Students learn sign language using games and activities

ASL student Montgomery Barreto (right) laughs at a funny conversation in sign language. (Photo by Veronica Prigmore/MTSU Sidelines)

Photo and Story by Veronica Prigmore/Contributing Writer

This past Wednesday, an diverse class of energetic participants gathered down a narrow hallway of the Honors Building. Students entered room 106 watching other class members study their notes. Haley Jensen welcomed everyone back for another session of American Sign Language training.  Due to last year’s success, ALS  training continues to expand its classroom: the course is available for the public, MTSU students, and MTSU faculty through registration. 

During the seven weeks, students learn basic greetings, body parts, colors, the alphabet, numbers and sentence structure. The ASL course uses an interactive approach that sets it apart from the traditional classroom environment. Students learn sign language by engaging in fun games and activities. The hands-on approach helps the students absorb new vocabulary words and create conversations.

Haley begins class with a game called “Tap Out.” Students take out their index cards of vocabulary words and get into small groups. One person sets out four cards with words on them and uses sign language to translate the words, then the group members have to point at the word that the person is trying to translate. It is similar to a matching game except the students have to use sign language to match the words.

In the next round, students used challenging words from the last week’s lesson.  The students watched as she translated a sentence in sign language. The sounds of pencils hitting the paper broke the silence in the classroom. After the sign language portion, the students recited the translation in English. Haley instructed the class to show the hand movements while saying the sentence aloud. This technique allows students to become comfortable with hand patterns for the sentences.

In the next activity, Haley teaches colors, body parts and numbers by drawing a monster on the board. The students were thrilled when she passed around a box of crayons and a stack of paper. Haley asked the class to give her directions on how to draw the body. Everyone followed along by drawing the same monster. With each body part suggestion, the students learned new vocabulary words in sign language. Haley asked, “What color should we use for the arms?” then showed the class the translation for “arm” by stretching one arm and gliding the opposite hand in an upward motion. Students giggled as they practiced with their classmates.

The class came to an end as quickly as it began. By playing fun games and activities, everyone forgot they were learning a new language.

However, with a hands-on approach and a thirst for knowledge, anyone can learn a new language.  


To contact Lifestyles Editor Brandon Black, email

For more updates, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life.

Previous "Get home safely tonight" MTSU hosts event to teach students about law, interacting with law enforcement
Next Women's soccer: Blue Raiders settle for tie in C-USA opener against Rice