Hesperian Health Guides
Using groups of signs
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You have been using groups of signs to communicate with your child. For a child to begin using groups of signs by himself, he needs to know several signs so he can put them together in different ways.
Ways to encourage your child to put signs together
When your child signs a single sign, encourage him to expand on what he says. You could:
- expand on the sign yourself and encourage him to copy you.
- ask a question and encourage her to answer.
- ask your child about what he is doing.
What are you making, Minh?
What are you making it with?
Sticks and leaves.
Here are some more ways to encourage your child to use groups of signs:
- Ask your child to deliver a simple message.
- Try telling stories together. When your child has seen you tell a story many times, he may be able to sign part of it himself.
Now you be Mama for a while.
What does Mama do?
- Encourage your child to take on different roles.
Use questions to encourage your child to think
Asking questions is a good way to keep communication going. Questions also encourage your child to think.
- Give your child tasks that ask her to think in new ways. Then encourage her to communicate about what she is doing.
- When your child has a problem, ask her to tell you how to solve it.
- When you notice your child is expressing an emotion, ask her to explain how she feels.
If she has trouble answering you, first think about whether she knows the signs she needs to answer the question. If she does not, help her learn these signs.
‘Why’ questions can be complicated and difficult for a child to answer. Because the answers to ‘why’ questions must often include things, actions and emotions, they are important for developing children’s thinking skills. A child needs a lot of practice to answer these questions, so keep working on ‘why’ questions. If your child still has trouble answering the question, give her several choices.
How to help your child follow 2-step requests
When your child understands more signs, he can begin to follow more difficult requests. You can start by expanding the simple requests your child already understands, by turning them into requests with 2 steps.
First, make a request about something your child can see.
Then slowly make the requests more difficult.
Help your child notice that how a sign is made is part of its meaning
A person adds meaning to her signs by making them larger or smaller, by making some signs slower or faster than others, and by changing the way her face looks.
Help your child pay attention to these different ways of signing so he will understand more of the message being sent.
|If you want to say something is bad, you can make a sign like this:||If you want to say it is very bad, you would make the same sign (‘bad’) larger and faster:|
Telling stories is one of the most enjoyable ways to teach your child sign language. Try signing in different ways as you play different characters. Also try putting a lot of emotion (like joy or sadness) in your voice and on your face to show how the characters are feeling.
in my chair?’
|'papa bear' sign|
|'baby bear' sign|
says, ‘Who’s been sitting in my chair?’
Signing for different characters helps a child pay attention to the story. It also helps a child see the expression, the size, and the different ways signs are made.