Sharing the Beauty of American Sign Language

By Debi Polen

Growing Up with the Love of Signing

When I was a young teen, my sister and I devised a way to communicate secretly: we learned the alphabet to American Sign Language (ASL). It was all for fun for us to “fingerspell,” but my grandmother saw when we signed a “G” that we always seemed to be pointing at her. She always took offense when we shared our little secrets, and since “Granny” does indeed start with the finger-pointing “G,” it made her paranoia all too real! We were taught the rudeness of our ways, but my desire to learn sign language continued.

A few years later, I was traveling alone on a bus to visit family in another state. When in line to board the bus, I noticed a couple signing to each other. This was my first introduction to “real world” applications of the language. I thought that I’d say hello, and fingerspelled H-E-L-L-O to them. The thrill on their faces has stuck with me ever since. It was like a bridge had been opened between two very different worlds. I had to tell them that I could only use the alphabet, but they didn’t seem to mind to slow down to talk with me. Our conversation made a boring bus ride enjoyable and incredibly memorable.

At my first job, I found that they had a video course on ASL, but it was merely teaching the signs for words and not the grammatical structure of the language, which at the time I didn’t realize differed from how the hearing world speaks. When I tried signing complete sentences, what I was actually doing was Signed English, which is the use of signs of ASL to correspond with the grammatical structure of English. This is the common way young hearing children are taught in school or Sunday School when they sign to Bible verses or songs.

Although I chose to learn computer programming languages over ASL in my professional life, my love for signing stayed with me.

Signing to Music

After our decision to home school, we participated in a co-op, a loosely-organized group of homeschooling families who would design our own classes and activities and assemble on a weekly basis. I decided to resurrect my love of signing to teach a course that had elementary-aged children learning to sign to worship songs. I found lots of books helpful in teaching this class, especially the Parents’ Choice Award winning Signing for Kids by Mickey Flodin. Conveniently, this book was divided into ten chapters, which corresponded to the number of weeks in a term in our co-op. It was great fun for the kids to learn signs and at the same time learn a song to perform at assemblies. The beauty of watching young children signing in unison in a song of worship is something I hope that they will cherish as much as I still do to this day.

Our Mini-Catalog for American Sign Language

Below is a selection of ASL resources that we currently have in our catalog, many of which were some of my resources that I used in designing my Signing with Music co-op class. This catalog is also available on the American Sign Language page in our Subject Index. If you have similar resources that you’d like to see listed below, please consign with us.


About ATUB

Another Turn Used Books specializes in gently-used books, textbooks, educational magazines, and educational toys and aids for the benefit of avid readers, homeschoolers, educators, and students. Our online bookstore is built through consignment. We also offer several fund-raising options for non-profit organizations.

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