The signs for the alphabet letters are very important in learning sign language. Many of the letter hand shapes are used in other signs, so learning the alphabet is a useful beginning skill. Very young children often cannot make the hand shapes accurately, but they can recognize them so it is important to model them correctly. My youngest daughter seemed to magically learn to recognize the printed alphabet with no input from her parents. In reality, she learned them when she learned the ASL alphabet while watching Signing Time!
Here are some resources to help teach or practice the sign language alphabet:
There are many, many alphabet books available; the following are just the ones we own ourselves and a few from the local library that I like to use with the playgroup.
This book has a phrase on each page to go with the alphabet letter. As I read, I hold up one hand showing the alphabet sign. Later, when kids know the alphabet, you could use this simple book to introduce the signs for some of the words in the book, like bird, bike, ants, horse, house, etc.
This one I have memorized from reciting it so often to my oldest as a way to calm her to sleep at night as a very young child. Another good one to show the sign for the letter as you read.
This comes with a cd that has the added bonus of teaching your child what twenty six different musical instruments sound like. There are also twenty six animals to learn, although there are not individual ASL signs for all those animals, so for some, like a few of the more obscure birds, I just sign bird if I am adding the animal signs when I read the book. I could finger spell nightingale, but I am not focusing on my daughter recognizing the word nightingale in sign.
The illustrations are incredible. You can spend as much time on each page as a child has interest. For more advanced or older students, you can challenge them to play I Spy and sign an object that they must find on the page.
This is a Sing and Read Storybook. Although it is not an alphabet book, it can get you to practice some finger spelling that is not in alphabetical order. You might be surprised at how hard you find it to sign the “G” in Bingo after practicing the alphabet in alphabetical order only.
This alphabet book has wonderful illustrations as well. The illustration is shown the page before the words, so you have to guess what the words will say, based upon the picture. Make sure you look for Fritz, the dog in all of Van Allsburg’s books.
I did have a period of time when my older child did not like it because she thought it was scary. Things happen to the letters, like the “Q” gets quartered, the “T” is tied up. At a certain age, children sometimes have an imagination that runs away with them, about the time that people in costumes terrify them. Once my daughter passed that stage, she enjoyed the book again.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Jan Brett’s ABCs is found for free and has the sign language alphabet on each page.
DLTK’s site has a printable BINGO with the ASL alphabet that I use. I use the 3 x 3 configuration for the cards because smaller kids do not have the patience for a 5 x 5 set. I printed a bunch and laminated them to use over and over again. I keep them in my playgroup bag in case we ever have extra time.
I also made a matching game by printing out the ASL signs for the alphabet, along with the printed alphabet letters. I used a set of fancy scissors (that I bought a long time ago to scrapbook with and do not use for that purpose ) to cut apart the letter and sign from one another so that the matching cards could be self checking. I will try to add a photo later so you can see what I mean.
I have a set of ASL alphabet letters from Dollar Tree that were meant to be used as a border for a bulletin board. I cut them apart and spread them on the floor. The kids march around to some alphabet themed song. When the music stops, they pick up the closest sign and sign and say the letter.
I have a set of ASL alphabet stamps that I have used to have the kids stamp the letters of their name on paper.
Another idea is to cut out hand shapes and have them try to fold the hand to look like the first letter of their name. This one would work best if you know in advance all the kids names who will come so you can test it out first to see how difficult it would be.
Signing Time! has the song, “A is for Alex” which can be used to just practice all the alphabet letters, or for those who are more advanced, to learn many more signs.
There is always the quintessential ABC song to sign and sing.
They Might Be Giants has a cd and dvd called “Here Come the ABCs” which has a backwards alphabet song for a greater challenge.