American Sign Language

Dice …Why I can’t live without them!

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I am constantly seeing posts in my social media groups about what is one thing in your classroom you can’t live without.  For years I have pondered this question and answered it a million different ways. There has never been one thing I LOVE so much I can’t teach without…until this school year.  I have discovered dice and so many ways to use them to get students signing and using the language. I can go on and on but it is getting close to the end of the school year so instead of me rambling on about my love of dice let me get right down to why you will love them too.  

Top 5 reasons to use dice in your World Language classroom:

  1. Student engagement
  2. Getting students talking
  3. Creating a fun environment
  4. Detour from the mundane
  5. Giving options and variety


Give each group member a dice and have them roll.  Based on what number they roll, students will tell something about themselves.

1 Something about your family
2 Silly human trick
3 Embarrassing story


What you love to do when you have time
5 What you are going to do this weekend
6 Pets you have or had


This activity is based on the game Kaboom and was shown to me by my dear friends Jennifer and Shea.  Students are placed in groups of four.  Students take turn signing pre-created sentences or questions.  After the sentence or question is signed, they ask the group if it is correct.  If the other players agree the construction of the sentence was accurate, player will roll the dice and earn the points shown on the dice EXCEPT if they roll the Kaboom number.  The Kaboom number changes each round.  For example, in the first round if you roll a 1,  you lose all your points and then round 2, if you roll a 2, you would lose all your points. If the student signs the sentence incorrect they lose their turn and give the dice to the next student in their group. Rounds can be played for any duration of time you want.  I play for about 5 – 7 minutes.  Example of game


Creating a grid with images of vocabulary you want students to know is a great way to incorporate repetition and FUN into a class period.  In this activity students would need 2 dice and a partner or group.  Students roll one dice to represent the number on the vertical row and roll the second dice to determine the number on the horizontal row. Students then sign the word in the box on the grid.  

Extension activity: Students can use the word to create a sentence and reverse the numbers to use a different word to ask a question to the group.  This all depends on the vocabulary being used.  Visit my TpT store to see examples of this idea.  


This activity has endless possibilities.  It is similar to the above activity where students will need two dice and a partner or small group.  Topics can be given on numerous subjects like weather, shopping, travel, holidays or daily routines.  You can find activities like the example below at All Things Topics and A LOT of other conservation activities.

lets talk


Give students a list of in-class assignments or homework options and have students roll the dice to determine which activity they will complete.  This will pique student interest in the assignment and hopefully add intrigue and allure to the process.  Students can complete all assignments or you can assign a specific number to be done like 3 out of six determined by the dice numbers.  

1 Watch a video
2 Create a dialogue with a partner
3 Write a synopsis
4 Compare the differences and similarities
5 Debate the topic
6 Narrate the event

I asked parents for dice donations and I ended up with 50 pairs.  It is a cheap and easy way for parents to help out and a lot of families have extras around their homes.  If you can’t get any in your classroom, have students make some of their own. Learn how here.  


Pique Student Interest with QR codes!

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Although QR codes have been around for a while, I have never incorporated them in my classes.  I know other teachers that have and tell me kids love them.  I thought they were hard, complicated and time consuming. So over the course of the last week I have set out to find out what QR codes really are and just how I can use them in my classroom.  I am delighted at what I have discovered and I hope you will find this to be true as well.

If you are in the dark about what a QR code is let me help you out.  QR codes are simply a machine readable code that stores a URL and can be used for quick reference (see the QR there?).

I researched and came up with 10 of my favorite ideas for QR codes in the classroom.  I read many online articles and talked to some of my favorite online teacher pals.  I got may of my ideas from Mara Gust at School of Thought where she wrote a guest blog. Other ideas came from my ASL teacher group on Edmodo and the great Brandy Cables @Mrscablesclassroom. I just tweaked ideas to work for ASL.

Let’s talk about how to add some interest to lessons and pique student interest.  Here are my top 10 Favorites…

  • Scavenger Hunt –  Split the class into teams and task them with creating videos to various locations on campus.  Then students can make a drawing, cut it up into puzzle pieces. Videos need to be turned into QR codes and placed with a puzzle piece in the accurate areas of campus…one clue should lead to the next location and so on.  Set up equal teams so one class meeting 3 teams hid the codes and 3 teams work to solve the clues.  The next day switch roles.  While teams are hunting for clues the other teams work on a research project, studying vocabulary or completing a jigsaw activity. Possibilities are endless.
  • Guess Who – Use QR codes for a game of Guess Who. Students can create the videos or you as a teacher can have videos prepared.  Link the videos to a QR code and place around the classroom.  Students can view the videos and write down their guess with a pre made worksheet or just written on a piece of paper. Use to describe famous people students know, use descriptions of students in the classroom or use after the end of a famous deaf person unit.  Check answers at the end.  
  • Literature – Link the QR code to various pieces of literature you want students to study. Create a worksheet for students to analyze the meaning or summarize the author’s intent. Give each student a QR Code with a different piece of literature to watch, practice and present.
  • Showcase student work – We all come up with awesome projects for our students to do but how do we show them off to others?  With QR codes this is easily solved. Create QR codes and post to your website; Email the QR code home to the parent of your student;  Email blast it out to the school community; or Send it to your School Board and really toot your own horn.  The QR code is a great way to digitally show off what your students can do!
  • Internet based references – Use QR codes to give students a quick way to reference your class lectures. If you are talking about Gallaudet, link students to a virtual tour of the school or still images of what the campus looks like now compared to when it was founded.  Use QR codes for students to connect to various sign languages around the world as a way to reference them quickly or learn different alphabets.
  • Digital Praise – Instead of a good job or a happy face sticker place a QR code to the test or quiz.  You can pre-make these and slap them on all that A work you receive.
  • Email encouragement –  Send a QR code that leads to a special note.  Use these or create your own. Test them out on (not sure if this would work I haven’t tried it) or tape the QR code to each student desk every week…what a great ways to start off Monday!
  • Introduce yourself –  For the first day of school email the QR code that links to a captioned video that introduces you to the students before the first day of school. Think how much excitement that could generate in new students seeing ASL for the first time!  This could also settle some nerves of the new incoming students.
  • Introducing a new topic – if you are teaching about Laurent Clerc link to a tour of the city he was born, to the time period he lived, or the School he met Gallaudet at.  The QR code is a great attention getter to start the topic.
  • What is this sign? – Have a group of pictures that has the next 7 vocabulary words you want students to know. Adjacent to the picture place the QR code that will bring up the video of the vocabulary word on student’s device. Check if they know the signs by playing a game or have them take notes of the parameters for each word.  Or place the videos around the school to teach students how to sign the buildings and locations around the campus.  

I have 2 QR reader sites I like to use…Try Google URL Shortener or 

I hope you find these ideas useful and easy to integrate into your teaching style. Leave a comment below to tell us what you tried!

Games! Banish Boredom in Your Classroom!

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If you love playing games in your classroom or if you are on the opposite spectrum and have no clue how to integrate games during class time, you came to the right place.  I am going to tell you why you should play games in your classroom or continue to integrate games as part of your teaching practice. Games are a wonderfully  tricky way to encourage students to memorize vocabulary.  Students have fun while playing and before they know it BOOM! Vocabulary is engraved on their brains.

The goal of teaching a language is to get students communicating in that language. Our job as teachers is to make sure we give students the tools they need in order to be successful in the communication process.  It is our responsibility to keep student motivated in that process. That is where games come into play (enjoy that pun?).

Games benefit students because they

  1. Banish boredom in the classroom
  2. Allow for repetition of terms
  3. Provide opportunity for quick absorption of many words
  4. Break up the monotony of the school day

Let’s face it, games provide a learning environment that is student-centered allowing for communication in the target language, discovery, problem-solving, engagement and analysis of their own knowledge in the learning process.  Simply put games are FUN and EDUCATIONAL.

So how do you implement games in your classroom?


Be motivated and hype it up

If you are bored, unmotivated, or are simply uninterested in an activity your students will feed off that.  They too will be turned-off with the activity.  When beginning a game, hype it up. Use a bigger voice, bigger gestures, colorful language…however you explain rules make it enticing.  The class tone is set by you the teacher.  The entire class environment is feeding off of you.  I often play the game myself to show them how fun it is.  This isn’t always possible if I have to monitor.  However, if it is possible, join in the fun.

Keep it on point

When choosing a game for the class make sure it is applicable to the unit. The reason we play these games is to provide the opportunity to review or use repetition of the vocabulary for memorization of terms. Keep vocabulary useful to what you want students to be learning.  If you are teaching clothing, the game should revolve around terms used for clothing.

Be encouraging

As students learn, they will inevitably make mistakes and that is OK. I can assure you missing a point in a game or getting the team sent back to zero because of not knowing the meaning of a sign will be a great learning opportunity. A student will never forget that word. How we handle the mistake as a teacher is important. Be encouraging and let students know its ok if they mess up, blunder, or completely bomb the task.  Let them know it is no big deal.  Through mistakes and failure is how we learn.   

Provide learning opportunities

If you see common errors happening during game time, seize the teaching moment and correct the errors.  After all, that is why we are playing games.  Don’t let the students continue to make the error. Students will learn from each other and before you know it they will all be making the same mistake.  Let’s say that you are in a game situation and the word is WOMAN.  You continue to see students using the sign for MAN. This is a good chance to remind students about placement of feminine and masculine signs.  

Vary the games played

If you only have one or two games in your repertoire, it’s time to shake things up and learn some new games to incorporate in your lessons.  The student’s favorite game will become stale and dull if you continue to use it and nothing else.  A game should elicit excitement when mentioned.  You can use the same set of words in 2 – 3 different games so students get various stimuli.  For example, you can play Win, Lose or Draw when learning words for buildings found around the school campus to draw in the visual learner and later use the same terms to play Baseball or Basketball to get the kinesthetic learners up and moving around.

Keep all students involved

Whatever games you choose to play try to pick the ones that involve all the students at one time.  Often times we play elimination games where students are “out”  if they don’t know the answer.  If this is the case, try to revamp the game so those “out” have a way back in. This way students are always “on task” and not chatting with their neighbor who is also out of the game. Incorporate games that are small group or one on one competition so students are always active and learning.  Remember your game should have a purpose to provide repetition of vocabulary to all students.  Not just the high achieving ones.   

Provide rewards

Most of the time a game is reward enough and something students look forward to.  But students like to know that they are victorious. Offer a small token that can symbolize a student’s bragging rights.  Ask parents to donate small prizes like pencils or individually wrapped candy, provide a free homework pass for the victor, or the chance to sit anywhere they want for the day.  You can even set up a winner’s circle with a special chair and snacks for the champion. Let them wear a crown! You can offer points to the winner but I try to avoid this practice. I want a student’s grade to reflect their work and what they can do.  I want to try to avoid “padding” their grade. That is my personal opinion.

Whatever you choose to do for a reward, whoop it up and give the winner a sense of achievement!

I hope these ideas for using games in the classroom help you have some fun with your students.  My next post will incorporate games you can play in the classroom. Stay tuned…

What are your thoughts about games in the classroom?

Creating a Comic Book

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To piggy back on my post about how to use comic strips in the classroom, I have found this video discussing how your class can create a comic book. This can be a great individual, partner, or group project.  It is a fun task students can complete and show us what they know about Deaf culture.  It is a good expansion activity after a culture lecture.  So many times we talk about the culture of the community in a bubble or single lecture then never refer to it until we test students on the information.  How do we know they really understand?  A comic book can be a great way for students to show what they have learned and allow us a way to assess student learning.  Enjoy!

Comic strips in the classroom??? How does that work?

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Comic strips are powerful conversational tools that can be used in the classroom at all language levels.  Comic strips are short conversations that don’t need sophisticated vocabulary skills to understand or talk about the content. Comic strips are an authentic resource that can be used to motivate the reluctant student or entice the visual learner. Comics give students a glimpse into culture, trends, politics and current events in the community.

As ASL teachers, we are lucky to have a great resource with That Deaf Guy*.  Matt and Kay Daigle have created wonderful comic resources that can be used in your classroom.  Take a look at the comic below. How could you use this in your classroom?  How could  students use this to communicate?

comic clothes

What looks like a simple cartoon strip actually has numerous possibilities for conversations.  It can work as a dialogue starter with a simple question “What is happening in the picture?” Partners can discuss what they see and observe.  It is a culture conversation “Why are the shirts all solid? Why didn’t the patterned shirts work for this family?”  White out the conversation and have students create their own dialogue and share in class, record themselves or sign to a partner.  

Comic strips can be used in a variety of ways. Here are six of my favorites:

  1. Explore the theme of culture

comic alarm

Students can have a group discussion about culture. Post conversation questions for discussion or have students create their own:

  • What does it mean?
  • Why is it funny?
  • What aspects of culture do you observe?
  • What about this situation relates to Deaf culture?
  1. Analyze the humor

comic family

Every culture has its own ideas and rules of what humor is. Most of our students don’t know why certain situations would be considered humorous in the Deaf community.  Use a comic strip to help students understand deaf life and experiences that may be different from their own and why they may be considered funny or not funny from one culture to the next.  Incorporate them in your lectures, PowerPoints or homework assignments.  Students can even create their own comic strip to depict deaf humor. There are several comic strip generators out there try Make Belief Comix or Strip Generator.

  1. Tell the Story

comic dr

There are numerous ways to mix up storytelling with comic strips.

  • Cut up pictures of the comic strip and have students put them in order and tell the story to their partner.  
  • White out the conversation and have students create their own version of the comic strip
  • Cut the last frame off the strip and have students create their own conclusion to the story
  • Create their own comic strip using one of the sites listed above focusing on current vocabulary in your unit
  1. Analyze characterscomic traits

Use a series of the Deaf Guy comics or other well known comic strips so students get to know the characters. This will allow students to become familiar with the characters and be able to discuss them in more detail.  That Deaf Guy has a page that describes each character’s personality and family roles.  Students can check how accurate they were after the activity.

  1. Role play

comic 101

 Use comic strips that show culture, vocabulary or situations you want students to be aware of. Have students recreate the strip or base a skit of their own on what they take away from the comic.  

  1. Make comparisons

comic traits


You can use two comic strips to have students make comparisons and draw conclusions.  Many comic strips focus on stereotypes and you can exploit those aspects and provide students with lifelong lessons. Strips can be used to discuss clothing, politics, society, phone calls, and other real-world experiences.  Compare hearing Americans to Deaf Americans. Ask students “What are the similarities? What are the differences?” Use the comics below to discuss schooling or deaf and hearing parents.

comic school


I hope you love the idea of incorporating comic strips into your lessons. I think you will find that students will enjoy them as much as you do. Don’t forget to come back and tell us how you incorporated them into your lessons.  

*That Deaf Guy can be found at their website and on Facebook.  I receive no compensation for promoting them but highly recommend their use as an authentic resource that provides a lot of cultural information.

Challenge Yourself! Mix it up! Get them using the language!

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In my last post I discussed the importance of communication in the  language classroom. Today I want to talk about how we can mix it up to keep students engaged and communicating in the target language.

I know there are days where I am standing in front of my Smartboard pointing at pictures lecturing away and completely frustrated because my students look like they want to fall asleep. On these days students are so bored they can’t answer my questions let alone have a conversation with a peer. My intentions as a teacher are good…I want to give them language skills so they can actually apply it to a conversation. But let’s face reality, when a student dreads class they aren’t learning.

Here are some “rules” I have learned to follow when dreaming up speaking activities for my students.

  1. The activity must be engaging. You have to have student buy in.
  2. The activities must be varied. Even if it is a fun game, if you play it every day students will become bored.
  3. They must be focused around a theme. Activities have to be created with what you are teaching and what students are learning.
  4. They must be applicable to the students language level. Activities must be provided where students can apply the skills and language they know and feel accomplished using it.
  5. They must be authentic. Activities must be genuine in order to get student buy in and to allow students to acquire new knowledge in the process.

If you are familiar with ACTFL you will know that there are three modes of communication: Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational.  

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Photo credits to Regional 10 Education Center

Interpretive mode – Is one-way communication that consists of no negotiation of meaning. In ASL it includes viewing information, receptive language or watching language and understanding it.  In this type of communication there is no way to question the author or ask for clarification or repetition. Students must interpret meaning and read between the lines in order to comprehend. This type of communication includes viewing of stories, YouTube videos or news reports.

Interpersonal mode – Is two-way communication that can be actively negotiated between all parties involved.  It includes an exchange of information that is monitored by all individuals. The parties involved can make adjustments and clarifications. Most importantly this is not rehearsed  or practiced. This is spontaneous communication. This type of communication includes expressive and receptive signing.

Presentational Mode – Is one-way communication that is intended for an audience.  It is a presentation of information and not an exchange of information or negotiation. This is rehearsed, practiced and not spontaneous. The presenter needs to have knowledge of  the audience’s culture and language in order to convey information that is understood. This type of communication  includes stories, literature, videos or informational presentations.

Mix It Up!

Here are some thoughts on activities to get your students communicating in the target language any day of the week.

Interpretive Mode

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  • Watch children’s stories in ASL. Dawn Sign Press has an entire series, Once Upon a Sign  that includes my buddy CJ Jones and other deaf performers.
  • Use the Daily Moth for upper level ASL students to get the news. I use these in class with prepared questions and on use clips on my test and quizzes.
  • Have students interpret peer videos. Students can create a video and use a Google form to “quiz” each other.
  • Use this site for a quick and easy recipe to check for understanding. Be the really cool teacher and bring in the ingredients so they can actually make the cookies.  You know if they taste good, they got it!
  • Use a video like this one and post to a conversation board like Canvas. Have students respond about what they learned and comment on other’s posts.  This can be written or signed responses.

Interpersonal Mode

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  • Begin the class with a topic starter that relates to your class. I create a PowerPoint of topics for each unit I teach. The topic is up on the board at the start of class. They talk to their partner about the topic while I take roll. If you are teaching holidays post “Discuss your favorite holiday.”   If you are learning about directions to a location post “Tell your partner where your favorite restaurant is and what you like to order there.” Not only are you on topic but now you are reviewing too. Win, win!
  • Use video chats, Skype or FaceTime to call students in another class you teach or link up with another school for one day.  Use created situations to give a purpose to the call.
  • Gap activities are a great way to get students using the language.  You can Google this and so many things will pop up.  They are sometimes called A-B activities. I use one like this to have students describe a room and their partner arrange their picture to match. Anything where student A and student B have an incomplete activity that requires questioning and communication is considered a gap activity.
  • Conversation circles are where students prepare questions to ask their peers, using new vocabulary words. They sit in a circle, and one student starts by asking a question of another student in the circle. Once that student answers, he or she will ask a question of someone else and so on.
  • Pictures may sound old school but they are a great tool to start a discussion.  Take great sports photos off the internet and have students discuss the rules of the game, famous athletes, the color of the uniforms or how the ball is passed down the field.  The possibilities on this one are endless.  Use magazine pictures, personal pictures students bring in, pictures taken from the Internet or pictures from a coloring book to prompt pairs or groups of students to express their opinion, have a discussion or tell a story.

Presentational Mode

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  • Students can research a topic on any aspect of Deaf culture like greetings for novice students to share in small groups or research deaf education and present on it for a more advanced class.
  • Have students analyze a piece of literature either written or signed and have them share the meaning the author is trying to convey.  
  • Advertisements are a good way to get students to think about products and ASL.  Students can view ads with deaf people then create a product advertisement of their own in the target language.  The commercial can be based on a product already being marketed or students  can choose to create your own product.
  • Book reports or literary circles can be a fun way to get students to talk about their favorite book or what they learned from a culture book you have assigned. Give students a prep sheet like this one from ESL blog or prepare your own focusing on information you want students to share.

Here is a link to a gap activity to try with your students.  Its FREE.  So try something new today and let us know how it worked out in the comments below.