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Lesson Plan

Using American Sign Language to Improve Comprehension and Vocabulary

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Using American Sign Language to Improve Comprehension and Vocabulary

Grades 1 – 3
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time One 60-minute session (or two 30-minute sessions)
Lesson Author

Dr. Judith Sherman, Ed.D

Frederick, Maryland

Ellen G. Koitz, Ed.D.

Ellen G. Koitz, Ed.D.

Frederick, Maryland


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • Classroom computer with Internet access and projection capability
  • Document camera or overhead projector (optional)
  • Sam’s Sandwich by David Pelham (Dutton Juvenile Publishers, 1991)
  • American Sign Language: Unabridged Edition by Martin L. Sternberg (Collins Reference, 1998) or The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language edited by Clayton Valli (Gallaudet University Press, 2006)

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  1. Use the attached Before Reading—ASL Sign Sheet and Vocabulary Sign Sheet—Sam’s Sandwich to review and practice the vocabulary words for Sam’s Sandwich. Also visit the ASL Dictionary Portal and Signing Savvy to access any available videos of the signs, and bookmark the video clips on your classroom computer. Set up and test the computer and projector.

    Note: Because there is not a sign for every word in the English language, some of the vocabulary words have signs that are synonyms, or consist of two words that, when put together, depict the concept behind the word. The eight vocabulary words have been chosen to include examples of both of these situations. It is essential that you use facial expressions to reinforce the word’s meaning. For example, if you’re signing slimy, make a face to show this is something unpleasant. The vocabulary words to practice are

    • sandwich
    • shriek (shout)

    • drool

    • slimy (wet and dirty)

    • smirk (bad smile)

    • zesty (delicious)

    • snatch

    • wail (cry)
    The procedure for teaching the ASL sign that goes with each word is to SEE–SIGN–SAY three to five times. In other words, as you present the word, show the sign and say the word out loud as you are signing it.

  2. Make a copy for each student of the handouts Before Reading—ASL Sign Sheet and Vocabulary Sign Sheet—Sam’s Sandwich.

  3. Make a PowerPoint slide, overhead transparency, or chart paper copy of the Before Reading Motivator cloze activity (omitting the word miss, of course).

  4. Make one copy of the Choral Reading printout. Review this printout and decide on one or two choral reading techniques that you think would work well for Sam’s Sandwich.

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