How to Teach Sign Language to Children – An Instructor’s Perspective

Dawn Alexander and I attended college together back in the 1990s. What I remember most about her were her hands—she often communicated with them. As an American Sign Language (ASL) instructor, Dawn has learned what works best in teaching this visual form of communication. Let her words and her signing fingers inspire you.

Lipreading Mom: Let’s focus on you teaching ASL to hearing children. How did you get started?

Dawn Alexander: I graduated with a Deaf Education degree with an early childhood concentration. The early childhood part is a clear indication of how crazy a person can actually be in college!

At that time, there weren’t many Deaf ed openings, but a district in Texas called and offered me a position teaching ASL to 7th and 8th graders. By that point, I was willing to teach ANYTHING if someone would give me a paycheck. Luckily, I loved it!

How long have you been doing it?
I just finished my 15th year of teaching ASL. I taught 7th and 8th grade for three years, then moved up to high school. Amazingly, I have never taught anything close to “early childhood”. Large groups of small children make my eye start to twitch.

What are tips you have for teaching children ASL?
I am a strong supporter of teaching young children to sign. Both of my girls could sign before they could speak. I believe it saved us tons of frustration.

As far as teaching ASL as a World Language credit (which is what I do), I think the key is to make it fun and relevant to real life. I love games, so I incorporate those in my teaching almost daily. Also, I try to set up classroom exercises as close to real life as possible. For example, when my students learn the signs for money, we have a mock garage sale and auction. When we learn about food, we role play a restaurant experience.

Another important aspect of teaching ASL is teaching Deaf culture and history. I strive to instill respect and understanding of the community and its members. Those experiences give the students the confidence to interact when they encounter members of the Deaf community outside of the classroom.


A teacher by day, Dawn Alexander is an inspiring novelist by night. She is the proud mom of two girls, who often keep her entertained in between writing projects. Dawn blogs at Chasing Someday.

Have a question or comment for Dawn? Post it here.


One thought on “How to Teach Sign Language to Children – An Instructor’s Perspective

  1. Pingback: A story without words « creativetidalwave

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