Signs of the ages

April 5, 2008 Published by

During the past year, learning to read using Tucker Signing Strategies has moved in two directions—toward younger students, and toward older students, with educational impact for both.

The fact that children as young as 9 months of age can communicate through sign language has been established. Studies also show that infants who know how to communicate with hand gestures demonstrate fewer signs of frustration because they can make their needs known. Head Start and preschool teachers recently have testified that children as young as age 3 can move from American Sign Language into Tucker Signs (reading words) with little effort.

Moving in the opposite direction, grandparents were among those who demonstrated their ability to decode increasingly sophisticated words after one lesson in Tucker Signing Strategies at the Oklahoma Literacy Conference in September. At the conference, an adult literacy student signed then read the word motion, surprising herself with her success. After reading the word, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Well, look at that. I see every sound.” She then learned new signs and read the words evacuation and manipulation in the same session.

Three-year-olds and 63-year-olds have one thing in common—the part of their brains that is responsible for movement shares brain cells with the part that is responsible for language. Therefore, moving their hands to form a sign prompts recall of the associated sound. “They move their hands and the sound comes out,” is the way some teachers and tutors summarize the process.

Although 4-year-olds might stay focused for five minutes while the 40-year-old works for 55, the ultimate results are similar—just at very different levels. What the younger students lack in focusing ability, however, they make up for in hemispheric brain functioning. They process new language with both sides of their brains and therefore learn the signs more easily than their more mature counterparts.

A couple of years ago I observed a group of 5-year-olds proudly demonstrate for me their signing and reading skills. When they completed their lesson, I signed and said, “Nice job.”

One 5-year-old’s face lit up, then he responded, “Hey, you learn pretty fast.”

I’m just glad he didn’t sign, “… for your age!”

-Bethanie Tucker

About the author:
Bethanie Hamlett Tucker, Ed.D. of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, has been a professional educator since 1972. She has served as a classroom teacher, a resource teacher, a teacher of gifted students, and is currently a professor of education at Averett University in Danville, Virginia. While teaching at Averett, she researched and developed the Tucker Signing Strategies for Reading – a decoding method using sight, sound and movement, which has been highly successful with struggling readers. Through aha! Process, Inc. Bethanie provides training and consulting services for this method.

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This post was written by Bethanie Tucker

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