Free American Sign Language Classes

ASL 3 – Unit 3


In this unit of the free American Sign Language classes, you will be learning the basics of how to construct narratives.


When discussing an event, a period of time, or even a life story, you will have three main parts:

  1. Introduction – this states the topic and creates the context for the information to follow.
  2. Body – this can include a series of events, or just one event.
  3. Conclusion – this can be a summary or an evaluation of what was stated.

These are usually signed in chronological order and are linked together with common transitions. To transition between events, the most common strategies used are: pauses, time signs, and topicalization. Time signs are used to show how much time has passed between events (i.e. five months later, two hours later) and topicalization is used to introduce a new topic (i.e. in 2004, I graduated college) with the topic/comment facial expressions.

When discussing family members, you can use:

  1. Possessive pronouns to show how people are related. (i.e. his brother Michael)
  2. Contrasting on each hand to indicate the different sides of the family you are discussing. (i.e. mom’s siblings (on right hand) and dad’s siblings (on left hand))
  3. Indexing on your non-dominant hand to discuss siblings and children. They should be ranked by age with your pinkie finger being the youngest and your thumb being the oldest. (as discussed in ASL 1)

It is also very important to use facial expressions to explain the feelings of the people involved in any situation you describe. Keep that in mind.

Narrative Practice 3.1

Turn to page 6 in your workbook. In the video below, Mark will sign a life story. Watch the video through the first time so you can get an idea about how narratives are signed and what transitions are used. Then, answer the questions in your workbook.

Check your answers in the back of the workbook and review the questions you missed. Then, practice signing this life story.

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