How to Teach the Basics of Sign Language to First-Line Supervisors

Topic: Adult Education
Words: 1106 Pages: 4

The goal as a trainer was to make sure that supervisors are provided with basic information about sign language. First-line supervisor would be introduced to American Sign Language (ASL) which has gained enormous popularity in high schools, colleges, and universities all around the United States. This is mainly because more institutions are letting students take the course to satisfy a foreign or general language requirement. The number of students taking ASL classes has significantly expanded over the last couple of decades, and there are probably more ASL teachers than ever before right now (Quinto-Pozos, 2011). The main focus of the training would be dedicated to the differences between teaching spoken language and sign. There are some similarities between teaching ASL and spoken language, but there are also differences between the two, such as differences in modality involving visual rather than auditory perception and processing, the absence of a writing system in ASL, and the socio-cultural background of relations between the deaf and the hearing.

The training requires basic knowledge of teaching as supervisor would be teaching sign language in the future. Personal and professional characteristics of a supervisor should include striving for equal opportunities and high-quality education for all people, regardless of their racial, ethnic, or linguistic background. Particularly, the equal access to all teaching for deaf students at all levels that applies to L2 sign language learners who are typically hearing but also deaf (Martinez and Singleton, 2019). Moreover, supervisor should be interested in promoting curiosity among students and colleagues in linguistic and cultural practices. They also need to highlight the equality of all languages and cultures in society and education. First-line supervisors are expected to be aware of different cultures accept the value of different languages and different cultures. For example, allow for variation in local or national sign language(s), do not impose choice of signs and pay attention to variants (lexical, grammatical) and accept various forms of sign/speech.

The training will be conducted in a way that supervisor would learn how to empower students to take charge of their own education, for instance by using the educational language program designed for sign language users. In addition, it would include assisting non-signing teachers to use student self-reflections that have been signed. Supervisors would be encouraged to share instructional staff members’ expertise of deaf culture and SL (Martinez and Singleton, 2019). The sign language training would learn how to request assistance from the team and management of the school. Moreover, it is crucial to supervisors to be open for discussions that they allow others to speak. They need to listen to students, encouraging communication, debate, and joint decision-making. For example, a fair turn-taking policy in bimodal bilingual settings; teaching coworkers, teachers, and staff about sign language interaction, teaching people how to communicate via an SL interpreter.

By definition, sign languages are not uniform; instead, they are employed in many linguistic variants (such as registers, geographical differences), frequently in conjunction with other spoken, written, or signed languages, for example, in multilingual situations. This calls for SL teachers to develop, as necessary, plurilingual competences in areas like intercomprehension, which makes use of one language’s capabilities to comprehend or produce messages in another (Martinez and Singleton, 2019). Teachers also need to know about the appropriate selection of such varieties in various contexts, including instances of codeswitching, translanguaging, code-blending, simultaneous, sometimes sequential, use of spoken and signed features, and various types of media (Martinez and Singleton, 2019). The local spoken language’s written form may also be employed for communication and, as necessary, taken into account throughout the entire communicative context.

Competencies in a variety of languages may be necessary, depending on the linguistic repertoire and professional setting of each teacher. These at least include the target sign language(s) of instruction, which may or may not be the same as the language of instruction or the main spoken/written language(s) spoken in the area where the school or institution is located (Reagan et al., 2020). The function that these languages play in the repertoires of the instructor and the student. For instance, whether teaching and learning take place in a language that is a first, second, or foreign language for the teacher(s) or some or most students is an important consideration.

One could argue that as part of their education, sign language teachers should learn at least one additional language and become proficient in it. When a language is learned and utilized in the context of formal education, such skills and experiences can help a teacher better understand crucial phenomena related to language in education, experiences, and challenges faced by students with limited or no language proficiency (Boers-Visker, 2021). The language could be an internationally recognized sign language, such as American Sign Language, or a contact language like International Sign.

The delivery of the training would be in-class, allowing supervisors to practice their knowledge with their peers. It would include groups works and small tasks that will assess their team management, communication and teaching skills. The groups will be both large (max 6 people) and small (max 3 people). The assessment would consist of two parts, first is written examination, second is oral examination where supervisors would take a role of a teacher and demonstrate their practical knowledge. Responsibilities of a facilitator would include assessing supervisors through their engagement in class, asking questions related the knowledge of sing language they have learned and ensuring friendly learning environment (Quinto-Pozos, 2011). Individual consultations with facilitators would also be included, allowing every supervisor to know their personal and professional development stage.

The course is designed for 6 months where the first 3 months would be dedicated to sensitisation sessions, sign language variation, hand shapes, sign language usage in professional as well as personal life and deaf culture. The rest of the course would focus on alphabet, numbers, and finger spelling. The content of the course is designed to provide basic knowledge of sing language for the first-line supervisors. As such, it included the fundamentals of sing language and its culture. The class setting should be in a separate class with low level of noise and comfortable room temperature. It would be a simple classroom with people sitting and trainer standing in front of them. This would allow trainers, facilitators, and learners to interact with each other easily. It is expected that the budget of the class would be minimum of 2000 dollars as the training requires textbooks, TV or screen desk that are essential parts of learning process. The course should provide every supervisor with the textbook, providing equal access to the class materials. Some of the materials would be posted online as well.


Boers-Visker, E. (2021). On the acquisition of complex classifier constructions by L2 learners of a sign language. Language Teaching Research, 1362168821990968.

Martinez, D., & Singleton, J. L. (2019). Individual differences in lexical learning across two language modalities: Sign learning, word learning, and their relationship in hearing non-signing adults. Acta Psychologica, 198, 102892.

Quinto-Pozos, D. (2011). Teaching American Sign Language to hearing adult learners. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 137-158.

Reagan, T., Matlins, P. E., & Pielick, C. D. (2020). Teaching deaf culture in American Sign Language courses: Toward a critical pedagogy. Foreign Language Annals, 53(2), 270-291.

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