American Sign Language as a Foreign Language

Explore how American Sign Language fits into deaf culture, and practice communicating about familiar topics using sign language.


  • Essential Question: How does the deaf population/culture interact with the hearing culture?
  • Areas of study: Foreign language
  • Type and amount of credit earned: 1 Foreign language (elective)
  • Community partner: Local translator


  • Communicate on very familiar topics using words and phrases that have been practiced and memorized
  • Recognize some familiar words and phrases when seen
  • Present information about self and other very familiar topics using words, phrases, and memorized expressions
  • Understand that ASL is only a part of the deaf culture by demonstrating a respect for its history, challenges, cultural norms, and roles in the community

See the detailed ELO description for the full text of these competencies.

Student activities

  1. Work with community partner on learning and development of  finger spelling, signs, gestures and facial expressions
  2. Work with community partner to practice development of receptive skills
  3. Use of ASL resource books, lesson plan material
  4. Read: Deaf in America: Voices from a Deaf Culture by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, The Other Side of Silence: Sign Language and the Deaf Community in America by Arden Nesser, and A Deaf Adult Speaks Out by Leo Jacobs.
  5. Participate in at least six observations at local Sunday Services and Soup Nights with at least one at each location.


Student was assessed throughout the ELO process to ensure understanding of the material. Student worked with a local interpreter who gave assessments on the student’s ability to sign and interpret signs when given, researched deaf culture through websites, books, and personal interactions. The student wrote research papers and created teaching videos as assessments. Student then completed a one-hour presentation of learning to connect artifacts to the course competencies as well as used sign language for portions of the presentation. The purpose of the presentation is to demonstrate a full understanding of the competencies and explain how the work is evidence of mastery for those competencies. Student gave a twenty-minute presentation that was open to the community.

This ELO was submitted by Anne Banks, Pittsfield Middle High School. Email teacher for more information