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Address Different Student Learning Styles with American Sign Language (ASL)

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 4/5/2012

Children learn and recall new information easier when the information is presented in a variety of formats. Incorporating ASL signs into your lessons can be an easy way to address many different formats and student learning styles at once.

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    All teachers are tasked with presenting their lessons in a format that will be most beneficial for their students, despite the fact that each student differs in how they process information. This is particularly true in a special education classroom, where children with varying abilities learn new information most easily when it is presented to them in different formats.

    Some students must see the material (visual), others learn best by using their bodies to show information (kinesthetic), while others must hear and say the new information to best understand it (auditory). Unfortunately, it can be challenging for teachers to incorporate all of these strategies in only one lesson. American Sign Language (ASL) can be used in your curriculum to address all of these.

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    The Cone of Experience

    Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience, revised by Bruce Hyland, states that:

    “We Learn . . .

    10% of what we read

    20% of what we hear

    30% of what we see

    50% of what we hear and see

    70% of what we say

    90% of what we both say and do."

    Edgar Dale also states that:

    It often follows, then, that the more numerous and varied the media we employ, the richer and more secure will be the concepts we develop. Well-chosen instructional materials of various kinds can provide a variety of experiences that enhance the learning of a given subject for any student at any given point in his continuing development."

    Therefore, we can conclude that the more children use sign language in their daily lessons, the more they will retain the material they learn. By speaking and signing words to your students, and having them repeat it and sign it back to you; they are hearing it, seeing it, saying it and doing it. (90% recall according to the Cone of Experience.)

    You will also address many different methods of instruction at once which helps auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.

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    Incorporating ASL In Your Lessons

    ASL-house-1 Let’s look at an example to see how this can work.

    To teach a student the word “house," show the written word, say “house" aloud, and teach the sign for “house". (To sign the word house you use both hands to show the roof and the walls of the house - See Images).

    Have the student repeat it and sign it back to you. Continue this every time the new word is shown to them in a text or when you show them the new word.

    They will be able to easily recall words not only because of the movement required, but also because many signs are iconic, meaning they look like the actual object. This will enable students to visualize the word, therefore helping them better remember the information.

    ASL-house-2 American Sign Language can be incorporated into your lessons by adding signs for new vocabulary or sight words. Students will be presented the material in visual, kinesthetic, and auditory forms. As the teacher, this helps you to utilize various teaching methods to accommodate students who have different styles of learning.

    Your classroom will benefit and be able to understand new lessons more quickly and easily.