School Key Word Sign – Core Vocabulary

Thank you for purchasing the School Key Word Sign Core Vocabulary Book. This book’s vocabulary selections are inspired by a study conducted by University College Cork. The aim of the study was to develop a core key word signing vocabulary (Lámh) to facilitate communication with children with Down syndrome in their first year of mainstream primary school in Ireland.

Citation: Frizelle P, Lyons C. The development of a core key word signing vocabulary (Lámh) to facilitate communication with children with Down syndrome in the first year of mainstream primary school in Ireland. Augment Altern Commun. 2022 Mar;38(1):53-66. doi: 10.1080/07434618.2022.2050298. Epub 2022 Apr 13. PMID: 35416724.

Please note, while we are not affiliated with the university or the study, their findings inspired our School Core Key Word Sign Vocabulary for Prep and Year 1. We’ve expanded on their work by adding classroom fringe words and including Australian animals and other essential words frequently used in Australia, such as “sunscreen.”

Below, you will find the key word signs. By clicking the button at the bottom of each sign, a video tutorial will pop up to assist you. We hope you find this resource invaluable for enhancing communication and learning in your classroom.


key word sign for again

Middle and pointer fingers extended but not touching each other, hand facing forward. Flick hand up and down twice from wrist


sign for angry - key word signing - AAC

Clawed hands on chest. Move hands in forward arc until palms face upwards


Touch two middle fingers to thumb leaving others extended. Move in small circle


Hand slightly curved, place in front of mouth. Move hand in upward arc, finishing with palm facing up, like taking a bite from an apple


key word sign auslan baby

Palms facing upwards on top of each other. Rock arms like rocking a baby


Thumbs up, place hands near shoulders. Move hands down simultaneously like you are pulling down backpack straps


key word sign - sign for ball - auslan - kws

Clawed hands facing each other. Move towards each other and out twice, like squishing a ball

Bed / Sleep

key word sign bed

Palms together, rest cheek on hands


key word sign for big

One hand on top, palms facing you. Move hands out to sides


Flat hands down by side, palms facing body. Move hands in large arcs until hands finish at side of head


key word sign - sign for blocks - sign for lego - auslan

Clawed hands face down. Alternately move each hand on top of each other, like building a tower block 

Blue (North)

key word sign - sign for but - AAC - Australia - Auslan - Sign Language

Middle finger on back of other hand, pointer finger forwards. Brush middle finger up other hand twice

Blue (South)

Brush top of back hand with other flat hand a few times


Palms together, open hands so palms face up and close again. Like opening and closing a book


key word sign - sign for boy - auslan

Pointer finger, just under chin. Move across chin and back. Tip: A boy has no beard


1. Outline 1 side of box with hands; 2. Turn hands 90 degrees to outline other side of box

Break / Need a Break

break - need a break - take a break - key word sign - aac

Fists together, palms down, do an action as though breaking a stick


Palm on chest, fingers spread. Move out and in while doing deep breathes


Fingers of fists together. Alternatively rub fists along fingers


key word sign - sign for build - auslan

Middle and pointer fingers extended from both hands. Alternately move hands up and down, hitting extended fingers on the way up and down


Pointer fingers extended from fist, fingertips bent, place just in front of eyes. Bounce hands forward twice (can be one handed)

Can / Could

Pointer and thumb extended from fist, place around nose. Bring hand out, pinching pointer and thumb together


Slightly curved hands at side of head (as though about to catch something), bring hands down simultaneously into fists, like you caught it


key word sign - kws - sign for cat - auslan

Pointer fingers near nose, thumbs near chin, bring arms out as you close fingers to thumb. Like a cats whiskers


Place fingertips of bent hand on heel of flat hand. Move both hands down simultaneously


Hold one hand vertically, other hand form L with thumb and pointer finger. Place thumb on palm. Turn hand in forward arc


key word sign - sign for dress up or get dressed - auslan

Fingers and thumb spread. Run thumbs down chest moving hands outwards from body (You can also gesture putting on costumes)


key word sign for cockatoo

Fingers spread, place thumb on head, arc hand forward. Like a cockatoo spreading its crest


Fists just below shoulders,move towards each other. Like putting on a coat


key word sign for come

Hand out from body and bent slightly move hand towards yourself (natural gesture)


key word sign - sign for colour

Touch tips of thumb and forefinger then rub up and down side of other pointer finger


key word sign auslan for cow

Thumbs and little fingers extended, place thumbs on temples and move out and up in arcs, like a cow’s horns


Hooked pointer fingers just below eyes. Alternately move fingers down face, like tears going down face


key word sign - sign for dad - sign for daddy - AAC - Auslan - Sign Language

Middle and pointer fingers extended on both hands, palms down. Tap fingers together twice


key word sign - sign for dance - AAC

First and second fingers spread and pointing down, gently shake side to side


key word sign for day

Hands flat facing stomach, move hands in upward arcs


key word sign - sign for different - auslan

Pointer fingers extended and together. Move hands in outward arcs ending with palms up


key word sign - Australia - sign for dislike

Flat hand, fingertips on chest. Move hand in forward small circles while frowning, you can also shake head


key word sign for make or do

Both hands in fists, move top fist in small circles, hitting top of other fist during movement


Place middle and pointer finger on side of wrist with thumb underneath. Tap fingers on wrist twice


key word sign - KWS - sign for dog - auslan

Pat thigh with flat hand, like you are calling a dog over


key word sign - australia - sign for doll - AAC

Hand in a fist with elbow on non-dominant flat hand. Turn fist forward and back, like a dolls head turning


Flat hands held horizontally, place dominant hand on top. Swing dominant hand forward and back onto hand a couple of times. Like it is a door swinging open and shut


Point down then move hand down


Hold non dominant hand flat (like paper). Hold dominant hand like you are holding a pencil then move around like it’s drawing on the paper

Dress Up

key word sign - sign for dress up or get dressed - auslan

Fingers and thumb spread. Run thumbs down chest moving hands outwards from body (You can also gesture putting on costumes)


key word sig - sign for drink - AAC

Hand in cupped shape. Bring hand to mouth


key word sign Auslan for duck

Hand in front of mouth, thumb under extended fingers, bring fingers and thumb together twice, like a duck’s beak opening and closing

Eat / Food

key word sign for eat

Tips of thumb and fingers touching, tap mouth twice (can be tapped on chin)


key word sign for echidna

Arm across body, hand in a fist. Hide other hand with spread fingers behind fist. Twist spread hand so fingers are revealed, like an echidna uncurling and spreading its spines


key word sign - kws - sign for egg - auslan

Hand in fist, other hand has pointer and middle finger extended, palm up, tap fingers on side of fist twice


Hook pointer finger over thumb. Rub over palm of other flat hand


key word sign - sign for excellent - Australia

Hand in fist, other hand has pointer and middle finger extended, palm up, tap fingers on side of fist twice

Excuse Me

Hand in fist, other hand has pointer and middle finger extended, palm up, tap fingers on side of fist twice


key word sign for fall

Palm face up, with other hand place middle and pointer fingers on palm, move off in downward arc inverting hand. Like a person falling off your hand


key word sign for farm

Flat hand, thumb on chest, move down in outward arc

Fast / Quick

key word sign for fast

Pointer finger extended from both hands, bring one down and along the other pointer finger quickly


Both hands thumbs up, move both hands in forward circles one slightly ahead of the other


Hand out to side, loose claw, palm facing up. Bring hand upwards clenching into fist


key word sign - sign for finished - auslan

Thumb up from fist. Twist wrist left and right


key word sign for friend

One hand around other fist, shake up and down (as though shaking your friends hand)


Fists together, thumbs up. Alternatively tilt hands forwards and back


key word sign for girl

Brush pointer finger down side of opposite cheek twice. Tip girls have soft skin


key word sign auslan for give

Flat hands, palms up, just above hip height, move in forward arc as though giving a present


key word sign for go

Flat hand, palm facing chest, arc hand outwards, finishing with palm facing away (can be directional)


key word sign - sign for good - auslan

Thumb up (natural gesture)


Wave (natural gesture)


key word sign - sign for excellent - Australia

Non dominant thumbs up, dominant hand place thumb on back of the other thumb tip. Quickly move dominant hand forward spreading fingers

Green (North)

Little finger and thumb extended from fist. Place just in front of forehead. Move side to side

Green (South)

One arm in front, blade of other hand at wrist. Move up arm to elbow. Tip: think greensleeves


Hands in clawed shape, palms forward. Move hands together in front of body, finish with fingertips touching, like gathering people together


key word sign for had, have

Clawed hand palm up, bring hand down, clenching into fist


key word sign for happy

Clap heel of palms together. Moving upper hand in small circles


key word sign - sign for hat - auslan

Put flat hand on top of head


Place cupped hand behind ear


key word sign for help

Place fingertips of bent hand on upwards facing flat hand, move hands towards the person needing help


key for sign for hide

Flat hands, one hand fingers pointing up, pointer finger near nose, second hand in front fingers forward, bring hands to meet


Hands out in front of you. Palms forward. Move in large outward circles


Palm forward, with finger slightly curved. Move hand forward in an arc under fingers pointing down


key word sign for horse

Non dominant hand, point forward, dominant hand, hold pointer and middle finger in downward ‘V’ (the rider), place over pointer finger. Move hands in forward circles like a horse galloping with a rider

Hot (Feeling)

key word sign - hot - feeling - auslan

Finger curled over thumb, place hand on far side of forehead, move across forehead and out to the side, like wiping sweat off (as in feeling hot)

Hot (Object)

key word sign - sign for hot - object

Fingers on chin. Rotate hand outwards and down towards hot object


key word sign - sign for house - auslan

Outline shape of roof and walls of a house with hands

How Are You?

Flat hands on chest. Simultaneously move them out to side while curling fingers into hand. Finishing with a thumbs up


Hands bent, fingers touching stomach. Roll hands forward until palms facing upwards

I / Me

key word sign for I or Me

Point at yourself


ill - key word sign - AAC

Little finger extended. Place high on chest. Move down


key word sign for in

Palm down across body, slide the other hand under it


One hand flat, face up. Place middle finger onto palm of flat hand, pointer finger extended forward. Brush middle finger left and right, like swiping an iPad screen


1. Hands out in front, fingers spread, palms facing you; 2. Interlock fingers of hands, move out and interlock fingers again



Palm face up, with other hand place middle and pointer fingers on palm and ‘jump’ them up and down



Hang cupped hands down in front of you, bounce forward several times. Like a kangaroo bouncing along


key word sign koala

1. Clawed hand over nose. 2. Then place clawed hands crossed on chest Tip: Koalas have big noses


Thumb, first and second fingers extended, place thumb on chin. Bounce hand forward twice. Like laughter coming out of Kookaburra’s beak

Line Up

Pointer finger extended, hand out in front of body. Other hand flat with fingers spread, near body. Move flat hand forward, stopping just behind pointer finger


key word sign - sign for like - auslan

Flat hand, fingertips on chest. Move hand in forward small circles while smiling


Place cupped hand behind ear

Look / See

key word sign for look, key word sign.for see

Pointer finger at eye, bring hand outward (can be directional)


sign for lunch - key word sign - AAC

Fingers flat with thumb underneath (not touching), move across face in front of mouth


key word sign for make or do

Both hands in fists, move top fist in small circles, hitting top of other fist during movement

Mine / My

key word sign for mine

Place fist in centre of chest


key word sign - sign for more - auslan

Clawed hand on chest. Pull out slightly


key word sign for morning

Fingers of bent hand taps waist then arm pit, like putting a newspaper under your arm


sign for music - key word sign - auslan - sign language

Pointer fingers extended, move hands in arcs towards and away from each other, as though conducting an orchestra


key word sign - sign for mum - sign for mummy - AAC - Auslan

Extend three middle fingers from fist. Tap fingers on head twice


key word sign for name

First and second finger touching thumb, place tips on forehead, bring out in forward arc finishing with fingers forward

Next / Turn

key word sign for next or turn

From fist, curl the pointer finger around thumb. Hand out front, palm facing down. Twist wrist so palm faces upwards


Move fist side to side, like a mini head shaking ‘no’. You can also shake head Also sign for not


Thumb extended from fist, palm down. Move hand in forward circle a few times


key word sign for on

1 Flat hands, palms face up; 2 Place back of hand onto palm of the other hand


key word sign - sign for open - auslan

Fingertips touching of flat hands, palms facing you. Simultaneously swivel hands out until fingertips facing forward (like double doors opening)


key word sign - sign for green - auslan - sign language

At side of mouth clench and unclench your hand a few times, like squishing an orange


key word sign for out

Middle finger touching thumb, palm facing you, flick middle finger and whole hand out


Non dominant hand flat facing body. Dominant hand pointing down behind hand. Jump dominant hand over flat hand finishing with it in front of flat hand

Pack Away / Tidy Up

key word sign - sign for pack away - auslan

Bunch hands. Alternatively move hands up and forward spreading fingers, then repeat. Action of packing away into cupboard. Can also be the action of packing into a box


key word sign.- australia - sign for paper

Hands together, palms facing each other. Tap fists together twice


Hands in fists thumbs up. Bring dominant fist to other fist. Then simultaneously move both hands across body and back

Pen / Write

Pinch pointer and thumb together. Move across body like you are writing


Pinch pointer and thumb together. Move in an action as though licking the point of a pencil. Tip: People use to lick pencil tip to make it write clearer

Pencil Case

Do the sign for pencil. Non dominant hand hold end of ‘pencil case’. Hold the ‘zip’ with dominant hand. Move in an action of opening and closing the zip

Pencil Sharpener

Do the sign for pencil. Then place pointer finger in the fist of other hand. Twist dominant hand like a pencil in a pencil sharpener

Physical Education

1 Flat hands at both sides of chest, fingers forward. Simultaneously move downwards (physical); 2 Bunch hands at side of her, fingers forward. Move hands forwards and back twice


key word sign auslan - pig

Place fist in front of nose move in small circles, like a pigs snout

Pink (North)

1. Pointer finger near lip; 2. Move finger away from face while bending finger slightly

Pink (South)

key word sign - sign for pink - auslan

Hand facing forward, pointer finger on front of cheek. Move back then down cheek Tip: Our cheeks are pink


key word sign for play

Palms up, hands at side. Move simultaneously in outward circles

Play Dough

key word sign - sign for play dough - auslan

Flat hands, dominant hand on top, fingers facing forward. Rub hands forward and back, like rolling play dough in your hands


key word sign for playground

1 Palms up, hands at side, move simultaneously in outward circles (‘play’); 2 Hands together, palms down, move outwards (‘ground’)


Fingers of flat hand on chin. Move forward and down curling fingers into hand


key word sign for put

Loosely bunch hand, move in forward arc and then open hand, like putting something on the table


key word sign - sign for purple - Australia - AAC - Sign Language - Auslan - Gestures

Place first and second finger on palm of other hand. Move in small circles


key word sign - sign for rainbow

Arm across body, palm facing you, fingers slightly spread, move hand in large arc. Like you are making the shape of a rainbow

Raise Hand

Raise hand (natural gesture)


Flat hand tilted to face.Pointer and middle finger extended from other hand, slightly separated. Zigzag hand as though reading text


sign for ready - key word sign

Thumb over middle finger forming circle, hand to side of face palm facing you. Move hand in forward arc flicking finger and thumb out

Red (North)

Hooked pointer finger near bottom lip. Move down and up twice

Red (South)

Kew Word Sign - Australia - sign for red - Auslan - Sign Language

Pointer in front of lips. Move in small circle. Tip: Lips are red

Rubbish Bin

Tap back of hands together (rubbish). Hold hands ‘C’ Shape, simultaneously move down outlining the shape of a bin


Non dominant hand flat across body. Point down near elbow. Move pointer finger across arm finishing at tips of fingers


key word sign for run

THands flat, move forward and back quickly as though running

Safe Hands

1.One hand flat, palm up. Other hand in cup shape above and in front. 2. Move hand down and back, while making a fist. 3. Point at hands


Look sad. Flat hand with pointer finger towards mouth. Bring hand down face


key word sign - sign for sand - auslan

Run your thumb along your fingertips starting with the little finger. Like rubbing sand grains between your fingers


Point at mouth. Bring hand outwards


Hand flat, palm facing you, just in front of face. Starting near cheek, move hand back and forth in front of face


key word sign - sign for scissors - auslan

Pointer and middle fingers extended and separated. Open and close fingers like scissors


key word sign - kws - sign for sheep - auslan

Thumb and little finger extended, place little finger on cheek and brush back twice


Point to eye. Move hand outwards while spreading fingers


Pointer finger just under chin, palm facing across the body. Twist hand until palm faces the body

Sing / Song

key word sign - sign for sing or song - auslan

Place first and second finger near mouth, draw circles with fingers as you move hand up and out


sign for silly - key word sign - AAC

Finger spread, thumb on temple. Wiggle fingers


Tap nose twice with hooked finger


key word sign - sign for sit

Open palms facing down. Place one hand on top of other. Move hands down


key word sign - sign for slow - kws - australia - AAC

Place flat hand on the back of the wrist of other hand. Slowly move hand up the arm


key word sign for snake

Closed fist on chin. Move hand forward flicking out first and second finger. Like a snake’s forked tongue flicking out


key word sign for small or little

Palms facing each other, out at side of body, move towards each other until close together


Shake clawed hand in front of mouth, like rubbing out the bad words


key word sign for spider

Crawl your hand up your other arm, like it’s a spider


key word sign for stay or freeze

Crooked pointer fingers extended from fists, held near shoulder height, bring down in forward arcs until forearm at parallel with floor


key word sign - sign for stop - auslan

Hand out in front of you, palm forward


Non dominant hand held out horizontally. Place dominant hand on top. Move hands downwards


key word sign for sun

Fist high above head, spread fingers downwards, like the rays of sunshine on your head


Rub flat hand in circles on opposite arm. Like rubbing in sunscreen


Hands flat and together, palms down. Move away from each other and down, outlining the shape of a table


key word sign for tall

Bent hand at side of head, move upwards to show tall stature


Pointer finger and thumb in an ‘L’ shape, held slightly out in front of shoulder. Move towards and away from shoulder twice

Teddy Bear

Place both cupped hands on head, like teddy bear’s ears

Thank you

Fingers of flat hand on chin. Move forward and down in arc


Point at top of throat and draw line down


Place pointer finger on temple


Tap pointer on opposite wrist, like you are tapping a watch


key word sign auslan for toilet

Tap pointer on opposite wrist, like you are tapping a watch


Pointer finger extended beside your head. Shake hand side to side


Thumb and finger extended from fist, palm facing away from body, twist forward and back like a spinning top, finishing with palm facing body


One hand across body, palm down. Rest dominant arm elbow on hand, fingers pointing up. Twist hand at wrist, like a trees branches moving


key word sign for Up

Point up, and move hand up

Us / We

key word sign for we or us

Point at yourself then others included in the ‘we’ (natural gesture) 


Open hands, palms facing forward. Bounce hands up and down slightly



Extend pointer and middle from one hand, point down like legs. ‘Walk’ fingers across palm of other hand


key word sign for want

Flat hand, thumb extended on chest, move hand downwards and out in slight arc

Wash Hands

key word sign for wash hands

Move hands over each other as though washing your hands


key word sign for what

Pointer finger extended, shake hand side to side


key word sign for where

Palms up, arms at side, move hands slightly in and out at same time


key word sign for who

Point up, move hand in horizontal circle. Tip mouth makes a circle shape when saying who


key word sign - sign for white - auslan

Extend thumb and little finger, palm down. Move hand side to side


Tap wrists of flat hands together twice


key word sign for wombat

Claw first three fingers on each hand alternatively forward and back, like a wombat digging


key word sign - sign for yes - auslan

Move horizontal fist up and down, can also nod head

Yellow (North)

Point to ear. Move in small forward circles near ear

Yellow (South)

key word sign - australia - sign for yellow

Thumb and pointer touching, place on temple. Twist hand forward twice. Like the yellow sun rays hitting your head


Point at the person you are referring to


key word sign for your

Hand in fist, palm facing forward Move in the direction of the person being referred to