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Spice Up Poetry by Incorporating American Sign Language Signs

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/5/2012

Are your students bored with your poetry center? Would you like to find a way to make your poetry unit more interactive and fun? Add American Sign Language signs into your poetry unit or poetry center and your class will be wanting to learn more.

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    Most elementary and even preschool teachers have poetry centers or do a poetry unit with their students. They can help with word play, rhyming words, introduction and reinforcement of different poem styles, similes, word comparisons and more. Because poetry centers are usually set up as a bunch of poems for students to read quietly, it’s not very interactive or fun – especially for your kinesthetic learners. An easy way to make your poetry center more interactive and fun is to incorporate some American Sign Language signs.

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    Integrating ASL With Poetry Is Easy and Fun!

    Here are a few tips for integrating ASL with your poetry unit.

    • Choose a poem that goes along with and supports your curriculum, to make the content more meaningful.
    • Choose one or more words on each line for the students to sign. Be sure to pick out the keywords (or the most important words in the poem) as your signing words.
    • Teach your class how to read and sign the poem. You may want to explain to your class that you aren’t really signing the whole poem, just the keywords or the most important words. (This could make for a great keyword lesson as well.)

    Then during poetry center time, your students can practice reading the poem again, but they can also practice the signs that go along with the poem as they read. They will then, in a sense, be storytelling or acting out the poem with their hands. You can even make cards with pictures of the signs on them and they could match the words in the poems with the sign cards. This strategy will also help your struggling readers as many signs are iconic in nature, that is they look like the actual object, so give a great visual representation of new words they are trying to learn/read.

    If your students are good at their dictionary skills and at finding keywords, you could put an American Sign Language Dictionary in the poetry center with a new poem and see if the children can find and figure out how to do the signs for the keywords in the poem on their own. If correct, they could even teach and/or show the rest of the class how to sign the poem they worked on.

    By integrating American Sign Language signs into your poetry center or your poetry unit, you can create a new, fun, and interactive way for your students to learn about the joy of poetry.