One of the resources that I really love to use in Primary is to teach the children the songs with ASL (American Sign Language). I’ll show you today some simple ways for how to use ASL sign language to teach a song to your Primary children!
It is a wonderful way to help create a connection with the words and also teach them a useful skill of being able to connect with deaf members of their ward or communities by learning some actual signed words.
I also thought it would be helpful to have a resource of all the different Primary songs in Sign Language that would be easy to refer back to when planning for the year and picking out a song or two that you might like to teach using Sign Language!
How to Use Sign Language in Primary
Using sign language in your Primary room can be fun, interactive, and add meaning to the lyrics. The kids usually love it and when combined with relevant actions that fit how we think about the words, the actions stick and they can be a helpful tool for remembering which words come next. I usually use some form of hand actions and sign language to teach almost every song!
Practice Ahead of Time – The most important part of teaching your Primary kids the Sign Language or various actions you decide to use is practicing the actions a few times with the song ahead of time. This will help you feel confident and be able to lead with the actions.
Teaching the Signs – I like to teach the song one line at a time introducing just 1-3 signs at a time. I will sing the line while demonstrating the ASL signs (or actions) first. Then, demonstrate the signs and sing the line again slowly while showing where we will use each sign.
Next, I’ll sing the 2nd line of the song and demonstrate the action words. Again, sing the song line slowly while helping the children try out the different signs. Now, we’ll combine and sing the first two lines with all the new actions.
Continue to build up your song line by line! You’ll have a very effective method for adding in lots of repetition, trying out the sign language or other actions, and helping the children to get lots of practice with using the motions.
Conducting with Signs – Instead of leading music in a traditional style, I simply sign words that help to represent the lyrics to “lead” the music when we aren’t using another singing time activity such as a rhythm pattern.
Leading the Primary Program with Actions – The very best way I’ve found to help keep the children singing and remembering the lyrics is to fully embrace any hand actions and signs that you have taught for the different songs.
As long as the motions are appropriate for Sacrament meeting, you can lead the music using the hand actions your Primary children have already become comfortable with. This will be easier for them to see and follow along with they trying to read a flip chart and it keeps them focused on you!
A Couple of Notes –
- Don’t worry if the children don’t remember or pickup all the signs right away. If you continue to use the same consistent signs while leading the song, the Junior Primary children will eventually catch them all! They pick up on the signs faster than you might think!
- If you teach a song with any type of hand actions, ASL sign language, or other motions, be aware that they will stick with the children. You will likely find many of the children using the actions, even when you aren’t! Keep in mind that they will very likely use the signs even during the Primary Program Presentation. Don’t worry about this! It is super cute when they do and the ward will love it! I fully embrace using actions for leading the music (see above!)
- If you choose to add any loud or actions that may be considered less appropriate for the Chapel, consider teaching an alternate action. For example, if you use a big synchronized clap, the chapel may not be the best setting for such a motion. You could instead have the children pat their head, patsch on their lap, or try to snap!
Examples of Using Sign Language or Hand Actions to Teach a Song:
Love One Another is a perfect song to give you an sample lesson plan of how to teach the song while using ASL signs! This graphic is available in the Children’s Songbook and on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website here.
To teach the song, start with demonstrating the first two signs – “As” and “I”. You’ll sign “As” by pointing your pointer finger on both hands out in front of you. Touch your right hand to your left then move your hand over and touch your right hand to your left again.
Make the sign for “I” by holding your right hand in a fist with your pinky finger extended to create the ASL letter for “I”. Pull your fist close to your body.
Sign “As I” while making the two signs. Ask the children, did you catch those two signs? They went fast! Let me show you that first one, it’s a little trick! Demonstrate the first sign and let the children try it. Now, the sign for “I” is easy! Can you follow my hands just like this? Demonstrate the sign for “I”. Sign and sign those first two signs together.
Now, sing “Have loved you” and add the 3 additional signs. Continue to sing and sign, then demonstrate the signs, then sing and sign together. Then, start from the beginning of the song practicing all of your signs learned up to that point, before adding more motions.
You could also simplify these signs, for example you might just sign these signs: I / loved / you / love / one another / commandment / love / one another. This skips the signs As / have / This / New.
Here are some more example posts with a specific song to help inspire you:
- Choose the Right Way Sign Language
- Love is Spoken Here Simple Actions
- In My Father’s Hands Action Hands
- A Child’s Prayer Simple Actions
- When Joseph Went to Bethlehem Simple Actions
- I Am a Child of God Finger Actions
Should I use sign language for the keywords or the whole song?
There are 3 different ways to teach a song using sign language. You can choose to sign just the keywords, sign the whole song with proper ASL grammar, or use a combination of ASL signs with other relevant hand actions.
You might pick a different option for each song or base your decision on the children’s age, interest, and your time available for teaching a particular song.
1. Combine ASL with Simple Actions – Sometimes, the ASL signs may not be an easy sign or something that really helps to illustrate the word visually to the kids. You can choose to use a combination of both official ASL sign language and simple hand actions to help teach the song. This is usually my go-to option, but may not be the right pick for everyone.
Just let the children know that only some of the words are signs. Be careful with this option if you have any deaf members of the ward that may be confused if the kids sing with the signs and actions in the Program.
2. Use ASL for Keywords – The most common practice is to pick keywords from the lyrics and teach ASL signs specifically for those words. This is the easiest option for both the teacher and the children as the words directly correlate to when you are singing the word.
You also don’t have to learn all of the words, you can just pick out a couple of keywords per line to make the song flow together with the signs you’ve chosen to teach.
3. Sign the Song Fluently – Keep in mind that there’s a difference between signing a few keywords and signing the song in the way a person that actually signs would use the signs.
Primary Choristers does a good job of explaining the difference in this video. Consider learning the entire song in ASL so you can sign it properly with the structure of the language for a unique way to teach a song!
Church List of ASL Videos
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website has a wonderful collection or resources for ASL (American Sign Language) resources for teaching the different songs. You’ll find here two great resource lists to help you find the different Primary songs in ASL!
This resource has the songs in publication order (by song number). You’ll find a wide variety of songs covered here! But, I would say the videos are really old and pretty low quality. This is a great resource to start with!
This resource shows you all their videos in a list format. You can’t view them here and clicking on the song title will take you to the sheet music. But you can download the videos which gives you a great way to practice, use, and show the videos without any ads! There are also some different ones on this list not featured above!
Primary Songs in Sign Language
I’ve also created this master go-to list of ASL videos of different Primary songs (and a few from the Hymn book and the Friend) that you’ll love to use! There were several different videos to choose from for some of these, so I just picked my favorites and tried to pick from a variety of creators as it’s fun to see different interpretations and styles!
- A Child’s Prayer (Primary Choristers)
- Always Remember (Primary Choristers)
- Away in a Manger (Signing for His Glory)
- Baptism (ASL with Raquel)
- Choose the Right (Singing Time with Sister Tucker)
- Choose the Right Way (Layne Evans)
- Come Follow Me (Primary Choristers)
- Dare to Do Right (Lizz White)
- Did Jesus Really Live Again? (Primary Choristers)
- Did You Think to Pray? (Janelle Nielsen)
- Families Can Be Together Forever (Janelle Nielsen)
- Follow the Prophet (Jenae Raban)
- Give, Said the Little Stream (Primary Choristers)
- He Sent His Son (Janelle Nielsen)
- Help Me, Dear Father (Primary Choristers)
- I Am a Child of God (Mormon Mohawk Mama)
- I Am Like a Star (Primary Choristers)
- I Feel My Savior’s Love (Janelle Nielsen)
- I Know My Father Lives (Vanessa Hiner)
- I Love to See the Temple (Primary Choristers)
- I Want to Be a Missionary Now (Primary Choristers)
- I Will Be Valiant (Primary Choristers)
- I Will Be What I Believe (Primary Choristers)
- I Will Follow God’s Plan (ASL with Raquel)
- I Will Walk with Jesus (Lark and Holly Lorenz)
- I’ll Walk with You (Janelle Nielsen)
- I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus (ASL with Raquel)
- If the Savior Stood Beside Me (Primary Choristers)
- Jesus Has Risen (Allison Jessop)
- Jesus Once Was a Little Child (ASL with Raquel)
- Jesus Said Love Everyone (Primary Choristers)
- Joseph Smith’s First Prayer (Primary Choristers)
- Keep the Commandments (Janelle Nielsen)
- Kindness Begins with Me (Primary Choristers)
- Love is Spoken Here (Janelle Nielsen)
- Love One Another (Primary Choristers)
- My Heavenly Father Loves Me (Michelle Sweeny)
- My Own Sacred Grove (Primary Choristers)
- Nephi’s Courage (Lark and Holly Lorenz)
- Picture a Christmas (Primary Choristers)
- Praise to the Man (Church of Jesus Christ ASL)
- Redeemer of Israel (Deaf Saints)
- Reverence Is Love (Heritage Trail Primary)
- Scripture Power (Primary Choristers)
- Search, Ponder, and Pray (Primary Choristers)
- Seek the Lord Early (Darcy)
- Stand for the Right (Tracy Ross)
- Teach Me to Walk in the Light (Tammy Thompson)
- Tell Me the Stories of Jesus (Nicole B)
- The Church of Jesus Christ (Primary Choristers)
- The Holy Ghost (Primary Choristers)
- The Priesthood Is Restored (Primary Choristers)
- The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Primary Choristers)
- When He Comes Again (Primary Choristers)
- When I Am Baptized (Primary Choristers)
How to Sign Church Words Signs Video
This is a great resource video to learn a bunch of different signs for church-themed words if you want to create signs or hand actions and signs combined for any other song! It includes words like: church, God, Jesus, Forgive, Pray, Baptize, Resurrection, and others! It’s by a Christian creator so not all of the signs will be applicable, but the video is very well done! View the video on YouTube here.
Head over to this post that shares a comprehensive list of all the NEW Primary songs that have been published in the Friend magazine!
How often do you using sign language in your Primary?