Signing tips for ASL assignments

Some of these ideas and tips may be helpful on how to improve your signing (expressive) skill in American Sign Language for your video assignments.

Your ASL instructor may have some different expectations from mine. So get to know your ASL instructor and follow her/his guidelines! This post is for a purpose of entertainment only.

Preperation and practice

Not only fluency earns you a nicer mark, but it also saves the instructor's time. Fluency doesn't mean fast signing as in hurry which can become sloppy or blurry.

Use natural pauses between paragraphs, not sentences. Worse, mid-sentences. This is a big no-no as it breaks grammatical structure (e.g. spatial references) and flowing information.

Okay, now. How does. it looks. or sounds to you? Got it? Hold your hands as in "umm" instead of putting your hands down (occasionally, not frequently).

Likewise for breaking eye contact often when looking at your notes. It breaks the flow.

Linguistic competency

Use proper grammar what you have learned. Possible grammatical features: constructive structure, listing/ranking, OSV, SVO, conjunctions, interjections, classifiers, verb inflections, and so on.

Scenario: Your facial expression may or may not look like this.

lack of facial expression

Proper facial grammar can make a difference in your mark. In this video, the Frozen character does a better job.

Relax. Nice relaxation brings you nice intonation and confidence. Don't freeze your lips which in turn freeze the whole face. I know, it's not easy to relax in front of a camera for your grade. Still, it's the least thing you can do.

Use pronouns instead of repeating the nouns. Use spatial references and ranking/listing and such when needed.


Avoid bouncing the alphabetical letters when fingerspelling. Not each letter is the same orientation or position between two letters.

Error self-corrections

Scenario: When making an error in signing production, you self-correct way too far...

self-correcting in sign language

Exaggerating self-corrections or making big self-corrections take relatively too much of the instructor's time. Don't sign "sorry" and/or "again".

Simply briskly "wave-no" or quickly "shake-head" and re-do the previous sign and move on. A few self-corrections (single words) in the video would be fine. If too many or when it becomes messy, re-do the video.

driving one crazy

Oh, by the way, it's not uncommon that our students did shoot their video 10, 20, or even 50 times that they lost their count. On the bright side, these takes can be counted as practice.

Related posts

Also see video criteria tips for assignments or projects.