The blog has moved to: http://kotobaandsign.blogspot.jp to be under the name Kotoba & Sign.
Feel free to look through this "old" blog as well as hop over to the "new" one!

In this blog you will find information and stories of our experience with signing. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments! このブログでは、私たちのサインを使った経験からの情報や体験談を紹介します。お気軽に質問やコメントを残してくださればと思います。どうぞよろしくお願いします。

Why Sign? どうして手話(サイン)なの?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Words by the Handful ASL手話の絵本

One of the things we do at home is read books which have included ASL vocabulary into the stories.  The series Words by the Handful by Mimi Brian Vance blends in well with the vocabulary taught in Baby Signing Time.
Each of the board books is just the right size for small hands.  The stories center around a little boy who can't speak clearly yet and his teddy bear who encourages him so use signs to communicate.  It is nice that these books each contain a story with the signs in an everyday context. Presenting the signs in this way not only teaches about how to make the signs but also gives an idea of when to use them.
Reading these books are another way that you can spend quality time with your child!

A Look At Classes

For the past 2 years I have been teaching Baby Signing Time " Sign and Play" classes as a Signing Time Academy certified instructor.  Here is a peak into the classroom:
 The Bricks classroom has a variety of items used for the various classes offered at Hana House.  We use some of them for the Sign and Play classes when they compliment the lesson.
Here is another view of the Bricks classroom. 

This is the original Hana House classroom.  The Advanced level of classes (Lesson 9-16) are often held here so that we can step outside for the lessons with outdoor themes. 
In this picture we are learning words such as "cloud" and "sun" before going outside to practice using the signs in an everyday situation.

During classes the songs we will sing are posted on the walls. 

These are some of the books which we use in class.  
Each lesson includes a story book which reinforces the signs of the day.  We also use 1-2 of the Sing and Sign Along books during our reading time.  The Signing Time board books are always sitting out ready for kids to look at or for parents to look up a new word or two.

Sign of the Week

Here are a couple more of the Signs of the Week!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sign of the Week

The Sign of the Week is Grandma!
And, this week my Grandma turns 94 years old.  We'll be using the sign a lot as we wish her a Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Airplane Fun

My kids love to play together. However, being almost 3 years apart in age can make that a challenge at times. Thankfully they can communicate by signing with each other!

In this clip you can catch Miss Mega, 13 months old, signing "more", "share" and "airplane". I think she tried to sign "fly" in there too but it is hard to tell as many of her signs are just developing. She also says "dozo" when she signs "more" which is Japanese for "please do it" in this situation.

At the end of the video, when the plane flies a little too close for our comfort... no one was hurt but mom and dad had a little heart attack ;-)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sign of the Week

This week's featured sign is "orange".  Did you know that the sign for the fruit and the color are the same?
Check out the video clip and download the flashcard here!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

13 Month Old Signing "Train"

This is a recent clip from a family outing in which you can see my daughter signing "train".  While her technique is not perfect (and it doesn't need to be... she'll do it right eventually) she is able to communicate by letting us know what she is looking for.  She also knows the signs for "car" and "bye-bye" but ignores me as she is still concentrating on finding that train!

Other signs which she currently likes to use include: thank you, please, more, all done, airplane, bye-bye, sleep, what, where, milk, water, banana, eat and brush teeth.

Article on Benefits of using Sign Language for Literacy

Have you read this yet?  It was pointed out by another Signing Time Instructor.  In the US PBS is like NHK-E in Japan.  This is well written so out of fear that it will one day get lost I'll put up the link and a copy of the article.  Please go to the site and read it so they get the clicks!

Using Sign Language and Fingerspelling to Facilitate Early Literacy



Article by Marilyn Edmunds and Debra Krupinski
The use of sign language and fingerspelling offers a "hands on" beginning to literacy! Early childhood educators are embracing the challenge of providing the fundamental skills necessary for successful reading. Research has heightened awareness of the developmental continuum of skills necessary to produce good readers. Backed by this research, most reading readiness programs incorporate the basic components of oral language development, phonemic awareness and print knowledge. Many teachers are discovering that sign language and fingerspelling are fun and productive ways to actively engage young children in the process.

What Are Sign Language and Fingerspelling?

Sign language and fingerspelling are terms that are typically associated with the Deaf. Sign language is the use of a hand shape, movement and placement to represent a word or concept. Fingerspelling is the use of hand positions to represent letters of the alphabet.

Why Are They Effective Tools in Teaching Reading?

They benefit children.

There is growing interest in the use of sign language with normal hearing children. Howard Gardner's research on multiple intelligences has helped teachers identify the myriad of learning styles present in any classroom. The teacher will find that the use of signs and fingerspelling will accommodate a wide range of learning styles. A "verbal linguistic" child loves the process of learning another language. The "kinesthetic" child is motivated naturally by movement. The "interpersonal" child loves being involved in a group activity. The benefit of using this system is the representation of information through seeing, hearing, and movement. The more pathways created in the brain, the stronger the memory. Not only that, teachers are observing that children are interested in sign language and tend to acquire it easily.

They integrate easily into most reading programs.

Sign language and fingerspelling deliver additional clues for learning to read. Reading is an acquired skill that requires a planned sequence of skill development. A variety of reading programs, based on excellent research models, lays the foundation in the early childhood years. The use of sign language and fingerspelling is a strategy that can be integrated into almost any existing reading program.

What Key Elements Are Addressed?

Sign language supports oral language development.

A child's level of oral language competency reveals information about his ability to comprehend the meaning of the spoken or printed word. Children with weak oral language skills struggle with the reading process. The young child who has fewer opportunities for oral language development, for example an English Language Learner, benefits from the visual images sign language provides. Sign language is often iconic. The sign draws a picture in the air illustrating the meaning of a word. For example, signs for prepositional concepts such as "above," "through," and "between" and adjectives such as "fat," "heavy," and "tired" provide strong visual clues to their contextual meanings. Concepts are often acquired quickly when paired with iconic signs.
Furthermore, sign language supports oral language development through repetitions of words or concepts using multiple modalities. When a teacher says and signs a words, the child hears and sees the word. The child is actually receiving two repetitions of the word through two modalities. When a child says and signs a word, he is imprinting the word or concept through auditory and kinesthetic means. Multi-modality repetitions strengthen a child's recall and enhance the development of oral language for reading comprehension.

Fingerspelling supports development of phonemic awareness and print knowledge.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Print knowledge involves the ability to recognize and name letters and relate letters to sounds. When combining these two skills, children start the process of sounding out words to build the foundation for spelling. Print knowledge and phonemic awareness are most effective when introduced early. They help children "crack the code" necessary to read well.
Successful readers have strong phonemic awareness skills. They identify, blend, and segment sounds in words in the early years. Visual Phonics, while not fingerspelling, is similar in that it borrows hand shapes from fingerspelling to represent long vowel sounds and some consonants. Other consonant sounds and diphthongs mimic the articulatory movements of speech sounds. These 46 hand shapes are based on sounds, regardless of the spelling of a word. Preschool and kindergarten teachers have reported improved results when using Visual Phonics with non-readers and English Language Learners. First grade teachers have reported the positive results of seeing children apply these skills in their daily reading and writing activities.
Print knowledge begins with the learning of the alphabet. The way they generally learn this is through singing the alphabet song. When fingerspelling is paired with the letter name, many confusing issues are avoided. Who knew that "duh-bul-you" is only one letter? For children who have not acquired all their speech sounds, the motor skill to imitate fingerspelled letter names can be easier than the articulatory movements of speech. Fingerspelling also provides discrete hand shapes for easily confused letter names such as c and z and clarifies the confusion for the common letter reversal, b andd. Children naturally enjoy fingerspelling in the air as they encounter printed words in their environment.


The use of sign language and fingerspelling is one of the many strategies that can be used to engage the young reader in developing early literacy skills. It is successful with learners of all types and levels. Patrice Wolf, author of Brain Matters, states, "The most powerful strategies increase retention, understanding and students' abilities to apply the concepts they are learning." The use of sign language and fingerspelling puts reading "in the hands" of children.

Additional Resources


  • Felzer, L. (2000). Research On How Signing Helps Hearing Children Learn To Read. MBR Beginning Reading Program, CA State University, Pomona.
  • Luetke-Stahlman, B., Nielsen, D. (2002). Phonological Awareness: One Key To The Reading Proficiency of Deaf Children. American Annals of the Deaf, 147,11-17.
  • National Institute for Literacy. (2001). Put Reading First. Jessup, MD: ED Pubs.
  • Moats, L. (1999). Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.
  • Roskos, K., Christie, J., Richgels, D., (2003). The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction. Young Children, March, 52-60.
  • Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

About the Authors

Marilyn Edmunds and Debra Krupinski work together at Taft Regionalized Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in Southern California. Marilyn has worked in the field of Deaf Education and Speech Pathology for thirty years. She has worked with multiple grade levels, both hearing and deaf students, and is currently an early childhood teacher, parent educator and inclusion specialist. She has been a state trainer for the SKI*HI Family Centered Home Based Program for Deaf Children. Debra is a Speech and Language Pathologist. She has worked for twenty-three years with deaf and hearing children. Marilyn and Debra are involved with a non-profit agency, the S.E.E. Center for the Advancement of Deaf Children, which provides information and support services for families and teachers. Debra is a sign language instructor for the S.E.E. Center. Along with a team of teachers, she teaches Signing Exact English skillshops across the United States.
Published: February 2004

Sign of the Week

Now that summer is coming to an end it is time to get back to work.  Here is a catch-up post with Sign(s) of the Week!
If you have any questions I can be reached at heidi@signingtimeacademy.com

Please e-mail me if you live in Japan but are not in a location where classes are offered. I can help you get started with Baby Signing Time and/or Signing Time.

日本に住んでいて、近くに手話のクラスがない場合などは、メールをくだされば、質問に答えたり、皆さんが Baby Signing Time や Signing Time を始めるのをお手伝いできると思います。



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