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Sign Language Club signals success

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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Studies have shown that learning a new language early in life can be extraordinarily beneficial for a child’s development. Many parents have opted for popular languages like Spanish or Mandarin, taught through special TV programs. Others have taken it upon themselves to teach their kids new languages themselves. But on Monday, August 5, a plethora of children came to the Medfield Public Library to attend Sign Language Club. 

The club is taught by Charlotte Cassidy, who organizes and brings materials from other libraries for the kids to use during and after their lesson.

The meeting began with a quick review of the different letters of the alphabet. Children attending the club for the first time quickly caught on to the basic hand formations of the different letters. 

The club moved on to a fun game of charades to review the different animals they had learned during previous meetings. Connor, an eager participant, began the game by acting out the animal. “The sign for this is how you would act it out,” he pointed out, leading to a change in animal.

One girl raised her hand and scratched at her sides, the sign for monkey. Close, but not the right tree-dwelling animal. Connor began acting it out again.

Students mimic Charlotte Cassidy's hand gestures.

Students mimic Charlotte Cassidy's hand gestures.

“Oh!” one girl exclaimed before rubbing her throat to sign giraffe.

“That’s right!” The game continued, covering the signs for chicken, dog, snake, and other creatures.

“What’s the sign for ‘animal’?” Cassidy asked. Each of the kids made a fist with each hand, leaving their thumbs sticking straight up before moving them back and forth. The practice was perfect to prepare for their signed rendition of “In the Jungle.”

Continuing their fun, Cassidy used the popular game Battleship as a base to practice spelling different words. Using a whiteboard with a large grid, identical to the one in the Battleship game, and one on the back displaying the location of different ships (which only Cassidy could see), the kids were ready to play. Each time a kid took a turn, they would guess the location of a ship, signing the letter and number. Soon, misses began being filled in with red or blue, as volcanoes or water, giving another fun spin on the classic game. The kids soon destroyed a few battleships when Cassidy introduced a new element to the game. Instead of giving just the letter-number combination, kids had to spell out a word that began with that letter. For example, one child guessing B5 signed out “B-L-U-E” before holding up four fingers. Soon, the kids had conquered all of the battleships and newcomers found themselves able to spell words they hadn’t been able to when they had started the class just minutes before.

Though these young Medfielders are spending their summer learning sign language as a fun activity, they may one day be able to help someone with their advanced skills.

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