Vibe Special Education (SEN) Manager, Josh, uses Makaton when he teaches in a range of schools across London with the Vibe SEN Team. As an expert teacher of Special Education, he has found these verbal and visual prompts very useful to him across his teaching career. Makaton signs are a simplified form of sign language that can be beneficial to students or individuals who have challenges with speech, hearing, or struggle with English language.
Read on and check out his information and full video at the bottom of the page to see how you can incorporate some Makaton and Inspire Better Education in your class.
If you feel like looking at some SEN roles at Vibe in the meantime check them out here!
Good Morning & Good Afternoon
We all know that first impressions are important. Rocking in to a class with a Makaton ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’ can really set you up a successful lesson. Whether you engage with a student on their level straight away or show a classroom teacher that you’re willing to ‘have a go’ at signing, you’ll be well placed to build good relationships.
To say ‘Good Morning’ in Makaton start with a ‘thumbs up’ (that always means “good”) then reach across your body and make like you’re grabbing a curtain and pulling it back across your body.
For ‘Good Afternoon’ start with a ‘thumbs up’ (remember that’s always “good”) and then point your index and middle finger together and move them from your chin towards the person you are greeting.
Remember to include a big smile!
Positive praise will go a long way to a student’s success. The best trick for remembering how to say ‘Good Work’ in Makaton is to think of sawing wood on a workbench.
Another experienced Makaton user is Ellie, Team leader from SEN Yellow – find out more about her here!
Back to Makaton in a second…
One of my favourite Makaton stories is about two Teaching Assistants that had never done SEN work before.
After a thorough prep from our SEN consultants (who had both taught at the school), the TA’s headed out to an SEN school for a day of supply work. The day before I’d showed them the Makaton signs for ‘Good Morning’ & ‘Good Work’. They both walked into their classrooms and gave them a crack. Coincidentally the Headteacher was walking past the classroom and saw the TA’s signing and within minutes had called me in astonishment that Vibe had sent her ‘Makaton Experts’.
Those TA’s were offered full-time roles at the school and are still there today!
Help is a great one too. I love it because it’s easy to remember; you ‘help your hand up’, but also because our role as educators is to help inspire our students to learn.
A great thing about the Makaton for ‘Help’ is that you can say a whole sentence in one word/sign. Your facial expression and tone when you ask “Do you need help?” can be completely different, yet easily understood compared to saying “I need help!” but all done with one simple sign.
Again, this is a great one to say a range of phrases with just one sign.
For this sign place one hand on top of your closed fist, like you are adding more to a pile.
As I’m showing below, you can ask “More?” or “Want some more?” with one expression, then with the same sign can express “I expect more” or that you “want more”.
Please & Thank You
How rude of me…I almost forgot my manners! Please and thank you are both similar; but remember – “please to the knees” & “thank you to you”.
This is another super useful sign. You can; ask a student if they need a bathroom break or suggest they take a toilet break. There’s a bonus if you are with another Makaton-signing teacher – you can discretely duck out of a room (please don’t do this in class time!) and let them know just with a small rub of your shoulder with your index and middle fingers together.
Give It A Go!
If you’ve never tried Makaton, why not give it a go? Personally I’ve found it an invaluable skill to have on my CV when I’ve been applying for Teaching Jobs in London and it’s a great way to connect with SEN students and demonstrate your passion to fellow Teachers.
If you found this blog and video helpful, or would like us to put together some more Makaton instructional videos, leave us a comment and tell us what Makaton signs you’d like to see more of.