Vibe Blog

SEN Teaching – Learn Simple Makaton!

Vibe Special Education Manager, Josh, uses Makaton when he’s SEN Teaching in schools across London.  As an experienced SEN teacher, he has found these verbal and visual prompts very useful to him as he’s worked alongside students with a range of needs. 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 as part of your SEN teaching practice.

If you’d like to hear more about SEN jobs in London get in touch here!

Good Morning & Good Afternoon 

We all know that first impressions are important especially in an SEN class.  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 or teaching assistant 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.

Josh from Vibe shows how to say Good Morning in Makaton

Josh from Vibe demonstartes Good Morning in Makaton

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.

Josh from Vibe showing Good Morning in Makaton

Remember to include a big smile. It’s the best way to make a good first impression if you’re trialing for a new SEN teaching job.

Good Work

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.

London Teacher josh demonstrates Good Work in Makaton sign

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 a 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’. 

They were offered full-time roles at the school and are still there today as SEN Teaching Assistants!


Help is another great Makaton sign.  I love it because it’s easy to remember; you ‘help your hand up’, but also because our role as SEN Teachers & Teaching Assistants is to ‘help’ inspire our students to learn.

A great thing about the Makaton sign 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.

Josh from Vibe Teacher Recruitment shows the Makaton sign for Help


Again, this is a great way 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”.

Josh uses the Makaton sign for More when he is Teaching in London with Vibe

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”.

Please as demonstrated by SEN manager Josh from Vibe

When you're teaching in London SEN Schools like Josh from Vibe the Makaton sign for Thank You can be useful

Toilet Break

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.

Josh from Vibe shows how to sayToilet Break in Makaton Signing

Give Makaton & SEN Teaching A Go! 

If you’ve never tried Makaton or SEN Teaching why not give it a go?  Personally I’ve found Makaton 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.

As an SEN Teacher some of the most amazing people I’ve met have been the students, teachers and SEN TA’s I’ve worked with.  Whether you’re looking for Primary or Secondary teaching jobs, you should definitely keep in mind that SEN jobs could be an awesome match for you and help you learn a whole bunch of new skills.

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.

Josh Darragh is Head of Performance of the Special Education Needs (SEN) Team at Vibe Teaching in London.  You can find out more about him here or get in touch at

Learn more about Jack; Vibe’s SEN Green Team Leader here!

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