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Unable to sing, Catholic school puts on Sign Language Christmas pageant

J-P Mauro - published on 01/05/21

St. Damian's shows that a school can still put on a great Christmas show even with social restrictions.

When the pandemic restrictions prohibited public singing, countless school Christmas pageants were placed in jeopardy. Without live music, choir directors were forced to come up with new ways to present their Nativity plays, or cancel them outright. That’s when one Chicago music teacher got creative, drawing upon her lifelong appreciation for American Sign Language (ASL).

According to Crux Now, Lynn Kingsbury, music teacher at Chicago’s St. Damian School, taught her fifth grade students ASL for their holiday performance. The kids were still dressed in costume, but they silently made hand signs to a prerecorded soundtrack. The production featured students who have been learning remotely as well, with several of them appearing costumed in their living rooms. 

In an interview with Chicago Catholic, Kingsbury said:

“… I’ve always wanted to incorporate American Sign Language with the lyrics of the songs. I’ve never really had time. So when I was told I could not sing this year because of the pandemic because it would spread the virus, I was thinking that it would be a great idea now to incorporate American Sign Language with the school so the students could then sign the lyrics of the songs.”

The show, edited into a 25-minute video featured above, includes a Nativity narrative, scenes from the Gospels acted out by the kids, musical performances from the school’s music ministry, and several holiday numbers with the children signing lyrics in ASL.

Educating while entertaining

The Chicago Catholic report notes that the kids have taken to ASL in a big way. Many of them now conduct covert conversations in sign language, leading several teachers to start learning ASL as well. Principal of St. Damian’s, Jennifer Miller, explained that the kids are even bringing ASL to their homes. She said:

“They have grasped every bit of this, from our youngest learners, our 3-year-olds, all the way through to our eighth graders,” Miller said. “And they are taking this home and they are teaching their parents and their siblings. Their eyes are open to a whole new language and a great communication skill.”

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

Read more:
How Catholic priests helped invent sign language

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