International Day of Sign Language
The International Day of Sign Languages was first celebrated in 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf – the 23rd of September was chosen to host the day in order to commemorate the day when the WFD (World Federation of the Deaf) was first established back in 1951.
According to the WFD, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.
The most common form of sign language is British Sign Language or BSL. It’s the main language of around 145,000 people in the UK and has been recognised as an official language since 2003.
There are two other main types that are commonly found in schools with younger children;
The first of which is Sign Supported English (SSE). This is more closely linked to the English language and is most commonly used in schools where children with hearing impairments mix with hearing people and are learning English grammar alongside signing.
Fingerspelling is an alphabet of hand signals used to spell out words that don’t have their own sign, such as the names of people and places.
If you want to begin learning BSL alongside your children in the classroom, there are many resources available online.
Sense Sign School: The basics
You could follow disability charity Sense’s free BSL video lessons taught by Tyrese, a 15-year-old from Birmingham who is deaf and partially sighted. Each lesson covers a variety of Tyrese’s favourite subjects, from family to holidays.
Download free BSL posters of useful signs from DeafBooks
Deaf Animation World create animations of nursery rhymes in BSL and teach BSL keywords and grammar on their YouTube channel.
StorySign is a new app that will help enrich story time for deaf children and their parents; it features a friendly avatar, Star, who guides children and parents through a selected children’s book, translating it into sign language and signing along to the story in real-time.
Primary Sign Language is an “interactive learning resource that aims to introduce children to British Sign Language through animated characters, interactive games and activities. Fun and effective, Primary Sign is fully inclusive and designed so that users can learn at a speed and pace to suit their individual needs.“
They have a free module to get you started, which includes ‘Greetings‘, ‘Fingerspellling Practice‘ and a friendly introduction video to play during the lesson.
During Deaf Awareness Week, the BBC published a video on their Youtube channel where an incredible amount of people joined in to create a BSL SignSong video to Gary Barlow’s track, ‘Sing‘.
Thank you for reading 🙂
I hope that I’ve been able to help you with some ideas about how you could introduce Sign Language into your classroom. Being able to converse in sign language, even if it’s just knowing how to say “Hello, my name is …, what’s yours?”, it’s absolutely invaluable.
Let me know in the comments if there are any other events coming up that you would like some help with ideas and activities 🙂