Language Lesson: Fingerspelling

Deaf teachers use visual strategies for incorporating fingerspelling into classroom instruction. Studies on these visual strategies show that they are a natural part of classroom interaction and are used to promote greater understanding and retention of academic material.


Three such instructional strategies for using fingerspelling are as follows:


(1) Chaining, (2) Sandwiching, and (3) Lexicalized Fingerspelling.




Chaining is used for introducing new concepts or new vocabulary terms. Chaining creates associations by connecting signs, fingerspelling, and the printed/written word in a sequence, with one format reinforcing the previous one. Through chaining, the teacher provides multiple ways for the students to learn the word and concept. In addition, teachers may use objects, pictures, or multimedia to reinforce the concepts. For example, when teaching the word, tornado, a teacher might choose one of the following sequences:


1) Point to the word tornado written on the board;

2) fingerspell T-O-R-N-A-D-O; and

3) sign TORNADO.




1) Fingerspell T-O-R-N-A-D-O;

2) sign TORNADO; and

3) write tornado on the board.



The sandwiching technique alternates between fingerspelling and signing. This method also reinforces the equivalency of ASL and English.


1) Fingerspell T-O-R-N-A-D-O;

2) sign TORNADO; and

3) fingerspell T-O-R-N-A-D-O again.




1) Sign TORNADO;

2) fingerspell T-O-R-N-A-D-O; and

3) sign TORNADO again.


Lexicalized Fingerspelling

New signs are created through a process where fingerspelled words are altered or lexicalized to become more sign-like. Commonly referred to as loan signs, these signs sometimes omit letters (#JOB) while others blend the handshapes seamlessly (#BUS). Through this process, a loan sign is formed. Lexicalized fingerspelled signs include nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, interjections and wh-words. Lexicalized fingerspelling transforms the fingerspelled word into a sign-like visual image. Deaf teachers often use this technique; first, they produce a neutral version of a fingerspelled word, and then follow that with a lexicalized version. This process supports visual memory and facilitates retention.


Common Fingerspelled Loan Signs







What does lexicalized fingerspelling look like?



Visual Language and Visual Learning Science of Learning Center. (2010, July). The Importance of Fingerspelling for Reading. (Research Brief No. 1). Washington, DC: Sharon Baker.



Classroom Strategies to Build and Strengthen Literacy Skills

I stumbled upon a fantastic, informative website.

Reading Rockets.

But it’s more than just a website. It’s a movement.

This is what they say about themselves:
“We bring the best research-based strategies to teachers, parents, administrators, librarians, childcare providers, and anyone else involved in helping a young child become a strong, confident reader. Our goal is to bring the reading research to life — to spread the word about reading instruction and to present ‘what works’ in a way that parents and educators can understand and use.”

I just had to share the classroom strategies that I found there. Here’s a peek…

Reading Rockets 1

Further down, they list the different categories of strategies with guidance.

Reading Rockets 2

Here’s an example of one of their strategies — word maps.

Reading Rockets 3

You can find them here. Or by using this link:

This is a gift to all teachers, professionals, parents, and families who actively play a role in a child’s language and literacy development. Many thanks to Reading Rockets for providing educators with this wonderful resource.

Did you find this helpful? Let us know at

Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary

Is your child a language developer or a language learner?

Language Levels

The importance of meaningful context when teaching vocabulary:

Targeting Vocabulary 10-2

If you like what you see here, please let us know! If you didn’t find what you were looking for, we would love to know that, too. Email us at

Do you know about our 2020 goal for every child in Georgia who is deaf and hard of hearing? Visit to learn about our work and what you can do to get your children on a path to grade level reading!

FREE Education Workshop: Visual Phonics Training

Visual Phonics WorkshopCommon Core Standards for English/Language Arts, Foundational Reading Skills require children to “grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words”

What is Visual Phonics?

Visual Phonics is an evidence-based strategy to teach sound-letter associations and phonics to children who have no access to sound or low levels of speech perception. It’s been effective as a supplement to general education reading programs. It is not a sign system; it’s a supplemental tool to help children see the sound and give clues about how it’s articulated.

The Center on Literacy and Deafness (CLAD) will offer free training for GA teachers (limited availability). See flyer for more information.

To learn more about Georgia Pathway to Language & Literacy, please visit our website at or email us at

Write A Book, Part 2: An Advanced Language Activity

Bookmaking Advanced

My toddlers are reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar this week. While this activity is too advanced for them, perhaps you can use this with your kiddos!

What book are you reading in class? Could you use that book for this language activity?

If this post was helpful, we would love for you to share it with fellow teachers, your students’ parents, anyone who might like this activity!

For more information about Georgia Pathway to Language & Literacy, please visit our website at or email us at

Write A Book: A Simple, Fun Language Activity!


What book will you write with your students?

If you liked this activity, we would love for you to share it with parents, co-workers, friends, whomever!

To learn more about Georgia Pathway to Language & Literacy, please visit our website at or email us at

“Where’s My Name?” A Daily Activity for Name Recognition

Good Morning, Pathfinders!

Here’s a daily activity, developed by our Literacy Specialist, for teachers to use as their students arrive at school in the morning.

You can also modify this activity to use in the afternoon before your students leave by having them move their name and/or picture from “school” to “home.”Activity - Name Sign In


To learn more about Georgia Pathway to Language & Literacy, please visit our website at or email us at