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Teaching ASL:

Hello ASL Heroes!!!
     As a teacher of ASL if you aren't also teaching fingerspelling, numbers, non-manual markers, various inflections, ASL grammar, cultural tidbits, and so forth, you can teach about 10 to 20 signs per hour. If you ARE teaching all of the goodies, having regular review quizzes, incorporating history and culture, modeling variations of signs, providing guided practice opportunities, giving students small group interaction time, and letting them ask whatever questions they have, ("What's a VRS?") then you are going to get through maybe 10 signs per hour (in a beginning level course).  And that's okay! That's the way it should be! Thoroughly covering 300 signs and related skills during a course is much better than doing a slipshod job of covering 600 signs. For more on my philosophy regarding curriculum development and ASL instruction (pedagogy) click here
     Below I'll put some of the most common questions I receive from other teachers of ASL and my answers.  Plus below that I'll put some links to various additional advice and tips for teachers of ASL. As time goes on (between teaching my own classes) I'll post more ideas and refine the list. You might also want to check out the archives of my newsletter by visiting "ASL Pah!" at
Take care and best wishes for a successful semester.
          Cordially,  - Dr. Bill

Train the ASL Trainer: Questions and Answers with Dr. Bill Vicars:

Question: You state that it takes around 60 hours to complete each level (ASL 1, ASL 2, etc.) of the ASL University curriculum.  Does that 60 hours include homework or just "in-class" time?

Answer: The "60" hours per course refers to "in-class" time.  You will find that it takes about 50 minutes to "properly teach*" 10 "vocabulary concepts."  Thus 15 lessons of 20 signs each will involve 30 hours of active (interactive) instruction and supervised practice time. Then you need to factor in another 30 hours of instructional "overhead."

Vocabulary concept:  A sign, its variations, applications, and limitations.
* Properly teach: Properly teaching the "vocabulary concepts" means introducing the signs, pointing out culturally important aspects of the signs, modeling the signs, reviewing the signs, engaging the student with the signs, having the student engage you with the signs, correcting and adjusting student production of the signs, reviewing the signs, and having students engage each-other with the signs under supervision). 

Instructional overhead: By "overhead" I mean the administrative  processes (administrative overhead) and social aspects (social overhead) of class that do not directly teach vocabulary or model grammar but that are helpful for the smooth functioning of the class.  This includes: greetings (Good morning, how are you?), explanation of rules ("no eating in the classroom"), roll call, social niceties (How was your weekend?), announcements and current events (There is a social this Saturday at the Deaf center.  There is a test next Thursday!), warm ups (Go around in a circle each person show me the next letter of the alphabet, a, b, c, …), administration (John, you are not on the official roster, check with the registration office to see if your tuition payment was accepted), academic information (the syllabus, grading, make-ups, etc.), technical information ("Go to this web address and click on this link, to access the video…,") discipline ("John, turn off you voice," or "John, put away your cell phone,") etc.  An "online" class has much less "social overhead" but requires the student to spend much more time figuring out the course requirements and processes. 

Homework: Homework can involve self-study.  It can also consist of focusing on specified tasks such as taking online-quizzes, doing research papers, attending Deaf events, creating videos, completing worksheets, developing scripts, and practicing individually or with a partner outside of class.

Self-Study: Self-study refers to the act of independently learning material which has not been actively introduced by an instructor. If an instructor tells a student to "go home" and study material which has not been introduced in class then the student is doing self-study is a form of homework.  If the material being studied has already been actively introduced by an instructor then the studying of that material is "review" (not "self-study").

Supervised practice time:  Time during which the instructor is overseeing the process of students asking each other questions and responding.  This includes providing scripts or guidance material, actively observing the students sign, providing corrective feedback when necessary, and responding to student requests for modeling of forgotten or partially forgotten signs.

Question: How should I pace my class?

Answer: It depends on the length of each class session. The longer the class, the more breaks you will need. I tend to teach a concept, use it in a sentence, and interact with the students using that sentence (I ask them a question. I have them ask me the question. I ask one of them what the response was of another student.) Then after I've introduced around five concepts (using questions and answers) I have the students work in pairs or groups to review the five recent concepts (via question and answer) as well as five concepts (sentences) from previous lessons.  After which I get the attention of all the students and introduce another five concepts.  This process generally takes about 50 minutes to cover half of a lesson.  If you teach for longer than an hour (50 minutes) at a time it is imperative that you play games and/or do an activity that is novel and interactive.

Question:  On your website you tell students to check with their local teacher for instructions on which quiz to take.  I am the local teacher and I myself am not clear on which quiz they should take. What should I do?

Answer:  I recommend you use the general vocabulary quizzes at this page:
If you want you could tell them to take the quizzes here:

Or just give your own quizzes.

Question: I notice on your website from lessons 16 on, you don't have the video of you signing one-on-one with the student posted.  I am curious to why no signing demonstration from like lesson 16 on.

Answer: Those videos for lessons 16 and forward are available on the Superdisk. (As of 2013.)  At some point I may post them to

Question: I was hoping your Super disk will have power point words on it so I can use same style as you do in class but I don't see any Powerpoints there.  So I suppose I will work on my own Powerpoint presentations. 

Answer: There are indeed Powerpoints on the Superdisk.  Open up the following folders: asl101/curriculum/powerpoints and you will see them there.

Question:  I have made a hard copy of your lessons to hand out to my students. I add my own comments. Plus sometimes I make adjustments to your punctuation and grammar. Would you like me to send those to you so you can see what I'm changing and adding?

Answer:  Yes, certainly!  Make sure to identify what page or lesson. For example:
Suggested Revision: Lesson 6:
Old sentence: Yadda yidda yedda.
New sentence: Yedda, yadda yidda.
Reason:  [put a reason here]

Question:  I teach three terms and term is 20 hours.  How should I deal with 20-hour courses?

Answer:  I recommend you do five lessons per term:

In your level 1 term invest any extra time teaching more fingerspelling, numbers, and conversational tools (such as: SLOW, AGAIN, what-MEAN, ALL AGAIN, SPELL IT, SPELL that letter by letter), plus fun greetings (GOOD-MORNING, etc.) and personally relevant introduction techniques (I/ME BILL. I LIVE SAC. I DEAF. I MARRIED. FOUR CHILDREN, etc.)

Then in your second and third terms you would cover lessons 6 - 10 and 11 - 15. Any extra time would be used for review, practice, games, local vocabulary, or student-requested vocabulary.

You may wish to re-name your terms. Instead of calling them level 1, 2, and 3 you could label your terms in one of the following ways:

Level 1.A, Level 1.B, and Level 1.C.
Level 1, Unit 1; Level 1, Unit 2; and Level 1, Unit 3. 
Level 1.1-5, Level 1.6-10, and Level 1.11-15.
Level 1 part 1, Level 1 part 2, Level 1 part 3.

Question / Statement: My problem is with the economy being so bad, my boss cancelled the" Keeping up  ASL class" for about four to five years now.  ah I might ask my boss to increase my class to three hours a week for 10 weeks (30 hours).  that will help with this curriculum. But it will probably happen in Fall 2014.  I am going to try to build my numbers up so that I can carry the levels increasingly harder, so that people are happy in their learnin'!   No easy task, that's for sure.

Answer/Response: Do not "rely" on a boss for your income.  Go set up your own classes, do your own advertising, and keep the lion's share of the monetary rewards!  On the Superdisk in the root files of the disk you can find a file titled: "e-report." That file has over 60 pages of information regarding how to earn a decent living teaching sign language.  When I was younger I used to feed my family and pay my bills as a freelance ASL instructor. You can too. ASL University easily provides enough lessons and curriculum to teach many levels of community education courses. (Five lessons per six-week course = enough for 9 community-education levels using lessons 1 - 45.)


ASL Teacher's Toolbox:
(Various links to helpful ideas and information


* The worth of a sign
* General guidelines
* Bilingual-Bicultural
* Qualifications: Are you qualified to teach? (01)
* How accurate should your students' signing be?
* Ideas for when you have a substitute instructor
* Lifeprint Teaching Method
* Perfectionism?
* Leniency Requests
* Shy students
* Student Ages
* Deaf / hard of hearing education credential
* Taxes
* Time Capsule
* Setting Your Fee: How much to charge
* Activity: Who are you?
* Game:  "Givers and Keepers"
* Help!  My class is dead!
* Student Satisfaction form
* Sample Student Bio video assignment
* Sample ASL Instructor job announcement / qualifications
* General Tips
* The "Tell 'em" Curriculum
* The "Find out" Curriculum
* Research papers that students are excited to do
* Cheating: Dealing with cheating in the ASL classroom



Before you teach: 

Before you teach:
* Qualifications: Are you qualified to teach? (01)
* Qualifications: Are you qualified to teach? (02)
* The importance of a syllabus
* Designing your syllabus
* Feedback on a typical syllabus
* Syllabus samples:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
* Permission to use this material

* Understand Copyright


Get their attention: 

* Use fingerspelling and number drills to focus attention

* Use variation and reward to keep your students' attention.

* Immunity Idol

* Multi-sided dice



Games / Activities to review
* Go Fish
* Jeopardy (1)
* Speed Signing
* Frankenstein's Questions
* Exit Activity

* Deaf History Poster Project


Activities to introduce new vocabulary: 

* Fingerspelling Race (1)
* Name Tea Party
Team Bingo

Activities to review previous vocabulary: 

* Fingerspelling Race (1)



Modality:  Voice or No-voice
* Voicing in Class?
* propaganda


Instructional technology: 

* Getting a PC Laptop to work with a Projector
* Should you get a laptop or a netbook?
* Creating videos
* Choosing a curriculum



* The quick brown fox
* Who is your neighbor?
* You're a liar!

* Boggle
* Helen Keller Speller


Testing and Grading: 

* Extra Credit:  Should you give extra credit?
Testing:  Students who argue over answers (01)
* No name on paper?
* Testing: Proficiency 
* Testing and feedback checklist
* The "67 Subject" Multiple Choice Test

* Score Converter
* Grading Scale



Number games:
* general
* math game
* Bingo



* Ask for a challenger (116)
* Classifier Charades



* How should I handle it when the ASL 2 teacher criticizes the sign variations of students who took my ASL 1 class?
* Handling criticism


For MORE ideas on teaching ASL, order Dr. Bill's e-report "How to make a decent living teaching sign language." (Click here for details)


NEW!  Online "ASL Training Center!"  (Premium Subscription Version of ASLU)  ** CHECK IT OUT **

Also available: "" (a mirror of less traffic, fast access)  ** VISIT NOW **

Want to help support Lifeprint / ASLU?  It's easy!     






The information below consists of notes and "under construction" items for expansion and inclusion in the teaching resources list. When I get some time, (ha!), I will be explaining these and linking to them.




Available Workshop topics:
-Alternate teaching methods for Low Technology Environments


If you are NOT teaching fingerspelling, numbers, non-manual markers, various inflections, ASL grammar, and so forth, you can teach about 20 signs per hour.

If you ARE teaching all of the goodies, having regular review quizzes, incorporating bits of history and culture, modeling variations of signs, providing guided practice opportunities, giving students small group interaction time, and letting them ask whatever questions they have, ("What's a VRS?") then you are going to get through maybe 10 signs per hour (in a beginning level course).

Thoroughly covering 300 signs and related skills during a course is much better than doing a shotgun job of “teaching” 600 signs.


Dr. Bill's Notes:  (Will expand on these later and create page links)

  ___Took them two years to figure out I wasn't MR
  ___Pledge Of Allegiance
  ___Bill is "Bald"
  ___Inflamed Throat
  ___Merlin The Magician
  ___Making Out in the hall
  ___Grandpa's Aid
  ___Three Deaf Guys
  ___"What time/kind is it?"
  ___Lena and Ollie UR going to die
  ___Does your wife sign? checks
  ___Belinda and I are compatible: HA675
  ___Wife fell out of car
  ___Deaf couple adopt hearing
  ___So if a deaf kid swears do you tell him to wash his hands?
  ___graduate student screw in a light bulb
  ___How many Deaf to screw in a light bulb?
  ___What is the difference between a pizza and an asl instructor?
  ___That's a deaf hunter's dodo
  ___Deaf Kong
  ___Deaf Tree

General ASL concepts:

  ___sign language continuum: gesture, mime, ASL, PSE, SE, cued speech, Rochester method, etc.
  ___space-present referent
  ___space-absent referent
  ___headshake for negation
  ___head nod for affirmation
  ___"y/n"  Question expression
  ___"wh"  Question expression
  ___agent affix
  ___plurality: horizontal / vertical sweep, number, reduplication,  Quantifier, etc.
  ___incorporation of number: pronoun
  ___incorporation of number: time
  ___sign parameters: handshape, location, movement, and orientation
  ___compound signs, (e.g.): brother, wife, daughter, etc.
  ___name signs
  ___initialized signs
  ___Register: * intimate: extreme ellipsis, private language; * casual: ellipsis  (eyebrows up, "Take off?" = Are you ready to leave now?); * consultative: some ellipsis, colloquial language (He went, but his wife didn't.  ___[Drops "go"]); * formal: impart information; * frozen: formulaic (religious, courtroom)

  ___Roz "He's handicapped"
  ___"No, I want to fly"
  ___Hands on the wheel
  ___Fire Alarm
  ___Merlin The Magician
  ___Making Out
  ___Football Huddle
  ___Inflamed Throat
  ___Hallway Scenes

  ___Deaf Kong
  ___Deaf people have AIDS
  ___Deaf screw in a light bulb?
  ___Deaf Tree
  ___Does your wife sign? checks
  ___Grandpa's Aid
  ___In this very room (1.7)
  ___Pledge Of Allegiance
  ___That's a deaf hunter's dodo
  ___Three Deaf Guys
  ___"What time/kind is it?"
  ___Why do farts smell?
  ___Wife fell out of car
  ___Working with Elders (1.7)

Dr. Bill's Notes:  (Will expand on these during Fall of 2009 and create page links)
  ___Deaf German
  ___He fell in love with her
  ___ASL Continuum
  ___Videos available
  ___Sign dictionaries
  ___Tutoring available
  ___3-D computer language
  ___Prescription for arthritis
  ___Albert Mehrabian: 55% body, 38% para 7% verb
  ___Signing monkeys pass sign to their babies
  ___Used with disabled
  ___New laws passed


● ___Understanding what it is like to be deaf slash hoh
● ___"Gestures" mime activity ___Charades/Pictionary
● ___Recognizable signing ___Deaf couple adopt hearing ___Crick Or Creek ___Woof, Meow, Boom.
● ___Understanding Dr. Bill's "RPM" teaching method
● ___Buzz
● ___Who's The Leader
"Who's the leader" is a great game.
Everybody stands in a circle.
One person is chosen to be "it" and stands in the middle (eyes temporarily closed).
One person is chosen to be the "leader."
The "it" opens his/her eyes and tries to figure out who the leader is.
The leader makes a variety of movements and everyone in the circle must copy "exactly" what the leader is doing.  Make sure the first few leaders are "show offs" who will get the group doing all kinds of movements: head patting, turning around, leg shaking, clapping, mild dance moves, silly faces, etc.
● ___Who has the sign?
everyone sits in a circle
The teacher assigns one sign to each person
one person goes in the center of the circle - closes eyes.
one person volunteers to start and 'have the sign' (Person A).
Center person opens eyes.
(Person A) signs someone else's sign (Person B) without center person knowing it. once person B signs his own sign - he then 'has the sign' and signs someone else's sign.
center person tries to figure out who 'has the sign' by asking 'do you have the sign'? respondents must answer truthfully.

● ___Deciphering written descriptions
● ___Describe sign to partner
● ___Elephant trainer
● ___Bingo
● ___Hangman
● ___Circle of sign (first letters) ___Circle of sign (handshapes)
● ___Numbers: Math drills ___"magic calculator" ___(buzz)
● ___Tic-tac-toe: regular ___with letters ___with numbers ___with vocabulary
● ___Pass It On (coin behind the back)
● ___Speed Dating: New signs between switches
● ___Helen Keller Speller
● ___Family Feud
● ___Deer Hunter
● ___Sign relays (rows)
● ___Concentration
● ___Spelling Quiz using vocabulary
● ___Go Fish
● ___Battleship
● ___Hot & Cold (getting warmer)
● ___My boss is ... ______Describe a person in the room
● ___Jeopardy
● ___Food:  Make a Menu (order a hamburger)
● ___Multi-sided dice
● ___Classifiers: Descriptive: size, shape, and space specifiers refer to the physical characteristics of an object. ___Semantic: indicate objects belonging to certain groups of nouns (e.g., "3" = vehicles). ___Body: represent parts of the body in action or function as a reference. ___Instrument: show how a referent (object) is manipulated. ___Primitive: show groupings, clusters, categories, and areas.
● ___64 Question survey ("Find out" curriculum)
● ___Tell a story, add a sign
● ___Syllabi that Succeed
● ___Logistics: pairing and grouping of students.
● ___Circle of sign using named categories: colors, fruit, animals
● ___Introduction methods: Look up the words in book ___
● ___Review methods: ___Same or Different: Y/N vs WH modeling ___Memory game: show 10, how many can they remember? ___Touch the color within 10 seconds ___
● ___Human interest stories: ___Deaf girl to mother: "He's handicapped" ___"No, I want to fly" ___Gallaudet tidbits: DPN-Bullhorn, Fire Alarm, Football Huddle ___Hands on the wheel
● ___Joking Around: Using jokes in the classroom.
● ___Fingerspelling Review: relays ___spelling speed drills ___bingo ___phonetics ___advanced handshapes ___The Quick Brown Fox... ______Phonetic spelling sheets ___Spelling quiz using vocabulary ___Lexicalized Spelling
● ___penny pass behind back while standing in circle, elephant hunter, deer hunter,
● ___Attention getters: rubber pencil, frog, disappearing Quarter, lift a finger, cat/cow, broken finger, stick behind back, student's own tricks, two people tied with string, human knot, toe-to-toe balance competition, Simon says ___Geometric Shapes
● ___Warming up: Using "warmup exercises" to focus attention: ___Finger exercises ___Change five things ___Frog ___Sculpture ___Pick A Finger


___Pencil Between Thumbs
 ___Pull a face relay ___Piano fingers ___Simon Says ___Stick behind back ___This finger weighs ___Where's the quarter? ___Human knot ___Picture It ___Circle sit down (stand behind each other, sit on lap).
● ___My Life Right Now: What important things are going on in your life right now? How do we sign those things?
● ___Namesigns
● ___Practice Card Usage
● ___Certification to teach Sign Langauge
● ___Politics and Public Relations
● ___ABC races using
● ___Who am I?
● ___Through Deaf Eyes
● ___State Adoptions (Califorina / CSD) (ASL interpretations of Children's stories.)
● ___Technology-related signs
● ___


NEW!  Online "ASL Training Center!"  (Premium Subscription Version of ASLU)  ** CHECK IT OUT **

Also available: "" (a mirror of less traffic, fast access)  ** VISIT NOW **

Want to help support Lifeprint / ASLU?  It's easy!     

You can learn sign language online at American Sign Language University ™
hosted by Dr. William Vicars