Pin Me

American Sign Language: Back to School ASL

written by: Heather Marie Kosur•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/8/2013

The following article describes some helpful ASL vocabulary for use by signers for talking about school. Use this vocabulary in a back to school lesson plan for American Sign Language.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Back to School

    Signers who use American Sign Language as their primary means of communication must learn specific vocabulary to talk about the people, places, and things in a school setting. For example, ASL signers must use difference signs to discuss assignments and tests. The following section provides textual descriptions of the motions used for various signs needed by ASL signers to discuss school supplies and activities.

  • slide 2 of 4

    ASL School Vocabulary

    Assignment/homework – Begin by forming the letter A of the sign language alphabet with both hands. Hold the left hand at waist level. Hold the right hand slightly above the left. Circle the right hand over the left in a counterclockwise motion. Then bring the right hand down on top of the left hand.

    Backpack – Begin by forming the letter C of the sign language alphabet with both hands. Hold both hands over the shoulders with the fingers and thumbs pointing backwards. Touch the thumbs to the shoulders. Lift the hands up. Then touch the thumbs to the shoulders again.

    Blackboard – First make the sign for black. Begin with the right hand in a fist with the index finger held straight. Place the right index finger on the left side of the forehead. Move the right index finger from the left to the right side of the forehead. Then make the sign for board. Begin with both hands in fists with the index fingers held straight. Hold the hands in front of the forehead with the index fingers pointing forward. Then trace a square in the air by moving the hands out to the shoulders, down to the chest, and in to meet in front of the body.

    Book – Begin with the hands at chest level with palms together and the fingers pointing forward. Open the hands with a motion resembling the opening of a book.

    Bus – Fingerspell the word B-U-S using the sign language alphabet.

    Calculator – Begin with the left hand held in front of the left shoulder with the palm facing the right. Use the fingers of the right hand to tap and move down the left palm in imitation of pressing the calculator buttons.

    Class – Begin by forming the letter C of the sign language alphabet with both hands. Hold the hands in front of the chest with the thumbs and index fingers touching the opposite thumb and index finger and with the palms facing forward. Rotate the hands so that the pinky fingers touch and the palms face toward the body.

    College – Begin with the left hand at chest level with the palm facing towards the body and the left thumb pointing up. Place the right palm facing toward the floor on top of the left palm. Then form two counterclockwise circles with the right hand while raising the right hand toward to chin level.

    Computer – Begin by forming the letter C of the sign language alphabet with the right hand. Hold the left hand in front of the body at chest level with the fingers together and the palm facing the floor. Place the thumb of the right hand on the back of the left hand. Swoop the right hand down the left arm and toward the body twice.

    Crayon – Begin with the right hand held in front of the chin with the palm facing the body and the fingers spread open. Hold the left hand at chest level with the palm facing towards the body and the left thumb pointing up. Wiggle the fingers of the right hand on the chin. Then shape the right hand with the thumb and index finger touching and the other three fingers on the palm and use the right hand to mimic writing on the left hand.

    Desk - Begin by forming the letter D of the sign language alphabet with the right hand. Hold the left arm at chest level with the open palm facing down. Place the right arm with the right hand D on top of the left arm with the right palm facing down. Tap the arms together twice.

    Dorm – Begin by forming the letter D of the sign language alphabet with the right hand. With the right index finger pointing up, touch the right fingers to the right side of the mouth and then to the right ear.

  • slide 3 of 4

    More Back to School Vocabulary

    Essay - Fingerspell the word E-S-S-A-Y with the sign language alphabet.

    Exam/quiz/test – Begin with the hands formed as fists with the index fingers held straight. Hold the hands at shoulder level. Move both hands down to the waist while moving the fingers up and down.

    Folder – Begin by forming the left hand into the shape of a folder with the fingers held straight and together and with the thumb held straight and slightly away from the palm. Hold the right hand flat with the fingers together and the palm facing up to mimic a piece of paper. At waist level, move the right hand into the left hand to mimic placing a piece of paper in a folder.

    Locker – Fingerspell the word L-O-C-K-E-R with the sign language alphabet.

    Notebook – Begin with the left hand at chest level with the palm facing up and the fingers held together. Form the right hand into the letter N of the sign language alphabet. Tap the right hand on the wrist of the left. Then open the right hand and place the right palm on the left palm.

    Paper – Begin with the hands held flat with the fingers slightly open. Hold the left hand at waist level with the palm facing up. Hold the right hand slightly above the left hand with the palm facing down. Rub the palms together twice by moving the right hand toward the left and the left hand toward the right.

    Pencil – Begin with the left hand at chest level with the palm facing towards the body and the left thumb pointing up. Shape the right hand with the thumb and index finger touching and the other three fingers on the palm. Touch the right thumb and index finger to the mouth. Then use the right hand to mimic writing on the left hand.

    Ruler – Begin by forming both hands with the middle, ring, and pinky fingers folded onto the palms. Spread the thumb and index fingers to form the letter L on both hands. Touch the index fingers together and the thumbs together with the index fingers pointing up. Hold the hands in front of the chest. First move the hands out to in front of the shoulders. Then form the letter Y of the sign language alphabet with both hands and tap the thumbs together twice in front of the chest.

    School - Begin with the hands held flat with the fingers slightly open. Hold the left hand at waist level with the palm facing up. Hold the right hand slightly above the left hand with the palm facing down. Clap the hands together twice.

    Scissors – Begin by forming the right hand with the thumb and index finger held straight and the other three fingers on the palm. At waist level, use the right thumb and index finger to mimic the motion of cutting with scissors.

    Syllabus - Fingerspell the word S-Y-L-L-A-B-U-S with the sign language alphabet.

    Teacher – Begin by forming the hands with the fingers held straight and together with the tips of the thumbs resting on the tips of the middle fingers. Hold the hands in front of the temples with the fingertips pointed towards the head. Move the hands forward (away from the head), then backwards (towards the head), and then forward (away from the head). Then hold the right and left hands at the right and left shoulders with the palms facing toward the opposite palm. Drop the hands from the shoulders down to the waist.

    Whiteboard – First make the sign for white. Begin with the right hand on the chest with the palm facing the chest. Then move the fingers in and together so that the fingertips rest on the chest. Then make the sign for board. (See description under blackboard.)

  • slide 4 of 4

    Downloadable Vocabulary Sheet

    The accompanying printable vocabulary sheet of school terms in American Sign Language is available for download at Back to School ASL Vocabulary Sheet.

References