Language: The backbone of civilization. All humans communicate in some way, even without language. However, only language allows us to share complex ideas. In the US, most of us communicate by speaking English, but there are many other languages both in other countries and right here at home!
In celebration of Deaf Awareness Week (September 21-25), Leap & Bound Academy invited a special visitor to class: Mr. Daniel from the office! Mr. Daniel is a student at El Camino College studying to become an interpreter for the Deaf. Along with various silent activities, LBA students got a chance to learn a new way to communicate: American Sign Language!
Mr. Daniel quickly grabbed the attention of the children in front of him by making mysterious motions with his hands. One by one, the enthralled students began to copy his movements, fascinated by how he seemed to be talking to them through his hands! Sure enough, the lesson he was about to teach would explain his motions and confirm that he was indeed talking to them!
In order to explain what exactly sign language is and why people use it, Mr. Daniel first asked the class if anyone knew what the word “deaf” means. One student eagerly raised her hand and said that being deaf means you can’t speak. Mr. Daniel agreed that some deaf people don’t speak with their mouths, but told the class that all deaf people have one thing in common: They do not hear sound.
Hearing that some people can’t hear piqued the children’s interest. When asked if they wanted to learn how to communicate with Deaf people, they waved their hands in a mixture of excitement and anticipation!
To begin their introduction to American Sign Language, Mr. Daniel first taught the class some basic signs like yes and no. Once they were able to perform the signs on their own, he moved on to teach twelve common emotions. Emotions are very visual, so they serve as a memory aid and show off what sign language is all about! Starting with “happy” and ending with “embarrassed”, the class went through motions ranging from brushing their hands upwards in glee, to tearfully gliding down their cheeks, to lovingly giving themselves hugs with fists held tight.
Once the class learned all twelve emotion signs, they were eager to show off to their usual teachers! All at once, the class turned to Ms. Sue, to show her some of their newly learned sign language!
Mr. Daniel’s final task put everything together: Using the signs he had just taught as a foundation, he encouraged the students to create their own signed conversations! Pairing up with a partner, the children took turns by asking each other if they felt a certain way, then replying with yes or no. Next, they signed “how are you?” to ask for a free-thought response. Lastly, the exercise turned more active by getting everyone on their feet! The students walked around the room, repeating the sign for what they were feeling, searching for someone who felt the same way. These three exercises allowed the children to show off to their peers the cool new language they learned today!
The most obvious purpose of Mr. Daniel’s lesson was to teach LBA students American Sign Language and explain why people use it. However, the special lessons on Deaf Awareness Day also taught something important throughout the day: Inclusion. Some people find it hard to communicate, whether it is because they are shy, they feel like they aren’t being heard, or because they have a disability. No matter the case, it is vital to teach children the importance of diversity and including different kinds of people.
Fear often holds us back from engaging with people who are uncomfortable with a certain language, or who can’t use it at all. This lesson was specifically designed to introduce the idea of different languages at a young age. By teaching the concept in a playful manner, Mr. Daniel enticed the children to practice with others and keep an open mind about learning other languages. Teaching the next generation how to communicate better with different people has the potential to unite the whole world.