Using Games to Learn

Games are a great way to practice fingerspelling and signed vocabulary while having fun and learning. The games presented here are simple sign language games for beginners, with easy-to-follow instructions. Teachers, early childhood educators, parents, adults, and children alike can all share in the fun.

The first game is the chain name game. The first player fingerspells his name. The second player fingerspells the first player's name and adds his own. The game continues around the room until it comes back to the first person, who spells the entire group's names.

The next game asks you to fingerspell by touch. One player fingerspells, while the other player, with eyes closed, tries to read the word by the feel of the handshape against his hand. Fingerspelling by touch is challenging, yet at the same time it is very interesting. In order to enjoy this game at its fullest, begin by fingerspelling three-letter words. When you have mastered the list of three-letter words, move on to words of four letters, then five, and so on.

Here is another fun game: One player signs food and cooking items, while the other players write the signed words out. It is easier to form the signs than it is to read the signs. This game will provide you with a way to have fun and practice at the same time.

This next game puts your number acquisition to the test. Exchange the following information using fingerspelling and numbers: age, shoe size, license plate number, cell phone, work, and home phone numbers, family members'ages, and zip code.

This game presents you with a challenge of applying facial and body language. One player acts out a function of a household object, and the other players guess the item. Examples: cutting meat equals “knife”; washing hands equals “soap”; unlocking door equals “key”; and sleeping equals “bed.”

For the next game, one player fingerspells a clue, and the other players must guess the sport. Examples: “tee” equals “golf” and “bow” equals “archery.” Apply variations by changing the groups to household items, office supplies, or things that are associated with recreation, places, and movies.


Charades is a word guessing game. A player uses physical activity instead of verbal language to convey a word. Now that you have acquired the skill of several everyday signs, you will have a major advantage. Throughout this book, you have used physical activity to convey language. Many signs you have learned are also “standard signals” in charades, such as “question,” “past tense,” and “book.” So go ahead, initiate a game of charades with your family and friends. This game is a great way to practice signing and be a terrific champion while playing.

Magic Wand Game

This game facilitates and increases the use of facial expressions, body language, and pantomime. As you develop your signing skills, this list will be useful to you. Until then, you will be able to simply use them just like a game of charades. Use an imaginary wand whose dimensions are described with the use of classifiers and mime. Players may sign additional information to give more clues while describing the item. Sign these items using the imaginary wand and facial expressions, body language, or pantomime.

conductor's baton

baseball bat




rolling pin






pogo stick

golf club




toilet brush





violin bow

nail file

stick of gum


sewing needle



meat thermometer



toilet tissue holder

garden hose

knitting needle


letter opener

crochet hook

window shade

curling wand


bicycle pump

oil/transmission stick

bubble wand


bathroom towel bar

fishing pole

curtain rod

empty paper towel tube


can of room spray

yoke for carrying buckets


turkey baster

weed trimmer

computer mouse

tennis racket

telephone pole

washing machine


cookie tin

remote control


ironing board

Now that you have tried gesturing and miming the magic wand items, you need to try practicing a few of them applying classifiers. The next time you use this chart, visualize each item, then shape each item using the classifiers. The classifiers make it easier to describe things that are cylindrical, flat, thin, or vertical, as discussed in Chapter 10.

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