As teachers we are always looking for ways to engage with our swimmers more.

Using signing in the pool is a powerful form of communication to reach all types of learners. Sign language can enhance the learning process by bringing visual, auditory and kinaesthetic feedback to help reach everyone in the pool, which of course, is naturally a BUSY and NOISY environment.

At our research hub; Swim Works International Aquatics Centre we have two teachers who are proficient in Makaton and BSL, supporting swimmers who have auditory impairments or speech and language delays.

BUT – we don’t just keep our signing limited to our additional need’s swimmers; we take SIGNING throughout all our classes, baby and preschool and after schools.

Having an element of SIGNING in our swim programs allows us to aid all our swimmers in their water safety, confidence, and key swim skills. We add simple signs into our lessons like: kick, bubbles, wait, look, stop, listen and well done.

All our teachers love learning SIGNING as an additional skill to their teacher’s tool kit. SIGNING to support learning to swim is not only great fun but also adds to a more effective lesson and supports all learning styles.

Here at Aqua Sensory we love to collaborate with many experts in their fields.

We have been working with ‘Libby Harris’ for a few years now, Libby is our education expert. Libby learned sign language to support her son who was born profoundly deaf, as well as being a teacher with an interest in special education needs following her BSc in Psychology, and primary PGCE where she specialised in SEND. Libby is now a SENDCo and is currently campaigning to introduce BSL to the UK school curriculum.

We are delighted to be working with Libby while researching our new SIGNING WORKSHOP and EDUCATION SWIM RESOURCES. Our aim is to bring a new awareness to the benefits of SIGNING and to give swim teaching a new set of effective swim resources.

We started by asking Libby, in her experience WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SIGNING?

“Children learn faster when they can hear, see and feel the words when they are learning. All swim teachers should consider using sign language as a positive multi-modal teaching solution.”

Research has shown that pairing signs with English can help learners form mental pictures. This multi-modal experience can help create new pathways in the brain for storage and retrieval. It helps students remember and recall sign words and spelling words (Daniels, 2001). Studies have also shown that students who learn sign language for specific sight words learn to read at a faster rate (Goode et al 1993/1994).

Learning sign language has huge benefits for the brain as it challenges functionality and the brain to recognise and negotiate meaning, a skill which can be translated across many problem-solving tasks which promotes greater achievement in the classroom. Phycologists, Acredolo and Goodwyn found that children who had signed as babies scored on average 12 points higher in their IQ than the children in non-signing control groups.

Here at Aqua Sensory we use signing in the pool … in lots of ways!

💦As a main form of communication (if the swimmer has an hearing impairment) and the teacher is proficient in the swimmer’s signing system (as there are a few) or the swimmer can bring a signer to accompany them.

💦To bring more awareness to safety  ✋ STOP, WAIT, LISTEN

💦Fun! We love our signs of the week like: Frog 🐸 to support your theme like jumping/balance or breaststroke week.

💦To enhance songs in the pool like Twinkle Twinkle ⭐

💦To develop key swim actions like kicking, blowing bubbles, jumping in. A great way to re-enforce the action in a busy pool is to learn basic signs, for all ages and abilities…. teachers, parents, and children.

💦We create parent fact sheets too, so they can learn lots of signs to support their child at home as well.

If you are thinking of starting to sign in the pool, be equipped with knowledge of the basics, so you are effective from the start. Be aware there are many different signing systems; British Sign Language (BSL), Makaton, American Sign Language (ASL) each system has its own value, so find out which one your swimmers commonly use.

Top tips for SIGNING in the pool…

👌Remember to say the word slowly as you sign, making good eye contact and use a facial expression that corresponds with the SIGN.

👌Always praise if you see the child attempting the sign.

👌Build up the number of signs each week, repeat it throughout swim time and show parents how to use the sign at home too.

👌Build up your swim signs so all your teachers, parents and children learn with you.

Our SIGNING workshop will be held at Swim Works, International Aquatic Centre and Research Hub in Leamington Spa on Sunday 14th April where we will be giving you lots of time to practise new key swim signs. Perfect for your swim teachers tool kit. If you have swimmers who require signing as their main form of communication, we recommend a full signing course through

We can’t wait to share our research and swim SIGNING resources with you!

Introducing sign language into the swimming pool enhances learning and communication skills – for all ages of learners, children and parents alike!

We hope to see you, message us for more information;

References & resources:

Daniels, M. (2001) Dancing with words: Signing for hearing children’s literacy. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

The science behind signing:

Let’s Sign: BSL Flashcards: Early Years and Baby Signs (British Language Cards) Cath Smith.

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