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New Zealand Sign Language Week

Sign Language Week logo

New Zealand Sign Language Week is 6 – 12 May 2024.

NZSL Week is organised by Deaf Aotearoa to raise awareness of the language and culture of New Zealand’s Deaf community. This resource page provides a range of resources and ideas to help you celebrate this important language week at your school. 

About New Zealand Sign Language 

New Zealand Sign Language is an official and unique language of New Zealand. It is the language of New Zealand's Deaf community. Like other signed languages, NZSL uses the hands, the body, and facial expressions (including lip patterns) to express meaning. NZSL has its own grammatical structure and ways of expressing ideas. 

The New Zealand Curriculum recognises that New Zealand needs more people who are fluent users of NZSL. By learning NZSL, hearing students can communicate with their Deaf peers and participate in the Deaf community. Skilled communicators may find career opportunities that involve working with Deaf people.

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

New Zealand Sign Language Week provides an opportunity for schools to reflect on the inclusion principle and explore the values of diversity and respect. Students who learn New Zealand Sign Language can make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and text and relating to others. They can also achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages learning area.

How can you get involved?

Some ideas for classroom or school-wide activities:

NZ Sign Language week website provides:

  • events
  • resources
  • taster classes
  • and a series of videos to learn NZSL in school.

Take part in the 7 minutes of signing challenge

NZSL alphabet poster

From the 8th to the 14th of May get involved in signing. You might challenge yourself to learn 7 signs (one sign a day) or you could push yourself to try out the seven minutes of signing each day throughout the week – 7 minutes where you turn your voice off and put your NZSL skills to the test! Watch the introductory video on the Deaf Aotearoa YouTube channel.

Take part in taster classes
Hosting Taster Classes – Aotearoa provides free NZSL taster classes to schools and other organisations each May. Sign up and learn NZSL with your students.

Play Sign Ninja
Sign Ninja – free online game that helps you learn NZSL. You can play Sign Ninja on computers, tablets and smart phones. 

Learn how to sign your name
Download this free finger spelling NZSL poster and learn how to introduce yourself in NZSL.

NZ Sign Language Alphabet – short video of the NZSL alphabet being signed.

Hear from an expert
Check to see if there is somebody in your community who knows NZSL. Invite them to school to share their knowledge and experiences.  

Sign the lyrics of songs in NZSL
Learn how to sign the New Zealand National Anthem or No Place Like Home by Tiki Taane. 

Read the Ready to Read e-books
The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Deaf Aotearoa, have developed e-books in NZSL from the Ready to Read series. These apps are available on iTunes (for Apple devices) or GooglePlay (for Android devices) and are free to download.

Instructional series

Another great way to get your students involved in New Zealand Sign Language Week is to incorporate texts about NZSL and the Deaf community into your reading and writing programme. Check out these texts from the Instructional Series: 

Getting the message across - Junior Journal 62, Level 2, 2021
In this interview, Iona McNaughton talks to Alan Wendt, a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter. Alan explains why he chose to become an interpreter and describes what his job involves. “Getting the Message Across” is one of several pieces in this journal on the theme of communication.

Just Like Everyone Else – School Journal Level 3, April 2012
This report describes how students from St Pius School learned how to use NZSL to communicate with their classmate Zoe. It explains how signing helped Zoe enjoy school routines and the fun of school life. Photos, diagrams, and additional information about NZSL provide an insight into the way that people who are deaf can participate fully in everyday life. 

Listening Eyes, Speaking Hands: The Story of Deaf Education in New Zealand – School Journal Level 3, November 2018
This article explores how attitudes to deafness have changed over time. The article includes a social history of the van Asch Deaf Education centre, which opened in 1880.

Joe's News, Ready to Read, Level 1, 2017
When Troy’s class find out that a Deaf boy, named Joe, will be coming to their school, they are worried they won’t be able to talk to him. Their teacher arranges for the children to learn sign language.

Useful resources

NZSL videos for teachers and young school-aged students

Four weeks of instructional videos (14 lessons) covering basic NZSL and Deaf culture are available on the Deaf Aotearoa website. Developed in 2020 as part of NZSL Week, these include young people who are NZSL users. The videos were designed for school-aged children (5–8 years) and their teachers, so NZSL instructional material is available in NZSL Week and any week of the year.

Thumbs Up! An Introduction to New Zealand Sign Language
This resource supports the teaching and learning of NZSL as an additional language in English-medium schools. It is designed for students in years 7–8 working at curriculum levels 1 and 2. The resource includes units, videos, and worksheets.

Deaf Aotearoa 
Deaf Aotearoa focuses on promoting awareness and advancement of New Zealand Sign Language to help strengthen the rights of deaf people. The website includes the official New Zealand Sign Language Week page and offers free resources.  

New Zealand Sign Language dictionary
The dictionary contains approximately 4000 entries for NZSL signs. Where a single sign has two distinct senses, each meaning has a separate entry. Each entry shows a sign as a line drawing, as a videoclip, and as used in an example sentence. 

Learn NZSL
Learn NZSL is a free learning portal on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Watch, learn and practise how to use NZSL in common situations through the use of videos, resources, and exercises. 

Inclusive Education Guide –Deaf or hard of hearing students and learning
This inclusive education guide supports teachers to review and adjust their classrooms to make them more effective for communication and social interactions and to develop successful strategies to facilitate learning.

New Zealand Sign Language Teachers' Association
The NZSLTA website provides NZSL resources, captioned movies, and information about events and competitions. There is also a New Zealand Sign Language Teachers Association facebook page

Updated on: 14 Jan 2022