American Sign Language (ASL) is such a fantastic second language for children to learn. It is truly a beautiful and highly communicative language. The ASL alphabet can be a bit tricky for kids so I’ve come up with these great tips for teaching preschoolers the ASL alphabet.
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We’ll start by going over each letter and then adding a few helpful tips. Whether you took ASL in high school, are fluent, or are learning along with your kids, I think you’ll find these tips super helpful!
We will go letter by letter, some letters are no brainers and some I will give a helpful or funny tip for you to better remember. Did you know associations are a great way for both adults and children to learn things?
According to Brainscape,
Associations between the new thing you are learning and something you already are familiar with will help you deepen your understanding of the new thing. You can form stronger memories, thus better remember the new concept, if you start off with lots of connections to the new concept.
Luckily, there are quite a few alphabet signs that look like the letter which makes them easy to remember. For others, I’ve tried to come up with some fun associations.
I hope these associations help you while teaching preschoolers the ASL alphabet!
A is the first letter of the alphabet and it looks kind of like a lowercase a. Make a fist with your thumb on the side.
B isn’t too hard either, you can remember it by imaging a lowercase b. Keep your hand flat and move your thumb in.
C is pretty easy too. It looks like a C so it is very easy to remember.
D also looks like a lowercase d but might be a little tricky at first. Remember when doing D your fingers will go down.
E kind of looks like a lowercase e. Curl your fingers in tight to get the sign right.
F looks kind of funny, huh? An easy way to remember F is that your index finger and thumb will meet and your other fingers will stay out like feathers.
I taught my oldest child how to sign by G by thinking of grabbing some grapes.
H kind of looks like a capital H on it’s side.
I is another sign that looks a lot like the actual letter. It is just your pinky up straight with your thumb covering your other fingers.
J is a really fun sign. Use your pinky to draw a J in the air.
To sign K put your thumb in between your first two fingers while they’re pointed up.
L is another sign that looks like the letter.
To sign M curl your first three fingers over your thumb. It kind of looks like an M.
Once you know M, it’s pretty easy to learn N. N is the same as M but with only the first two fingers.
O is another sign that looks like the letter it represents.
P is a hard one. It is kind of like the sign for K but on its side. To sign P put your thumb in between your first two fingers and then bend your wrist towards the ground. Remember this is all done in one fluid motion. This is a letter sign that make take practice to both remember and do correctly.
Personally, I don’t really think Q looks like much. I like to remember the sign for Q by thinking I need to pick up a quarter from the ground.
If you the learn sign for ready, you’ll easily remember R. That’s because the sign for ready is “R” shook back and forth. Remember that you are ready for R!
You can remember S by thinking of snake on a stone.
T isn’t super intuitive. You can help teach the sign by remembering that you have to use your thumb to sign T and that thumb starts with T. You can also think of T like a little turtle poking its head out.
U is another no brainer, it looks like a U!
Not to be confused with the non-ASL peace sign, V looks like the letter V.
W is another sign that looks like the letter it represents.
X is another one that I don’t think looks like the letter. A good way to remember X is by thinking your finger looks broken and it needs an x-ray.
Y can feel a bit awkward at first. I noticed that a lot of other students (both in our homeschool preschool and in my adult classes) would make the non-ASL Texas Longhorns sign or the rock and roll sign because it was something their hand knew! Y looks like the top of the letter Y.
I think Z is actually a really fun and easy to remember sign. Just draw a Z in the air with your index finger.
Common mix-ups and how to avoid them
A and E
A and E can be easy to mix up at first. Remember to curl you fingers in to make an E.
E and S
Remember that E looks like a lowercase E and that S is like a stone with a snake. The snake snuggles up to the stone!
D and F
Remember that F has feathers! D does not. With D your fingers go down.
Other tips for learning the ASL alphabet
Practice makes perfect. The more you practice the signs the easier it will become.
Don’t go too fast when you’re first learning. I think it’s easier just to learn a few letters at a time. Once you have mastered those letters then move on. The alphabet is the key to learning any language, but this is especially true for ASL since it involves so much fingerspelling.
Find a Deaf or Hard of Hearing instructor
Once you learn some basics on your own, one of my best tips for learning ASL is to have a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person to teach you. When you learn this way, you will also be able to learn so much about Deaf culture.
ASL Teaching Products
My family has used these products for learning ASL together and for our homeschool preschool group. You may also find them helpful. I especially love Signing Time as it covers all the basics.
More ASL posts and printables:
What are your biggest tips for teaching preschoolers the ASL alphabet or teaching ASL to children in general? Do you have any fun ways to remember the signs for the alphabet? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.