Sign of the Times: A Storytime for International Day of Sign Languages

Last Friday, September 23, was International Day of Sign Languages. I try to incorporate basic ASL signs (more, bird, thank you, etc.) into my storytimes when I can, because I know firsthand that they can be really helpful for families with young children. So I was happy to have the opportunity to highlight signing with kids.

A few weeks ago we were approached by one of our regular storytime parents who happens to be fluent in American Sign Language, and she offered to provide sign language translation whenever we liked. She helped us out today by signing along to the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, which the kids found mesmerizing. She had also suggested sticking to one main sign for the audience to focus on, so we chose the word “bear.”

I started out by asking the kids to guess what animal I had in a paper bag, and giving them some clues (“It’s furry! It has claws! It growls!”). Once they guessed, I pulled out a teddy bear, and taught them the sign for bear. We repeated the sign whenever the word appeared in one of our songs or books.

Here’s what we did:


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle

Coincidentally, last week was Banned Books Week, and I learned that this book was accidentally banned by the Texas Education Board in 2011, because they confused its author for another Bill Martin. As I mentioned above, we had a parent sign the entire book while I read it aloud. The kids enjoyed shouting out the colors and animals on each page, and joining in on the familiar rhyme.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

The classic book about a little mouse who finds the perfect red, ripe, strawberry, only to be told (by a tricky narrator) that he needs to watch out for the Big Hungry Bear. The illustrations are absolutely stunning and hilarious, and we were lucky enough to have a big book version to read from, so that the kids could see them more clearly.

Thank You, Bear by Greg Foley

Adorable, simple book about a bear who finds a box. When he looks inside, he knows he has found the perfect gift for his friend, Mouse. But none of the other animals he meets think it’s anything special. Luckily, Mouse thinks the box, which turns out to be empty, is the perfect place to curl up and go to sleep. Claire held up an empty box as a prop, and we also taught the sign for thank you.

Rhymes & Songs:

Going on a Bear Hunt

This was one of my favorite activities as a kid. I ask the kids to repeat each line after me, and I really ham it up: pretending to have a grasshopper in my shirt, scraping mud off my shoes, shaking dry after the swim in the lake, and RUNNING away from the cave with the bear.

We’re going on a bear hunt!
(We’re going on a bear hunt!)
It’s a beautiful day!
(It’s a beautiful day!)
We’re not scared!
(We’re not scared!)

We’re coming to some grass.
(We’re coming to some grass).
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it.)
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! (Rubbing hands together)

We’re coming to some mud.
(We’re coming to some mud.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it).
Squilch! Squelch! Squilch! Squelch! (Clapping hands together).

We’re coming to a lake.
(We’re coming to a lake.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to swim across it.
(Have to swim across it.)
Splish! Splash! Splish! Splash!

We’re coming to a cave.
(We’re coming to a cave.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go inside.
(Have to go inside.)
It’s dark in here…
(It’s dark in here…)
It’s cold in here…
(It’s cold in here…)
Two yellow eyes…it’s a bear!

Swim across the lake!
Run through the mud!
Run through the grass!
Into the house!
Slam the door!
Lock it!
We’re never going on a bear hunt again!

The Bears Go Marching In

The kids loved this variation of The Saints Go Marching In. We did lots of spinning, and jumping, and clapping.

[C] Oh, when the bears go marching in,

Oh, when the bears go marching [G7] in,

Oh, [C7] how I want to be in that [F] number,

When the [C] bears go [G7] marching [C] in!

Repeat with other actions, like:

Oh, when the bears go clapping in…

Oh, when the bears go stomping in… etc.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

There are several versions of this song, but the tune I use is closest to the one in this video from Kiboomers. Claire held up my teddy bear to demonstrate the motions along with me.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

Turn around.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

Touch the ground.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

Tie your shoe.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

I love you!

I’m a Gummy Bear by Gummibär

I couldn’t resist doing this one, even though it is a terrible earworm. I just sang the English lyrics. Here’s a video of the Just Dance version (I apologize in advance for getting it stuck in your head!):

[Am] Oh I’m a gummy bear.
Yes I’m a [C] gummy bear.
Oh I’m a [G] yummy tummy funny lucky gummy [F] bear
I’m a [Am] jelly bear.
Cause I´m a [C] gummy bear.
Oh I’m a [G] movin’ groovin’ jammin’ singing [F] gummy bear.
Oh yeaoooh.

[Am] Ba Ba Bidubidubi Yum Yum,
[C] Ba Ba Bidubidubi Yum Yum,
[G] Ba Ba Bidubidubi Yum Yum,
[F] Three times you can bite me.

[Am] Ba Ba Bidubidubi Yum Yum,
[C] Ba Ba Bidubidubi Yum Yum,
[G] Ba Ba Bidubidubi Yum Yum,
[F] Three times you can bite me.

Stay & Play: Bear Masks

Full disclosure: the prep work for this project (cutting eye holes in the plates, and precutting noses and ears) was a bit of a pain. But it was totally worth it because the kids had such a great time wearing their masks and pretending to be bears! A couple of kids made dinosaurs instead. Lots of fun (and roaring and growling!) was had by all.

Other than the precutting, I just put out craft sticks, tape (for the craft sticks), glue sticks, and markers, so the project itself was fairly simple.

Happy International Day of Sign Languages!