Before a child can begin to read, it is critical to be fluent in the language.  To promote fluency, students should be immersed in the language and be able to comprehend what is said to them on a daily basis.  A child must be able to interact and converse with peers and others.  For some children with hearing impairment, this may mean teaching a visual language (sign language) (French, 1999).  When a teacher has a student who relies on sign language as the primary mode of communication, it will be important for the teacher to learn a few basic signs.  One way to go about learning basic sign language would be to ask the interpreter who is helping the student or ask the student personally.  If the student is comfortable, he/she might be willing to teach classmates some signs as well.  The use of signing in the classroom, can make the student feel more comfortable and at home while at school (Tacchi, 2005).  Teaching all students in the class as many signs as possible on an ongoing basis also creates a respect by hearing students for sign language as a method of communication. 

Australian educators may want to read Johnston and Schembi (Eds.) The Survival Guide to Auslan: A Beginner's Dictionary, published in 2003 in Sydney by the North Rocks Press.  Additionally, the link to the Auslan dictionary on-line is

American educators can link to an American Sign Language dictionary at

Educators can link to a British Sign Language dictionary at language