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Sign Language - Signing Games

Games for Learning Sign Language


Updated April 28, 2014

A forum member had a question about using sign games to teach sign language to hearing children, and forum members responded, as follows:

    "I'm helping organize an integrated summer day camp for deaf, HOH, and hearing kids aged 5-12. One of the aims of the camp is to teach some sign to the hearing campers. Does anyone have any fun games/activities that incorporate sign language? I'd appreciate all suggestions or links to other resources."
"You know the old telephone game? Where you whispered something in the next persons ear and see how the message has changed by the end? That's fun to play only you sign it to the next person in line. "
"I am a 19yr old student currently studing Sign Language in Western Australia. We have played a few games in class that has halped us with learning signs. Hope you understand how I have explained them.

Everyone gets given an animal in sign language. You go round the circle to know who has what animal and the sign for that animal. Person 1 Dog Person 2 cat person 3 frog person 4 rabbit and so on. Person 1 starts by doing another persons sign, that personb replys with someone elses sign. Not only do you have to look for your sign but also remember who is left in the game and what animal they are. The other game is like Chinese whispers. Everyone is facing the back wall in a line. The first person is told a little sentance in sign. They have to tap the person on the shoulder and repeat it to them and so on. Hoping the sentance reaches the back person correctly."
"I am a hearing person, studying ASL, who has attended "Silent Games" in our area. We recently played a variation of Fruit Basket Upset. Start with chairs in a circle, one less than the number of people playing. The standing person will try to get to an empty seat as the game progresses. Going around the circle, each person (including the one standing) in alternately given the name of one of three fruits--apple, banana, orange, apple, banana, orange, etc.--and shown the sign if they don't know it. The standing person signs one of the three fruits and each person in the chairs with that fruit name assigned to them must stand and try to get to another of the now-vacant chairs. The standing person tries to steal a chair also. Occasionally, the new standing person might sign "fruit" and tumble his hands for "mix up" and then everyone must stand and try to get to an empty chair. If more than 20 people are playing, it is probably better to have two smaller circles.

Another game is called "Who has...?" The setup is the same as previous game, but the standing person signs "Who has______________ ?" filling in the blank with signs for things like "blue pants" or "brown hair" or "necklace" etc. This can be extended to "Who lives ____________ ?" with names of surrounding towns fingerspelled. Or make up your own introduction question depending on the signing ability of the players. If someone notices that a seated player didn't move that should have, that person goes to the center as the standing person who signs a question."
"I've played show and tell with my students. Each person has their own small chalk board (or paper). Review newly taught vocabulary by signing a word or phrase and each person writes down what they think you signed. Everyone turns their answer over (so no one peeks) until everyone is done. Then everyone holds up their answer and you get to say who has it. The kids tend to like to keep score. Great for introducing words with more than one sign and signs with more than one word.

Also, use two sets of "Tinker Toys" Have one person build a shape with various parts behind a screen (a folder, stading open can work). Then using signs only--that person must describe one step at a time what they built and the other person must duplicate the shape. This is great for beginners since the pieces are different colors and it helps teach how to use descriptors such as small, large, long, short, thin, fat, round etc. A whole set of toys can be split up so a person only gets a few pieces as long as the other person has the same pieces available. Then they can work in pairs or have one person describe what they built to a group of people who work together to try and build it."
"I'd like to recommend a book that I have used when seeking creative play situations for my deaf daughter. Kid-Friendly Parenting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children written by Daria Medwid and Denise Chapman Weston (clerc books-Gallaudet University Press, Washington dc), has been very reader friendly to this hearing parent of a deaf child. I use it both at home and as a reference at my office (a large pediatriac office)."
"There are only two that I can think of at the moment. One is bingo for the older kids, it's good because it's basic letters, the numbers can be difficult if not taught in advance. The other is easier because it deals with showing shape and how an object looks.

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