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For this playgroup, I used the names of some common toys as well as action words.

BOOKS:

For this playgroup, I used some nursery rhymes.

Jack Be Nimble can be used for jump and fast (quick.)

Hey Diddle Diddle can be used for cat, cow, jump, moon, dog, laugh, to see, dish, ran, with, spoon, fun.

Humpty Dumpty can be used for sat, fall, horses, again. (Check out the sign writing for Humpty Dumpty.)

Mother Goose Land has some great print outs of these nursery rhymes with drawings and the words to share as you share the signs. Since many kids and most parents are familiar with these rhymes, it is easier for them to concentrate on learning the signs to go with them.

Games and Activities:

1. Simon Signs is a good game to play with the action words. The leader starts by signing one of the action words and the rest must do the action. Let the kids take turns being the leader. This is a good one to use in mixed age groups because the older kids can be the leader, while the younger ones do the actions.

2. Jump the Candlestick: I had a crocheted candlestick that I let the kids jump over as we recite the rhyme.

3. Beanbag Toss: I put pictures of the toys or people doing the action words on paper plates. The kids throw a beanbag or sticky ball at the plates. The thrower signs whatever word the ball lands upon.

4.Simple Board Game: I made some simple board games at a English as a Second Language site with pictures of the words we are practicing. Kids roll a die, move to a spot on the board, and sign the word.

5. Parachute: Using the parachute we practice ball, slow, fast, stop, and go.

Crafts: I have a set of stencils of kids doing various outdoor activities that kids can trace and draw pictures. I also print out copies of nursery rhymes coloring pages, like these: Jack Be Nimble, Humpty Dumpty, Hey Diddle Diddle

Songs:

1. Signing Time: I’m Really Good At
2. Baby Signing Time: I Can Keep It Still
3. Jim Along Josie from Games, Games, Games by Wee Sing

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Young children are just beginning to discover the world around them. For toddlers and preschoolers, the neighborhood is their world. So, learning signs for the places and people in their neighborhood seems like an important theme.

BOOKS:

I had a hard time finding the perfect book or set of books for this theme. Perhaps one day I will try to write a book called, “A Walk Through the Neighborhood.” There were several good books to help teach about each of the places and people in the neighborhood, but finding a good, simple book that included most of the words for the signs I included in this theme was difficult. Perhaps I will come upon one later, or a reader of this blog will share one he or she discovers.


The Post Office Book: Mail and how It Moves shares many details about mail. With young children, looking at the pictures and paraphrasing might be best.

Although I did not use The Jolly Postman with my playgroup, it is a fun read to do one on one with a child. It has fun letters inside the book that can be taken out and read. In our household, my daughter took them all out and now I am not sure they are back in the correct spots, lol.

My three year old loves Froggy Goes To The Doctor, which is a good book to use to introduce or remind a child about doctor’s visits.


This is another book with quite a bit of detail. Depending upon the age range of a playgroup, it might be used to look at the pictures of the different areas of the store and to review food signs.


I would suggest the board book version of Policeman Small because it is much shorter and more manageable for young children.


For those really interested in firefighters, this book contains much information. With its large photos, this book is good for glancing through the pages and sharing some of the information along with practicing the sign for firefighter in a playgroup setting.


All Around Town! : exploring your community through craft fun has several ideas for crafts, songs, and activities to go along with this theme.

GAMES and ACTIVITIES:

For this theme, I set up the room as a walk through the neighborhood. I had the following stations set up:

1. Mailbox: Kids get a chance to play with the mailbox, getting mail, and delivering mail. At this station I share a book about the mail and practice signs for mail/letter, stamp, mail box, and letter carrier.

2. Doctor kit: Children can play with a doctor kit, taking turns being doctor, nurse, and patient. We practice the signs for doctor and nurse.

3. Beanbag/ball toss: I use paper plates as targets. Each paper plate has a person from the neighborhood on it, which are paper dolls found at Making Friends. Each child tosses a bean bag or suction ball onto a plate. Whichever person the ball/bag lands on must be signed. I used firefighter, doctor, nurse, and police officer.

4. Store: For this station, I have a cash register, along with a basket of groceries. Kids take turns using items and we practice the sign for store. Other signs that could be taught include: buy, money, food signs. At this station I may also share a book about the supermarket.

5. Restaurant: A table with dishes, cups, and utensils makes this station. Kids take turns having their orders taken at the restaurant. We practice the sign for restaurant and can also practice food signs and signs for cup, plate, fork, spoon, knife.

6. Library: For this station, we go to the table kids are used to using for stories and we learn the sign for library and read one or two books. I found a magazine with a library scene to use here and read Policeman Small and perhaps share a fireman book. I happen to have some small fire trucks and police cars from kids’ meals that I let the kids play with here as well.

CRAFTS:

I have some community stencils that I picked up on clearance from Oriental Trading Company that I use for this theme. Another option is having the kids color and/or glue clothes on paper dolls from Making Friends.

SONGS:

1. Signing Time! has two songs appropriate for this theme: “In My Neighborhood” and “My Job.” I usually start the playgroup by watching those two songs on dvd and then end by listening and trying to sign along with one or both at the end of the playgroup. These are found on the My Neighborhood dvd.

2. The All Around Town book mentioned above has two song ideas in it. One is about a policeman and is to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” The other is about a postman and is to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

With every theme, I find pictures of the items we will be learning the signs for, laminate them and hold them up as I teach the signs. These pictures can then be used in various simple games since they are laminated.

If you have found other resources for this theme, please let me know. I would love to add new ideas to each of these themes.

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Teaching toddlers and preschoolers to recognize colors by name is a popular theme without even considering teaching the ASL signs to go with them. There are many resources available to teach colors that can be adapted to learning the ASL signs. I have compiled a few of my favorites here that I have used with toddlers and preschoolers.

BOOKS:

I do not own as many books with colors as a theme as I do farm animals; however I do have a couple that we really enjoy. I have also discovered some at our local library while researching this theme.

1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, with illustrations by Eric Carle is a classic. There are two versions of this book. We happen to own both. I have one version that ends with a teacher and one that ends with a mother. I personally like the illustrations better in the mother one, but our teacher version is larger, so I may use that in a playgroup with several children to help with seeing the book. This book has lots of animals that you can sign as well.


2. Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh is another great colors book. In this one, some mice end up playing with paint. Children can learn about mixing colors with this book as well.


3. Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd involves a dog getting into different messes throughout the day that add colorful spots to his coat. The colors can be identified as well as counted.


4. My Crayons Talk by Patricia Hubbard, with illustrations by G. Brian Karas is a new find today at the library. It has a catchy rhyming quality to it and the illustrations look like they could have been done with crayons, at least in part.


5. Leon the Chameleon by Melanie Watt is the story of a chameleon who cannot turn the correct color. He always turns the opposite color. Since the whole page is one color and Leo is the opposite, it makes it easy for kids to find Leo and sign his color. You can also sign the color he should have turned.


6. Magpie Magic by April Wilson is an absolute delight to read, although there are no words.. The illustrations jump from the page as the story unfolds, just as the magpie in the story jumps from the page. This one might be hard for sharing with younger kids, but my three year old told me tonight that I needed to share it with the playgroup. I think the person sharing it would have to ask lots of questions of the kids as the pages were shown to get them to figure out the story.

7. A printable book of colors is available at kiddyhouse. You may need to search under Lesson Plans and then Colors to find the page. You need a pdf reader to print the book.

I also made a book of colors using my Cricut cutting machine. I made the animals from Brown Bear, Brown Bear and just put the color word with the animal. I added the colors that were not in the story that I also wanted to teach.

GAMES:

There are several games for a variety of age groups available on the internet to print out with a color theme. I will try to compile the ones I have used here, although it is a year since I printed some of them out and I may not be able to find them all again.

1. Fishing Game: I cut out fish in each color that I was teaching with my Cricut machine, but you could easily draw a simple fish to cut out by hand. I then laminated the fish and attached magnets to them. For fishing poles, I use dowels with a string that has a nut tied to the end. As each child catches a fish, he or she must sign the color that was caught.
2. Memory/Matching Game: I found graphics of various items that were in each of the colors as well as drawings of each of the signs. Match the sign to the correct color graphic.
3. Board Game: I found a website that offered simple one page board games to print out. I printed out a couple on card stock and laminated them. I then used some more of the graphics as cards for the game. Kids pick a card, sign the color, and then roll the die to see how many spaces to go.
4. Parachute play: I have a parachute with the colors. Kids can be asked to go to their favorite color and then sign it. The instructor can sign a color and have kids go to the color. An object can be placed in the parachute and the group works together to make the object go to the color that is signed.
5. Go Fish Card Game: For preschoolers, the cards at this ESL site could be used. They also have a BINGO game on the site for colors. Many ESL sites have simple games that can be adapted for use in learning ASL.

SONGS:

1. Signing Time! has “Do You Know the Colors of the Rainbow?” as well as the “Box of Crayons” song.
2. There is also a “Colors” song on Games, Games, Games from Wee Sing.

CRAFTS:

For a craft for this playgroup theme, I found a book of colors, “My Itsy Bitsy Colors Book” at kidzone. They also have minibooks on individual colors available for printout.

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Why are farm animals so popular in children’s books and why do we spend so much time teaching our babies how to make animal noises? I am not sure, but I do know that animal themes are easy to plan and great for engaging young children. I like doing a farm animal theme in the spring; sometime I would like to coordinate a field trip to the local farm park to practice signing our animals as we see them in person.

BOOKS:

There are many books that include farm animals, so most families with young children probably know or own a few. Here are a few of the ones I have used with my playgroup:


1. Peek-a-Moo is a simple lift a flap book with several farm animals playing peek-a-boo. To get the children engaged, ask them to sign which animal they think will be under the flap. This is a good book for the very young because there are lots of clues to make it simple to guess the animal.

2. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Felicia
Bond was a new book for me last year, even though I was familiar with the author and had read several of her books with my girls. Look for the stuffed animal that reminds me of Ernie from Sesame Street laying out next to the haystack in this one.

3. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is a book that we actually have two copies of at home. One is available as a lift a flap, while another has texture to feel the spider’s web. I had forgotten to get this one out last week. I may grab this one for next week’s playgroup.

4. I Went Walking is another simple book great for signing farm animals. I was introduced to this one by one of our speech therapists.

5. Old Macdonald Had A Farm by Carol Jones is a great book version of the song. It has small peeking circles to look through to guess which animal will be next in the song. This is a book that might involve lots of noise as the kids get excited about guessing. Remind them to sign the animal when they know it instead of yelling.

6. Skip To My Lou is another book version of a song that has plenty of farm animals in it. You could use either the book or the song, or both in a playgroup.

GAMES:

I own a bowling set for toddlers and preschoolers that is mostly farm animals so I bring it along and have the kids bowl. Whichever animals they bowl over (or kick over if they are really young) they need to sign. There is a set at Genius Babies that is all farm animals, but if you are on a budget you could easily make your own using some small sized plastic bottles and pictures of farm animals drawn or printed out from the internet.

For the playgroup that is more preschooler than toddler, try out Farm Bingo at BOGGLESWORLDESL.COM. I suggest using the three by three Bingo boards, otherwise it is too overwhelming and preschoolers will soon lose interest. I sign the animal and then the kids cover up the animal they think I signed. I printed these on card stock and laminated them to make them sturdy and reusable.

To make a matching game, print out the farm animal cards from TeachChildrenESL. I printed one set of the farm animals and then made up a set of cards the same size with drawings of the signs from a book that allowed photocopies for educational use. You could use photos of yourself making the signs or drawings of the signs as well.

SONGS:

1. Old Macdonald is one that most kids know. This makes it easier for them to concentrate on the signs. You could use the song from a kids’ songs compilation like Wee Sing, but I usually just sing it myself and ask the kids to join in. I don’t say the animals, only sign them and expect the kids to sign and sing them.

2. Skip to my Lou is another that could be sung, listened to, or read. Since that one might be a little less well known, you might want to read it, then either sing it or listen to it and try to do the signs for animals mentioned.

3. Leah’s Farm is found on the music for volumes 7-9 of Signing Time!. I like to start out my signing playgroup by playing just the song from the video, then later on play the song and see if the kids can sign the animals along with the song.

4. Hear the Little Doggie is found on the Pick Me Up! cd and book set. This song has great real life animal sounds that really grab kids’ attention.

CRAFTS:

I have two different crafts I have done for this theme. One is fairly simple, while the other involves some planning and time to complete.

1. Enchanted Learning has a simple Farm Animal Word Book available to print out for each child. I had the kids color the animals, try to write the word (preschoolers), and gave them drawings of the signs to paste into the book.

2. For a more complex idea, I came up with a lift the flap book. I used the eight page book idea found in this pdf file. I used white card stock and premade the eight page books. Then, I used my Cricut to cut out farm animals. You could also find small drawing of farm animals online to use for this purpose. For each inside page, I made a flap in the following manner: I cut out a piece of contrasting card stock approximated 4 by 2 inches. I folded it in half and glued it into the book. I also made copies of drawings of the signs that would fit on the top of the flap.


Once at the playgroup, kids were given the book, the cutouts of the animals, and the drawings of the signs. With a parent’s help, they glued the animals under the flaps and the matching signs on top of the flaps.

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Valentine ASL I love you

February seems to be the perfect month to have a theme based upon feelings. Emotions can be difficult for kids to understand, so being able to have a sign for them can be helpful. Of course, along with the sign you really need to use your face to convey the meaning; the face is a very important part of American Sign Language.

With my playgroup I was excited the first time I did this theme to find a bunch of signs for feelings. After doing the playgroup I realized that I probably covered more signs than small kids could handle, especially since they are signs for non-concrete things. This time around I will focus more on the basic emotions and just give a handout with extras for families that are interested in learning more.

Craft:

Above you can see my oldest daughter’s craft from last year’s playgroup. Even the excess glue shows up in the photo. I asked the kids to give the ASL I love you Valentine to someone special to show love for someone else. My kids were kind enough to give theirs to me so I still have them. For this craft I used a hand print template and cut them all out ahead of time. (At the time I had a hard time finding that hand, so I wanted to be sure you had the link.) This time I will use my Cricut to cut out hand shapes with the My Community or Learning Curve cartridge, which will save me a bunch of time. I also used the Cricut to cut out the hearts, although that would be easy enough to cut out on your own.

Books with feelings words:

The Way I Feel, written and illustrated by Janan Cain

My three year old daughter loves this one. I bought it from a Scholastic book order last year after realizing I did not have enough books for this theme. It has the following feelings: silly*, scared*, disappointed, happy*, sad*, angry*, thankful, frustrated, shy, bored, excited*, jealous, and proud*. The starred ones are covered during my playgroups.

How I Feel Scared, How I Feel Happy, How I Feel Silly

I found this series at a used book store. My youngest daughter decided to be scared of everything in the book about that emotion after several readings, so be forewarned.

How Do You Feel? by Mandy Stanley

I just found this one randomly in the library in the board books section. It has a good range of emotions in it, along with lots of animals that can be signed as well.

When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio

This is a great find that I mentioned last week in my entry about going to the library. This one is a little long for the very young, so we will see how it goes at our playgroup; I would tend to use it with the group if it was mostly preschoolers, as opposed to toddlers.

Songs:

The perennial favorite, If You’re Happy And You Know It can have as many verses as you want. I usually put in things like, “If you’re mad and you know it, stomp your feet.” Sometimes, I put in an emotion and ask for suggestions from the kids for the action to go with it.


Signing Time! has a feelings song called, Feelings, from volume four of the first season.

For the sign “proud,” the song Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee could be used. This is a short song that can be found in a variety of places, including Wee Sing Silly Songs.

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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:

BOOKS:

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.


The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman

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.


Dr. Seuss’s ABC An Amazing Alphabet Book

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.


Wee Sing and Learn ABC by Pamela Conn Beall and Susan Hagen Nipp, illustrated by Yudthana Pongmee

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.


Animalia by Graeme Base

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.


B-I-N-G-O Illustrated by Hans Wilhelm

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.


The Z Was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg

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.

GAMES:

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.

CRAFTS:

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.

SONGS:

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.

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