Thursday, March 10, 2011

Singing and Signing

One of the most rewarding things I've learned over my 30-plus years of sharing music is that adding sign language to lyrics is universally appealing. The mother of a toddler with a disability first showed me some basic signs that her son responded to with enthusiasm and success. This got me started, and inspired me to write a song, "Hearts and Hands" about how we can all benefit from each other's differences by using our hearts and hands. (Links shown below.)

Since then....many songs and signs later...I have found that all ages, from babies to elders, respond instinctively to learning and using signs (referring to American Sign Language/ASL) especially when they accompany the rhythms, melodies and storylines of songs.

Here is a short and sweet song that I wrote that you can easily teach to others. "One World/Un Mundo" adapts itself beautifully to sharing with sign-language. In this video I'm shown performing it in several settings in Spanish and English. You will notice that not all words are signed and that there are some subtle variations in signs (for instance, watch for "sing" shown 2 different ways.) Signs may vary depending on your source, so when faced with a choice, decide with your students which ones you prefer. The important thing is to do what you're comfortable with, but be willing to learn and grow, and above all, have fun! You can also hear this song in Russian on my album Circle Time 2, Track #9. (See "Albums" link below.)

I encourage you to add any other language that you're familiar with. The signs you use remain the same so that as you sing each language, the signs are reinforced.

You will find many other songs with strong images that lend themselves to signing. Try typing this: american sign language "you are my sunshine" in the box. As you work on a song, start by inserting a few key signs, and as you get more comfortable, keep filling in with more. Older students might be given the task of researching several signs each and then teaching them to the group.

To help you further, visit this ASL site that is wonderful for clear modeling of countless individual words/signs.

Happy singing and signing together!
Lisa Monet

Hearts and Hands video:
Official site and contact info:
Albums and song samples: