Written by Victoria Whieldon (Speech & Language Therapist/Learning Support) and Liz Hill (Nursery Teacher)
We were told some information about him. His name was Sam, he was small, had travelled all the way from England to be with us and would need his own school uniform…nothing too unusual there. There was just one thing that was a little different; his favourite way to communicate was Makaton signing! We realised that Early Years had some work to do if we were going to help Sam settle in to BSG.
The Makaton is a language programme that uses hand signs and symbols to support communication. Signs are not a replacement for speaking, they are used at the same time as speech, in spoken word order. The signs give additional visual clues, which supports understanding, learning words and expression.
As you can imagine, all students and staff could not wait to have ‘Signing Sam’ visit their classroom, so Miss Kathy set us a challenge of learning and using as many signs as possible to make Sam feel welcome.
Miss Kathy’s challenge:
- Every Monday, staff and students learn some new signs.
- Then some mysteriously dressed characters known as ‘Signing Detectives’ will carry out a weekly investigation to spot the class who know the most signs.
- The winning class get presented with a certificate in assembly and get to keep Sam in their classroom for the whole week!
So far, Sam has visited every classroom. We are certainly continuing to see the benefits of using Makaton with all students to help create a positive, fun and communicative atmosphere.
Staff at the Early Years Campus have been gradually implementing the use of Makaton for several years now and the arrival of Sam inspired us to become more advanced signers. A series of three one-hour workshops lead by Vicky Whieldon and Liz Hill were offered to those teachers who wanted to boost their signing skills. Over 20 members of staff attended. Workshops involved learning new signs, gaining confidence to sign in full sentences and using signs in practical school related situations.
Feedback from the training was very positive with many staff reporting that their signing competency had increased. Requests for future refresher courses have been made so watch this space!
Finally, here is a personal message from Sam for all of the staff and students at the Lakefront Campus:
“Thank you Early Years for being Signing Superheroes! You have made my first year at BSG a very happy one and I have decided to make Guangzhou my permanent home – keep signing everyone!”