ASL Brought to the Elementary Schools

At Fairfield Elementary School, third grade students learned about different aspects of Deaf culture including Helen Keller’s life story and William “Dummy” Hoy’s life story. The students were extremely engaged and wanted to learn more about the dynamics between hearing people and Deaf people and about the experience that Deaf people face in society. For the most part, the students were especially fascinated by Helen Keller’s Deafness and blindness, and they wanted to learn more about American Sign Language (ASL). 

ASL 3 students at Massapequa High School had the opportunity to visit Fairfield Elementary School in order to teach the students sign language. Each group of ASL students taught a specific topic, and some popular topics included family, animals, and transportation. None of them used spoken English to communicate with each other; only ASL was used.

First, each group introduced the signs from their topic using a variety of methods such as pictures. Once the volunteers finished teaching, each group played a unique game with the elementary school students. Some of the games included an altered version of Monopoly, board games, and bingo. Additionally, each group of ASL students rotated so the elementary school students could learn a new set of signs. 

At the end of the trip, the volunteers broke the silence and spoke to the elementary school students about their experiences learning a new language. Also, each classroom learned about different technologies used by Deaf people such as a “shake awake” clock and a hearing dog. 

The children were curious about how some of the technologies work, and a common question arose concerning the difference between a hearing dog and a service dog for blind people. Once all of the questions were answered, the high schoolers taught the elementary students the  alphabet and the Pledge of Allegiance. 

“The trip went great!” said senior Kylie Squires. “It was such an amazing feeling to be able to share such a beautiful language and culture with the children. I think it is so important to introduce the younger kids to new and different topics that are outside of “normal” school subjects. The fact that we were able to introduce Deaf culture and ASL to the kids by playing fun games and activities was so exciting. I felt so proud to be a part of such a great experience. Of course, it was intimidating at first to enter the classroom and not be able to speak, but once the kids started to warm up, they were participating in everything and it was obvious they were happy to be there. I wish all of the elementary schools were able to participate!”. 

Like Kylie, many of the other ASL 3 students claimed that they wished this opportunity was spread to all of the elementary schools so ASL could become a more widespread language.

“The opportunity to teach ASL to third grade students was truly something special”, said senior Bridget Murphy. “Seeing the students signing back to us, teaching about how Deaf people endure in their day to day lives, and introducing such a beautiful language is something I will never forget. I wish I could have had this same experience when I was younger because having the possibility to start signing sooner could have inspired me into learning more about ASL”. 

Overall, both the ASL students and Fairfield students felt extremely enthusiastic and satisfied with the outcome. 


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