Lee Road Elementary School students and staff have found a new, positive way to connect and learn despite social distancing guidelines. Lee Road music teacher Helen Papayannakos introduced American Sign Language into her music classrooms to adhere to safety protocols, while still giving students a new and exciting way to experience music. The ASL lessons quickly expanded throughout the Lee Road community and students have fully embraced what they have learned.
"I originally started this unit to make music with my students in a way that followed CDC guidelines and ensured the safety of everyone in the class," said Ms. Papayannakos. "However, the goal has become to be more inclusive of people who may be a little bit different from us."
Ms. Papayannakos always wanted to learn ASL and found that the best way to learn was through teaching others. Following every ASL lesson that she facilitated came a song to wrap up and review what classes had learned that day. Within a few short weeks, the students were picking up on their signs faster than anticipated and lessons became more involved. What started as a lesson on the ASL alphabet, quickly became lessons about animals, colors, greetings, numbers, school signs, the pledge and even improvised conversations with one another. The students also enjoyed practicing their ASL skills with one of the school's lunch monitors who is part of the Hard of Hearing community.?
Lee Road students quickly began to take their newfound love for ASL and bring it into their own homes. They started sharing the songs and signs that they learned in Ms. Papayannakos' music class with family members.
"More parents reached out with e-mails asking for extra lessons or videos that their child could watch at home, because they were so interested," said Ms. Papayannakos. "And so many parents have approached me at dismissal to thank me for teaching this ASL unit and shared with me the stories of how their child has used it outside of my classroom!"
At the conclusion of the unit, the students showed off their ASL skills through a schoolwide music video. Incorporating ASL into the music curriculum allowed Ms. Papayannakos to bring the joy of music into the school, while embracing a new language that connects students and staff during this unique school year.?