Students enjoy lessons in sign language

“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” McKinley Elementary second graders recited with glee, in both sign language and English.

Chelsie Girard and Megan Zalizniak, seniors majoring in communication disorders at Minot State University, were reading to the children and also teaching them manually coded signs to match the words in the book.

The kids seemed to pick up the signs with remarkable ease, but Girard and Zalizniak and their classmates in Holly Pedersen’s special education class were also learning.

“It’s good for the students,” said Pedersen, an assistant professor of special education, who said it’s necessary for undergraduates to get some field experience early. She said “it’s a nice, safe experience” that makes her students feel free to try different things because they are supervised by their instructor and the classroom teachers. After their field experience, the students get feedback about what worked best and what part of the lesson still needs a little more work.

Students in the MSU class each visited a classroom at McKinley to teach the youngsters sign language. The MSU students read books and taught letters and numbers.

Manually coded sign language is used not only with deaf children but also can be useful for kids with different disabilities, said Pedersen. Manually coded sign language, unlike American Sign Language, uses English grammar rules. Users speak out loud at the same time they are signing the words.

Pedersen said the Minot Public Schools have been helpful about letting her students come into classrooms to get field experience. Some of her students have also gone into local preschools to teach sign.