Talking With Our Hands: Visual Phonics

Talking With Our Hands: Visual Phonics

Talking with ours hands. We all do it, some more than others. Usually to reinforce or emphasize what we are saying with our mouth. For instance, we may point every which way when giving driving directions that include several confusing twists and turns. Perhaps we want to emphasize an important part of a story we are telling. Or focus on a specific picture in the bedtime story we are reading with our child. The point is, we use more than our mouth to communicate information to our audience. We use body language, facial expressions and often our hands.

And that is GREAT!

You’ve heard the discussion about visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles as well as the different teaching styles that should be used to reach each of these types of learners. However, research shows that the more senses involved in teaching, the more efficient learning is. The more that information is repeated and reinforced, the more habitual it becomes. It makes sense that the more routinely something is taught, the more it will be used by the child across all environments. Many have witnessed this to be true with the success of sign language in helping children with communication and language skills, especially early on. Children watch and learn as their teachers, parents and peers use their hands (often in combination with the spoken word) to interact socially, name items, answer questions and/or request what they want or need. The more sign language and words that they see and hear, the more they learn and use them.

What if there was a way to emphasize and teach speech sounds and words with our mouths AND our hands. Well, we are in luck!

Visual Phonics

Visual Phonics, also known as sound signs, helps to develop one’s speech and language systems. It is similar to sign language in that a hand shape and/or movement is used to signal to our brain to move mouths in a certain way, to produce a specific sound. Instead of having word meaning as sign language does, each hand sign is tied to a specific unit of sound in English. For example, to prompt the /b/ sound, one would make a thumbs up with the left hand to look like the lower case letter “b”, place it by his cheek and move it upward while producing the sound. This multi-sensory approach is advantageous and FUN for all learners, whether visual, tactile, auditory or kinesthetic. At Little Light House, we use visual phonics to promote imitation, oral motor movements, following directions, fine and/or gross motor skills and ultimately to increase speech intelligibility, by breaking words down to the sound level.

Visual Phonics:

  • Easy to Use  (signs can be modified if necessary)
  • Engaging for Students
  • Repetitive
  • Involves Multiple Senses
  • FUN!

Helpful For Individuals who have/are:

  • Apraxia
  • Learning Speech Sounds
  • Improving Articulation
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing
  • Reading Readiness
  • Learning to Spelling

Visual Phonics includes a hand sign assigned for EVERY SINGLE SOUND in the English language–vowels, consonants and consonant blends. It is important that each small unit of sound is attached to the same hand sign EVERY SINGLE TIME. It really does not matter which hand sign you use for each sound but that the same sign is used EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sometimes a sign may be difficult for a child to make; therefore modifications are allowed and encouraged!

Remember: Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Let’s try using hand signs to say a word together. How would you say SHEEP?!

Here at Little Light House we use the sound signs from the Golden Gate Series, developed at the San Francisco Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders. For copy right reasons, we cannot post the hand sign list but please visit the website below for the option to order the Sound Sign Manual and/or Training DVD for Sound Signs and SymPics.

As mentioned above there are other programs available, including “Incredibly Fun Visual-Phonics” and “See the Sound-Visual Phonics”. Just remember, consistency is key!

 “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.” – Benjamin Franklin




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