Using games in an American Sign Language, or ASL, learning environment "is essential for meaningful exposure to the language," and helps students acquire proficient second language skills, according to Dennis Cokely and Charlotte Baker-Shenk in their book, "American Sign Language: A Teacher's Resource Text on Curriculum, Methods and Evaluation."

The Hand-Shape Game

The hand-shape game helps students practice the alphabet and build their vocabulary. As students face one another in a circle, the teacher directs them to choose a sign with an "a" hand-shape. (This handshape appears in signs for words such as "suffer," "associate" and "with," as not all words are spelled out letter by letter in ASL. Teachers can find other examples in any ASL dictionary.)

Any student unable to do a sign leaves the game, and the next person in the circle continues. This pattern repeats until the group completes the alphabet or only one student remains in the circle. If more than one student remains after the end of the alphabet, it's a tie or the game continues on to round two, with the alphabet restarted. Once the tie is broken, the teacher announces a winner.

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Show and Tell

The game of show and tell reviews recent vocabulary lessons and lets students practice their ASL reception skills. The teacher or game leader divides the class into two teams and starts the game by signing a recently taught word or phrase. The students write down what they think the teacher signed, and then flip over their paper so no one else can see it. When everyone has finished writing, the students hold up their sheets of paper. The teacher indicates the correct answer, and writes each team's points on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper. The game continues until a certain amount of time elapses or until one team achieves an agreed-upon number of points.

Video Phone

Video phone -- an adaptation of the traditional game telephone -- is most effective when played by students who have enough knowledge of ASL vocabulary to form basic sentences. Used as a practice session to improve individual relay and receptive skills, it requires students to arrange themselves in a circle, facing away from one another. The game begins when the first person in the circle taps the second person and signs a simple sentence. This pattern repeats until it reaches the last person; at that point, the group compares the last sentence to the first to show how much it changed.

The Expression Game

The expression game helps students understand how to use facial expressions to change the meaning of a sign. The students face one another in a circle and the teacher or game leader directs them to choose their favorite sign. The teacher then indicates an emotion the students must adopt while doing their sign, repeating it with different signs and emotions for as long as time allows.

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