can into your daily language.
  • If you’re new to sign language and want to start signing with your hearing baby, the key is to do what you’re comfortable with and don’t get overwhelmed.  Start with a few signs and go from there.  Add more signs as it makes sense to do so, just keep with it!  Being able to communicate with your baby using sign before they can talk is rewarding for both you and your child.

We are hearing parents of hearing children. When we started signing with our first son, we wouldn’t sign everything we said, just the words that were most common to his world. For example, when saying, “Do you want milk?” We would just sign MILK (with the appropriate facial expression for asking a question).  Eventually we would add more signs, such as MILK + WANT.

Repetition is also an important part to learning new things, so we tried to be consistent in the signs that we used and picked signs that would occur naturally during a typical day. Now, with our second son, in addition to signing signs, I like to fingerspell words to him, like his name, his brother’s name, etc. (I like to have the excuse to practice my fingerspelling!). The “right” way to introduce signs to your baby is whatever works for you and your family, just keep at it and keep adding more signs!

What signs should we start with?

There has been an increasing trend for hearing parents to teach their hearing babies sign language, because of that, there are a number of baby signing resources available and varying opinions on how to do it and how to get started.

The most common recommendations of signs to start with are:

But I wouldn’t recommend starting with the most “common” baby signs or sticking to any get-started list. After all, you’re not creating lesson plans and teaching class, you’re just living life and incorporating signing into your everyday activities. The best strategy is to pick signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s life.  For example, if your baby doesn’t use a PACIFIER or have a TEDDY BEAR, then there is no reason to have those included in the signs you start with.

You will also want to think about timing – when you start signing with your baby and what they do on a regular basis should have a big influence on the signs you start with.  For example, if you start signing right away with your baby, the first signs you choose may be MILK, SLEEP, and POTTY because all they do is eat, sleep and go to the bathroom.  You wouldn’t want COOKIE to be one of the first signs at that age because you don’t give a newborn a cookie and it wouldn’t be a regular part of their world yet.

Read our other articles on suggestions of what to sign at different baby ages.  These include examples of what I signed with my son and are meant to be a rough guide, but make sure that you only use suggestions as a guide and pick signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s world.

You can easily use Signing Savvy to create your own custom word list of signs for each stage or age of your baby’s life. Sharing the word lists you have created is a great way to get other people, like grandparents and babysitters, in the loop on what signs your baby is learning or knows.

Resources

  1. Kelly, S., McDevitt, T., and Esch, M. (2009). Brief training with co-speech gesture lends a hand to word learning in a foreign language. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24(2), 313-334.
  2. Xu, J., Gannon, P., Emmorey, K., Smith, J., & Braun, A. (2009). Symbolic gestures and spoken language are processed by a common neural system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(49), 20664-20669.
  3. Thorne, B. (2011, August 20). More day care centers, parents using sign language to communicate with babies. MLive. Retrieved 10/29/2014 from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/08/more_day_care_centers_parents.html
  4. Berg, L. (2012). The Baby Signing Bible. New York: Penguin Group.

 

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5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency

5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency

Learning Tips   |  Monday, October 5, 2015

By John Miller

Deaf adults who grew up in hearing families often talk about their lives as young children being a blur because they never knew what was happening or why. Being herded around and gestured to without proper communication are commonly reported.

You may have heard the old saying, "chaos breads discontent." It’s true. Children thrive on a routine and consistency in their lives.  For many young children, the beginning of their school career is the first time they are exposed to a schedule and have to follow a routine. The transition may be difficult in the beginning, but before long most children have settled into this new way of life and feel comfortable because the routine helps them to know what to expect.

The same thing holds true for deaf children, maybe even more so. Many deaf children are born into families where communication is a struggle and if the household lacks routine, the child may have more difficulties understanding what’s going on. This is where routines and consistency will be helpful for them. Routines and consistency also help with reinforcing language and vocabulary learning, as well as concept development.

Here are 5 tips to help with creating a language rich environment through routine and consistency:

1. Eat at the dinner table with the family as often as possible.

Set a realistic goal of eating dinner together as often as you can. While at the dinner table, take advantage of the "captive audience" by asking questions and getting them talking/signing.

2. Read at least one book a night to your child.

Read at least one book a night even if in the beginning it only consists of looking through the book and doing signs here and there for the various pictures. You can create wordlists on Signing Savvy to go along with the books to help you and your child learn the signs from the book. Your child’s teacher can help with this also.

Also see our article on Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

3. Communicate daily with your child’s teacher.

If your child is in school (or daycare), ask the teacher for topics discussed and activities conducted each day so that you can review them with your child before bed. This is great example of an activity to help expand you and your child's vocabulary.  Signing Savvy's ability to look up signs and create shared word lists, especially if done in collaboration with the teacher, can assist with this routine.

4. Create a schedule with signs. 

Creating a schedule helps to give your deaf child a clear idea of what will be happening throughout their day. When creating the schedule, include  pictures, words, and signs (you can print signs from Signing Savvy).

Create a schedule for a consistent routine

Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.

5. Have your child write about their day.

Have your child keep a special notebook or journal where they write about their day. "Writing" in the journal can consist of pictures, words, signs, and/or shadow writing through parents as helpers. This is a great way to create memories, brainstorm things to talk about, and go back to read what they wrote so they can reflect on their week. The journal can also be shown and shared with others. 

To get started, any notebook will do, but if you are looking for a journal with questions and prompts to help get your child writing and doodling, here are some you could try.

Starter Journals for Younger Children (4 - 8 years old):

My Book About Me

Draw & Write Children's Journal

Doodle Books for tweens and teens (8 - 16 years old):

Doodle Diary: Art Journaling for Girls

Doodle Sketchbook: Art Journaling for Boys

The key with any of these suggestions is to be consistent. Consistent, predictable routines with language can help make their world a "clearer" one.

Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking signingsavvy.com to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!

 

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Use Sign Language to Communicate With Your Hearing Baby Before They Can Talk – An Overview of Why to Use American Sign Language (ASL)

Use Sign Language to Communicate With Your Hearing Baby Before They Can Talk – An Overview of Why to Use American Sign Language (ASL)

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, August 6, 2015

By Jillian Winn

Babies have thoughts and feelings they want to communicate with you much sooner than they develop the verbal skills to be able to express those thoughts through speech.

How Babies Communicate

Newborn waivingMy son waiving his hands at about one week old.

Babies communicate by crying differently in different circumstances, cooing and smiling in response to you, making baby-babble sounds, making facial expressions, mimicking your gestures, waiving their hands, and squeezing your fingers. There are theories and even products to help parents analyze their baby’s cries, but you don’t have to be a baby whisperer to understand what your baby is trying to communicate if you give them tools to express themselves in a way you can understand – baby sign language.

On average, babies don’t start to say words until around 1 year old. However, their cognitive skills for thinking, feeling, and recognizing action and reaction develop much earlier. They also develop hand-eye coordination at an earlier age – first they squeeze your finger and eventually they point, wave, and mimic your gestures.

Babies naturally use their hands and facial expressions to communicate. Both of my sons, like many babies, would pucker their lips into an “O,” tilt their head to the side, and punch their little fist in the air when they were hungry. They are instinctively looking for the breast or bottle, but they are also clearly communicating through their hands and facial expressions.

Because babies are able to make and mimic gestures, they are able to learn baby sign language and use it to communicate before they can talk.

Signing with Hearing Babies

Baby sign language is the use of signs to communicate with infants and toddlers. It’s not its own language. When you teach signs to a baby, often you would use American Sign Language (if you are in the United States or Canada where American Sign Language is used, otherwise you would use the sign language used in your region, such as British Sign Language or French Sign Language), but some people use other types of sign language or even use modified or made-up signs. Of course, we recommend using American Sign Language (ASL).

There are many advantages to using ASL when teaching your hearing baby to sign. It is a real language. Because it is a real language, other people are familiar with the signs, there is no need to “remember” a made-up sign, and there are resources to use to look up signs (Signing Savvy, of course!).

Knowing ASL is also fun for children when they see others using it. As the child grows up, they may meet deaf peers or other people who know ASL. Some preschools and daycares are beginning to incorporate sign language into their curriculum and it is becoming more common to see ASL in popular media, such as commercials, television shows, and movies.

Benefits of Signing

There are many benefits of being able to communicate with your baby using sign language before they can talk. Research studies have found parents who sign with their infants and toddlers reported:

  • Fewer tantrums1
  • Better social skills1
  • Less frustration (from both children and parents)1
  • Less parenting-related stress2 3
  • More affectionate interactions2 3
  • Easier time responding to upset children2 3

Research studies have found that signing activates the area of the brain that makes learning a new word easier4 5 and infants and toddlers that used signs had better language skills than children that did not use signs.6 7 They found children who used signs:

  • Had larger vocabularies and understood and used more words5
  • Used longer sentences5
  • Had a higher Verbal IQ8

Of course, the greatest immediate benefit is that your baby is able to communicate with you and you are able to understand them. 

We started signing with our first son when he was born.  MILK is the first sign he started to use and the sign that he would use most often (he still has an addiction to milk at the age of 2.5 years old!).  He would use some signs, but I remember clearly the first time he used sign to really make a strong statement. I had given him a sippy cup with water in it.  He instantly started to cry, dramatically threw the sippy cup on the ground, and forcefully raised his fist in the air and began repeatedly signing milk.  His actions, combined with his signing, made his message very clear: “Mom, this water is not going to cut it. I want milk!!”  So although he had a mini tantrum, it was short-lived because I knew he wasn’t frustrated just because he didn’t want water, but because we wanted milk – and NOW!

Although most useful for understanding our son’s desires, signing was also a great way for us to learn and practice vocabulary together and get a glimpse into his thoughts.  One example is we would use animal signs when reading books with animals and when playing with animal toys.  Because he wasn’t talking yet, it was hard to know if he was learning the animal names, but we were happily surprised when we went to the zoo and he was excitedly signing all of the animals to us as we saw each new animal.

cheering

It’s easy to start signing with your baby and it’s amazing to be able to communicate with them through sign before they are able to talk.

To get started, simply use signs when communicating with your child. There isn’t a “right” way or specific order to learning or teaching signs, just start by picking signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s life.

Resources

  1. Acredolo, L. & Goodwyn, S. (2002). Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk. Chicago: Contemporary Books.
  2. Gongora, X. & Farkas C. (2009). Infant sign language program effects on synchronic mother-infant interactions. Infant Behavior & Development, 32, 216-225.
  3. Vallotton, C. (2012). Infant signs as intervention? Promoting symbolic gestures for preverbal children in low-income families supports responsive parent-child relationships. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(3), 401-415.
  4. Kelly, S., McDevitt, T., and Esch, M. (2009). Brief training with co-speech gesture lends a hand to word learning in a foreign language. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24(2), 313-334.
  5. Xu, J., Gannon, P., Emmorey, K., Smith, J., & Braun, A. (2009). Symbolic gestures and spoken language are processed by a common neural system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(49), 20664-20669.
  6. Goodwyn, S. & Acredolo L. (1993). Symbolic gesture versus word: Is there a modality advantage for onset of symbol use? Child Development, 64(3): p. 688-701.
  7. Goodwyn, S., Acredolo, L., & Brown, A. L. (2000). Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior, 24(2), 81-103.
  8. Acredolo, L. & Goodwyn, S. (2000). The long-term impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8. International Society for Infant Studies. Brighton, U.K.

 

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Iconic Signs Featured as the Sign of the Day

Learning Tips   |  Friday, March 20, 2015

By Jillian Winn

Next week, from March 22 through March 29, our Sign of the Days will feature iconic signs. Iconic signs convey the meaning of what is being signed. Look for the signs for HELLO, DRINK, EAT, AIRPLANE, CAR, BICYCLE, TYPE, and BALL.

You can see more iconic signs by visiting the Iconic Signs wordlist from the soon to be released book Activities in American Sign Language published by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Press. The book by Brenda Cartwright and Sue Bahleda groups signs by topic with practice sentences and great activities - a fun way to learn and practice American Sign Language.

Check out the wordlists that correspond with the book and watch for the book to be released soon!

 

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2015 Read Across America Day

2015 Read Across America Day

Learning Tips   |  Monday, March 2, 2015

By John Miller

Read Across America Day is every year on March 2nd - Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The whole month of March is also National Reading Month. The events are used to encourage reading and literacy.  Reading any book is great, but the National Education Association chooses a book every year and this year’s book is the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

Resources for this year’s Read Across America Day

Get the book:

Printable activities to accompany the book: 

Crossword - Oh, The Places You Will Go     Drawing Activity - Oh, The Places You Will Go     Counting Activity - Oh, The Places You Will Go

How ever you spend Read Across America Day or National Reading Month, we hope you enjoy a good book!

For more on the importance of reading to children and tips for reading with children who are deaf and hard of hearing, see our article on Tips for Reading to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.

Resources:

 

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