Signing in Singing Time

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I love to occasionally teach Primary songs using simplified ASL!  If you are new to signing in singing time, these tips, tricks and ideas are for you!  With just a little practice, you can EASILY teach your Primary to sign any song in singing time.

Camille's Primary Ideas: Teach a Song using ASL, Signing in Singing Time Tips

Now, let me be honest here … I’m not an interpreter and have no formal training in sign language.  However, I have successfully taught signing in singing time for years.  These ideas are what I do to successfully teach signing in singing time!

What is Simplified Sign Language?

Simply put, simplified sign language is just how it sounds … it’s sign language with a lot of words cut out.  It’s also termed CASE: Conceptually Accurate Signed English.

Because learning full sign language to any song is difficult, teaching simplified sign language in singing time is much more simple!  And I HIGHLY recommend it!

Both Jr. & Sr. Primaries Benefit from Sign Language

Junior Primary loves the large muscle movements.  They retain the words better when they can put an action to it.

Senior Primary enjoys the challenge of remembering what hand motions go with what words.  And if necessary, you can always teach them more than just the basic simplified signs.  They can definitely handle the challenge!

How to Teach Sign Language in Singing Time

Since I don’t know sign language – AT ALL, I just kind of “wing it” every time I teach it.  I’ve actually had a few teachers tell me that they didn’t know I knew sign language – ha!  Fooled them!!  Is it always correct? No.  But that’s not the intention.
 
This is where simplified ASL comes in handy.  I omit most of the signs and usually only teach signs for key words.

Which hand do you use?

A commonly asked question when teaching sign is “which hand do you use?  Holly addresses this question in her video here:

When I learn the signs, I learn them backwards (or with the wrong hand – I mirror what I see in the videos).  Then when I start signing in Primary, I practice with the kids mirroring some simple actions.
 
I’ll wave with my left hand and ask them to pretend we are looking in a mirror – what hand would they use?  Then we practice with the other hand by patting our heads or something.  So when I move my left hand, they move their right and vice versa.

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Learn Key Words

To learn those key word signs, I use SEVERAL resources combined.  Below are some of my favorite ASL resources:

  • My first go-to website is the church’s Primary songs in ASL HERE (this is SO complicated for me but it’s a start!)
  • The church also has a list of simple ASL videos of the more unusual vocabulary we use in the Church HERE (I LOVE this resource!)
  • This link is an ASL dictionary HERE (for any words that aren’t on the church’s site)
  • And another ASL dictionary HERE (I’m more familiar with this link)
  • Singing Savvy HERE
  • Primary Choristers on YouTube has several of the current year’s primary songs in simplified ASL HERE also check out the website HERE
  • Then there are several who post videos of their own.  There are a few samples HERE or HERE or HERE

Also, never be afraid to ask others for help!  If you know of someone who signs (maybe a Primary child or another adult), they are a great resource!

Write Notes

Create notes of all the ASL signs included in your Primary song.  This helps if you draw a blank while teaching.  It also helps to reinforce what you already know simply by writing it down!

Find some examples of my notes HERE (scroll through all of the posts).  I personally wouldn’t take a video into Primary to teach from but that’s just my preference.

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to teach the signs, you MUST know them beforehand – both the words to the song and the signs.  I like to bring my notes because sometimes I get stuck and need a reference.

That said, I don’t want to be stopping to read my notes throughout my entire lesson plan.  I look unprepared and it’s terribly boring for the Primary children.

Teach Signs in Singing Time

To introduce the song, I have the kids watch me sign the entire song while I play it on my phone + speaker.  This doubles nicely as my attention getter!  Usually by the end of my demonstration, they are all trying to sign with me anyway ;).
 
Then I like to quiz them to see if they recognized or remember any of the signs I used.  I’m always surprised by what they are able to pick out!
 
Then I establish which hands they should use with the technic listed above.  After that I add one sign and phrase at a time, usually beginning with the chorus. I sing the phrase and sign it. 
 
Then I discuss the sign (maybe give them a unique way of remembering it), show them the action, they repeat it without singing, then we sing the phrase while we sign it.
 
Then add on – next phrase with the next sign.  We’ll sing that phrase while signing it.  Then we’ll sign and sing everything we’ve learned so far.

Review Signs with Scarves

A fun way to review signs you’ve taught is to use scarves!

Camille's Primary Ideas: Using Scarves for Movement

More details about purchasing scarves are in my shop HERE.  Scarves are a very valuable tool singing time!  There are TONS of other activities they can be used for in singing time!

But to use scarves when signing, either tie a scarf on your pointer finger or hold it in your hand.  Then proceed to sign while holding the scarf.
 
The scarves provide such a fun visual!  But I recommend only bringing scarves out AFTER the signs have been learned.  They can be a distraction from learning the actual signs.
 

Sign Language for the Primary Program

I typically try to have one song learned in ASL for the program.  It always adds a neat dynamic to the meeting! 

My favorite method for signing in sacrament meeting is to first sign the song without singing.  Then repeat it with singing and signing.

ASL Singing Time Lesson Plans

I have SEVERAL lesson plans that teach simplified ASL!  Scroll through all of those ideas HERE.

Camille's Primary Ideas: Love One Another singing time ideas

How Do You Teach Sign Language in Singing Time?

What are tips that you use when teaching sign language in primary?  Leave a comment with your ideas and suggestions!
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5 thoughts on “Signing in Singing Time”

  1. Hi! I'm a little late to the game here 🙂 I am the music leader in a designated deaf ward, which means we have hearing and d/Deaf members. I like to teach at least a couple of songs in ASL; this year, over half of our songs will be singing/signing. A couple notes:
    These are all great resources, thank you! I have been trying to find the church's ASL library with difficulty for a while now.
    If any music leader has a d/Deaf member in their ward, I would urge using them as a resource first out of respect for Deaf culture (and to maintain language integrity). This includes having them teach the signs to the children in singing time. One of our Deaf members teaches the songs in ASL; she is great at teaching simplified sign language and the kids love having her.
    With the songs we know in ASL, we use them as a reverent activity to help invite the spirit if it's too rowdy. I have everyone sign the song with no piano, singing, humming or saying the words. They have to be reverent because it takes all of their attention!
    Thanks so much for all you do!

  2. I have a 9 year old with Downs Syndrome. She is non-verbal as of yet, but she has a communication tablet and she knows a few basic signs (yes, no, ice cream, chicken, BK, you know, the important ones. 😀 ) In the last couple of years, I’d been called to teach the sunbeams, and Rosie loves sitting by Mommy in singing time. She tries to vocally sing the songs, but I have been trying to encourage her to learn how to sign some of them. But since I don’t know much ASL, it’s hit and miss.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for putting the links to resources. I feel confident I may be able to help her learn the church songs in ASL and more fully participate in primary now.

    1. Hi Sheryl!

      Your comment made my day today! I’m so happy you’ve found some helpful content here to help with your daughter. She’s lucky to have you! I’ve always said that parents of special needs children have a saved spot in heaven!

      ~Camille

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