Tip: Age 12 is a good dividing point for
class age groups. Students under age 12 learn language faster yet
have fewer life experiences to use as mental hooks for attaching new
signs to their brains. For example, if I show an adult the sign for
"DAY" and the sign for "EQUAL" I can then sign "365 DAY EQUAL 1
YEAR" and the adult will be able to figure out what the sign YEAR
means because an adult typically knows that a YEAR has 365 days. A
child under 12 will be less likely to know various real world bits
of information and thus you will need to teach them in a more direct
manner. On the other hand, the child will more likely recall various
signs more easily than the adult because the child's brain is wired
to acquire and reproduce language quickly.
I remember teaching my first ever ASL class
over 20 years ago at a local church for free.
Parents used to drop off their kids and
drive away--thrilled to have a free a baby sitter. Obviously I had a
lot to learn.
To protect yourself (sanity) do not let
parents use you or your class as "free babysitting." Young students
must be fully committed (it needs to be their desire, not the
parents) and one or more parents needs to be there to help with the
Note: You can set up a rotating schedule
where parents can take turns helping out. If a kid doesn't have the
attention span and starts disrupting class, the volunteer parent
needs to do something about it. You are busy teaching you can't be
expected to babysit as well---they are two different things.
On the other hand, it helps to start from a
babysitting model and work toward a child-appropriate sign language
What would you do with 10 kids that you were
babysitting? How would you keep them all entertained? What
activities, movies, games, or role playing would you do?
AFTER you've come up with the answer to
those questions and a plan for "babysitting" -- THEN incorporate ASL
instruction and lessons into the existing babysitting plan.
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