To think that it wouldn't be too difficult or costly to teach basic sign language in schools?

(164 Posts)
Theicingontop Fri 11-Jan-13 23:40:13

Not expecting a five year old to sit and learn the entire BSL, but I think it would be nice if children were taught the basics. Maybe they do in some schools, but none I've ever heard of. Why do you think that is? Am I being unreasonable in thinking that it wouldn't be that difficult to do?

But it doesn't take any more time out of their school day, presumably their teacher says 'good morning everyone' at the begining of the day, in my dc's school they just happen to sign as well as speak. The dc learn it by seeing it every day and using it everyday. In phonics, when they learn the sound 'a' then they sign it too. I can see that it would be harder to introduce at secondary level, but at primary it is fairly straightforward once the teachers know some, they are helped by the TAs who have had training.

pictish Sat 12-Jan-13 09:54:01

Mmm nah - I think Spanish would be a lot more useful than sign language for the majority I'm afraid.

MrsMelons Sat 12-Jan-13 09:55:28

I agree with Spanish pictish definitely. I would love the DCs to learn Spanish but it seems most schools still insist on French.

MrsMelons Sat 12-Jan-13 09:57:16

Loquace Absolutely - to me I don't feel that learning French is the most useful language for my DCs to learn so would be just as happy with BSL but would love them to learn Spanish.

MummytoMog Sat 12-Jan-13 09:58:02

My DD is at nursery ina primary school with a unit for hearing impaired children - they all learn makaton and BSL in the mainstream section as well.

hazeyjane Sat 12-Jan-13 09:58:27

Children with speech delay, social communication disorders and other disabilites that are helped by Makaton use, are our children, and the children of our friends, they go to mainstream schools as well as special schools.

The arguments about Spanish and mandarin, well learning those languages may be more helpful wrt a career, but imo, education should also be about society and the rsponsibilty we all have in that society to accepting of others. Learning a simple language (I am talking Makaton as opposed to BSL), and including it in the school day, teaches so much more than just a few simple hand gestures.

It's a good idea.
However, it's not as simple as 'teach alongside other things'
As many have said, the biggest issue is time (ie money) to train staff so they have the confidence to deliver it. And there are different priorities in schools, the pot of money has to stretch to whatever is needed in a particular school. So if there are children who would benefit, the pot would have to stretch. If not, then the money would go on something else.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 12-Jan-13 10:02:20

Makaton I can see being helpful for a number of reasons.
I know a large number of elderly, hearing-impaired people who are indeed often lonely, isolated and have difficulties in communicating. Not one of them can sign.
Are you proposing signing to be taught as a second language so that when we do become hearing impaired we can still communicate?

Sarahplane Sat 12-Jan-13 10:03:55

I think it's a great idea.

As someone who is hearing impaired, sign language could be useful to me (I never learned any). But I do well enough in life than many people have never realised.

Meanwhile, I agree it is a good topic for schools, but like other parents, my DCs time is already full, and I don't want to start encroaching on the limited downtime they have.

As for MFL, signing might be good as an alternative in secondary instead of French. DD is currently in yr 8 and does both French and German, but she'd like to drop German in favour of Spanish. She feels it's more relevant and more widely spoken.

Ha. DD is cross with me, it's French she wants to drop, not German.

I can see Makaton could be taught in many lessons, alongside other stuff, but there will be a cost to the school budget somewhere, even just to cover a basic course for a teacher. And having been a school governor, I had sight of the budget on the finance committee and there is no way we could have stretched the budget.

Money is always going to be an issue.

Meglet Sat 12-Jan-13 10:33:33

One of my friends taught me how to sign the alphabet in the playground at junior school. Never forgotten it.

The DC's sign at nursery.

Cherriesarelovely Sat 12-Jan-13 10:34:00

We do this and it doesn't take an extra lesson, it is something we do as we go along, eg signing as we talk so the children get the basics such as home, school, thanks, love, the fruit names etc. We also sign many songs. The children pick it up in no time. It is brilliant.

Yes, clearly all schools have different budget restraints, our school has made it cheaper by training TAs, so that their time to go and train is cheaper and they are more easily replaced for an afternoon. My argument about teaching alongside is in relation to the feeling that it would distract from time learning other things. To the children it is not an added lesson, but something which is done simultaneously. They do also do French, but that is generally done as a separate lesson, rather than integrated with numeracy, phonics, geography etc. They sometimes do the register + lunch menu in French, but generally it would take twice as long, as they would say. 'good morning' then 'bonjour', whereas to teach in sign they do it simultaneously. I can see the financial reasons, but not the 'Jonny's time is too precious to spend learning signs when he can talk already.'

geogteach Sat 12-Jan-13 10:54:28

I can see there may be an argument for teaching some marathon but not sure about BSL.
My ds1 is deaf , he doesn't sign and gets very upset that people assume he can't communicate orally because of his disability. As more and more deaf people have implants the number using sign is decreasing. I know many families who learnt sign when there deaf kids were infants but as they grow older and develop their oral skills they no longer want to sign (this is obviously not true for ALL). As a result while most schools have no deaf kids many of those who do have one or two have none who sign.

I'm a Guider and am partially deaf. I taught one of my previous units the fingerspelling alphabet. I did the phonetic alphabet at the same time and it helped them to remember. If they couldn't remember the sign, they could generally remember the word and from that they usually figured out the sign. It worked the other way too so I can believe that it would help children to learn spellings.

threesocksmorgan Sat 12-Jan-13 11:08:06

money shouldn't be an issue. as it will lead to more inclusion.
so will save money in the long run.

Tanith Sat 12-Jan-13 11:10:52

I'm a childminder and we do Makaton with the kids.
My DD is at preschool and they say she signs almost as much as she talks - and she talks a lot smile
She's able to communicate with a child who has delayed speech and translate for the staff.

It's easy: we just sign as we talk and, especially with singing nursery rhymes and songs.

I also know some BSL (forgotten lots of it). It is more complicated but I think Makaton is a good basis. It's made me very careful to make signs clearly - Twinkle twinkle little star for example! wink

3birthdaybunnies more and more of the deaf boarding schools are closing and so deaf children are now being integrated into mainstream education now.

A lot of posters have suggested that school teachers would need to be sent on training courses so they could learn enough BSL to teach classes. BSL is a complete language on its own right and therefore if it is being taught seriously sessions would need to be delivered by a qualified teacher - and I have never met a BSL teacher who wasn't deaf so it would usually be a question of bringing someone in. I don't mean to be arsey but please be aware that many people have fought long and hard to have BSL legally recognised as a language and the idea that you can teach it after half a day's training kind of compounds the idea that it is something simple. I understand a bit of finger spelling and a few signs can be taught as a fun and useful activity but really learning BSL means learning a whole grammatical and structured language and that could only be taught by a fluent user and would require the same level of dedication and practise that any foreign language needs to become skilled.

Great post Gail.

Theicingontop Sat 12-Jan-13 11:27:27

Gail, that's why I think small phrases and at the very least finger spelling would be great in schools. Obviously if you lack the need you're not going to teach your child an entire language on the off-chance they may need it some day. Just like any language, you use it or lose it.

But a small effort wouldn't cost a lot for the schools, especially finger-spelling, there are free resources available from the internet that are excellent and would suit a classroom. Though from what I'm hearing on here a lot of schools DO teach basic signs, so that's great. Clearly the schools in my area aren't inclined.

CaseyShraeger Sat 12-Jan-13 11:28:19

I agree, Gail; it's worth noting, though, that that's precisely what some primary schools seem to be doing with modern language teaching -- expecting a teacher who isn't a native speaker and has no fluency in the language to teach it to children.

I get what you're saying theicing but either attending a brief training session or using resources on the Internet doesn't mean that what people are learning and then teaching is accurate. It's not easy when a hearing person starts to learn a signed language as muscle memory generally isn't practised to retain such detailed actions and its easy to misremember or just do it wrong. Maybe I'm reading too much not this as it's a subject that's important to me though. I do see the benefit in using it in schools but if what CaseySchrager says is the case, that teachers with only a minimal level of skill are teaching languages (albeit at a basic level), why not spend the money spent on training them to get a proper fluent language user to come in and run sessions?

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 12-Jan-13 11:41:26

'why not spend the money spent on training them to get a proper fluent language user to come in and run sessions?'

That's what we did, our MFL sessions are run by a native speaker who is a qualified teacher. Way better all round, for the children and for staff who don't want to be teaching with a book in one hand and an internet connection as support.

TheNebulousBoojum sounds great and also can have the added benefit of the leathers meeting a native user of that language, which can be a powerful learning experience in its own right.

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