American Sign Language Online Classes (ASL 3 – Unit 1)

ASL 3 – Unit 1

Role Shifting

In this unit of the American Sign Language online classes, you will be learning how to role shift.


Visit the Online Course Vocabulary Category for this unit to view videos of these phrases.


  • For this job you will need to check your email and clean your computer once a month.
  • Her grandson is my daughter’s friend.
  • His brother was born with freckles and a lot of hair.
  • My cat is fat and lazy and she smells like fish.
  • My father is a janitor at her son’s university.

Conversation Review 1.1

Turn to page 3 in your workbook. In the video below, Crystal, Christine, and Cristian will have a conversation. Answer the questions in your workbook.

Role Shifting

Role shifting is used in ASL to explain incidents, situations, stories, etc. Role shifting is like acting. Role shifting is when you take on the “role” of another person and show what that person said, did, or felt. Essentially, you can sign a whole story using role shifting.

Instead of signing “SHE SAID” and then “HE SAID,” you can turn your body slightly to the left to sign the comments of one person and then turn your body slightly to the right to sign the comments of the other person. When discussing a ball game, you can be the person throwing the ball and then become the other person catching the ball. You can even show a whole conversation between multiple people simply by using body shift and eye gaze. Essentially, you can “role play” each person.

You need to be sure to include the appropriate facial expressions and other non-manual markers when role playing each person. For example, if you are showing a conversation between a parent and a child, you would take on the characteristics of the parent and gaze downward when you shift one way and take on the characteristics of the child and gaze upward when you shift the other way.

This is also essential if you are showing people in different positions or locations. You would need to be able to show if someone is standing or sitting, laying down or kneeling, etc. For example, because you can’t turn and sign, you can show that you are talking to someone sitting behind you in a car by using eye gaze and pointing to their location before taking on their characteristics.

Roleshifting Practice 1.2

Turn to page 3 in your workbook. In the video below, Mark will be signing two short stories. Both of these videos use role shifting. Watch the videos and circle your answers to the questions in your workbook. The first one has been done for you.

Check your answers in the back of your workbook. Go back and review the questions you missed.