I took sign language in college and loved it. My teachers loved the subject and wanted us to learn how to actually communicate with deaf people. Since then I’ve used this in a myriad of unexpected ways. It’s been years since I truly practiced, and between wanting to brush up on sign language myself, AND wanting my kids to learn American Sign Language, finding a good sign language curriculum was on my list of things to do. I finally succeeded when I found Sign It.
(Sign It gave me free access to their course in exchange for a review)
TLDR: Sign It is the best sign language curriculum I’ve found in years of searching
The Key to Learning Sign Language
While you might think the key is to stick a bunch of vocabulary in your sign language curriculum. It’s not.
The key to understanding sign language is seeing it done by multiple people. Just like the English language has lots of different ways to say the same thing, sign language does that too.
If three different people sign the same sentence, it’ll be signed three different ways. One person might form the words ever so slightly differently, or they might choose different vocabulary words.
That is one of the things I like about Sign It! each time you learn a new word you see multiple people sign it.
And not just multiple people who look the same. They found multiple ages, ethnicities, and outfits.
While you may not think outfits are a big deal, when you are talking about a visual language, outfits can make a big difference in how clear the sign is, and how well you understand it.
It was actually difficult to get a good set of examples to take pictures of, because with each word you never know which
actor instructor was going to sign the word, and I was trying very hard to grab several different people, but I’d miss the particular person I was looking for.
Check out the backgrounds of the instructors. I just discovered this page as I was writing this post and their wide variety of backgrounds and knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf culture truly add to the course.
But let’s look at what a Sign It! lesson looks like
Each lesson, after the very first introductory lesson, starts off with a short skit at Caf ASL. You can choose to watch them with or without captions and with or without sound.
Caf ASL is a great way to see what actual conversations in ASL look like. They use correct ASL grammar, and to help us English speakers understand it they use ASL gloss.
This was a whole new concept I hadn’t heard of before. My sign language classes were in person over 20 years ago, but it’s a brilliant idea to help you grasp ASL grammar.
I like to watch the Caf ASL scene two times. First I watch it without captions or sound. I try my best to follow the conversation and see how much I catch. Then I go back and rewatch it with the sound on.
It’s been a great exercise for me.
Admittedly, if you’re learning for the first time, I’d probably just watch through it on its own.
Next step, learn vocabulary
I’ve already put the picture I’d planned for this earlier. First Rachel teaches the vocabulary word, and then you watch several other people use the same sign.
As you do, you see how each person uses the sign ever so slightly differently.
Once you have gone through all of the vocabulary, you take a quiz. The quiz questions alternate between deaf culture and vocabulary words.
Overall Unit flow
There are currently 20 units available, but they plan to have 50 total units.
All of the Units (or lessons) are set up the same way.
There is a welcome video.
Then you run through several sets of vocabulary, fingerspelling, specific types of classifiers for that topic (hand shapes, or ways particular movements are used for sign language), fingerspelling, sentences, and then a final test. To help cement it in your brain it all ends with practice at home and a final wrap-up video.
Why I love this sign language curriculum
I’ve wanted to teach my kids sign language for years. I’ve tried several different ideas, none have quite clicked with our family.
But this sign language curriculum has humor. Our family is big on humor.
This curriculum actually teaches the vocabulary and shows how to use it. While this may seem like common sense, but it’s not as common as you might think in sign language curriculum. A frequent plan for ASL classes is complete immersion, and they never explicitly teach you.
For all that I love the humor, it’s really how the material is presented. It’s logical, it’s present in several different ways, and they give you application.
How to get Sign It ASL
Sign It ASL comes in 5 lesson sets that will help you have a complete conversation on that general topic. Each lesson set costs $50.
However, the best value is buying lessons 1-20 for $150. If I were defining this for a high school transcript, 10 lessons would equal 1 year of ASL. That way you go through the material several times, and truly come to know it.
If you’re planning to use this with several kids or a small co-op, then pick up the group access for $350. The only caveat, you only have access for 12 months. I could easily see several parents deciding they would rather just buy the $150 version.