Teaching American Sign Language

A Randolph Elementary Teacher is Teaching Her Students American Sign Language
Posted on 08/20/2021

A teacher at Randolph Elementary School is teaching her students sign language and about how to be inclusive and accepting to those who are different from themselves. A kindergarten teacher for twenty-one years, Ms. Kelly Rahmeier was inspired to learn and teach American Sign Language (ASL) a few years ago when there was a student who was hard of hearing in her class. 

With the help of the student’s interpreter, Ms. Rahmeier started to learn sign language and, as she learned more and more, she began to teach it to her class. She began teaching ASL, in part, because it “helps the kids understand people who are different than themselves,” and it teaches students inclusiveness and to be accepting of others. 

American Sign Language is a naturally expressive language where people use their entire face, exaggerated movements, and sometimes their whole body to communicate. Therefore, in addition to teaching students about being inclusive, learning sign language is also teaching them about nonverbal communication, how to express themselves in a different way, and allows students to practice using their small motor skills.

Since the beginning of her teaching career, Ms. Rahmeier has taught her students how to sign letters as they learned the alphabet, but now she is teaching them so much more. From the alphabet to greetings, calendar routines and days of the week, she incorporates sign language into all parts of her curriculum and classroom. 

Her class, which started school only a week ago, is already learning the signs for different colors. They spend time everyday practicing and reviewing signs they have recently learned, such as listening to Eric Carle’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? while watching someone sign along with it. 

Not only are they learning a new language and numerous other lessons, the students are having fun learning American Sign Language. According to Ms. Rahmeier, her students love learning new signs. She says they “can’t wait to figure out what we’re going to learn. Every time I give directions, if I’m not signing it while I’m giving directions, they’ll ask, ‘Well, how do you say that in sign language?’” 

Though Ms. Rahmeier may have introduced teaching sign language at Randolph Elementary School, now the entire school has gotten involved and it has become part of the culture of the school. Randolph was even given their own name sign, which every teacher knows and is teaching their class. 

A name sign is an aspect of deaf culture used to identify someone, or in this case something, without having to spell it out completely. Not everyone is given a name sign and a lot of thought goes into them. A name sign is meant to reflect the character and personality of the person being named and it can only be given by a member of the deaf community. 

For more information about learning sign language and a list of resources, check out this webpage on the National Association for the Deaf website : https://www.nad.org/resources/american-sign-language/learning-american-sign-language/

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