American Sign Language

American Sign Language
Grace Coolidge: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two Days


Prior to marrying Calvin Coolidge, Grace Anna Goodhue taught beginning and intermediate sign language at Clarke School for the Deaf.  After getting married, she continued her involvement with the school, as a fundraiser rather than a teacher.  By March 4, 1929, she had raised two million dollars for the school.  When they retired, the Coolidge family moved to Northampton, Massachusetts so Grace could be close to the school.


In this lesson students will gain a basic understanding of American Sign Language.  This lesson is compatible with the Grace Coolidge lesson plan entitled “The Deaf Culture.”

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet and/or access to a public library, an American Sign Language interpreter, and a c/d player.


Have students write a one paragraph self-description.
Then have students access the on-line American Sign Language Dictionary or American Sign Language Browser.
Using this dictionary, have students practice conveying what they wrote using American Sign.  Tell students that they must continue practicing because a special visitor is coming to class and they will be showing the visitor their knowledge of sign language.
The following day have an American Sign Language interpreter come to your class and provide a presentation.  To locate an interpreter use the American Sign Language Interpreter Network.
If possible, start the presentation by having the interpreter sign a popular song.  Ask the interpreter to discuss the Deaf Culture as well as the nuances of the language.
Following the interpreter’s presentation, have students introduce themselves to the interpreter using American Sign Language.  Due to time restrictions, you may want only a few students to introduce themselves to the interpreter.  This could be done through volunteers or the class voting on who should be introduced.

Extending the Lesson:

To extend this lesson have the class choose a song that they would like to sign.  Once the song is chosen, have each student use the American Sign Language dictionary to determine which signs should be used.  Because there is not a direct connection between American Sign Language and all English words, some negotiation may be necessary.  When the decision has been made on which signs to use, together as a class practice signing the song and when the class is prepared, give a performance of the signed song to another class.

Sources & Resources:

   Costello, Elaine.  Random House Webster American Sign Language Dictionary.  New York: Random House Reference, 1997. 
   De Capite, Frances.  Student Study Guide to a Basic Course in American Sign Language.  Silver Spring:  T J Publishers, 1986. 
   Fant, Lou and Miller, Betty.  The American Sign Language Phrase Book.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994. 
   Humphries, Tom, Padden, Carol, Hills, Rob, Lott, Peggy, and Renner, Daniel W.  Learning American Sign Language: Levels I & II – Beginning & Intermediate.  New York: Allyn & Bacon, 2003. 
   Humphries, Tom, Padden, Carol, and O’Roure, Terrence J.  Basic Course in American Sign Language.  Silver Spring:  T J Publishers, 1994. 

Credits: This lesson was written by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University