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Makaton sign language for all

You’re at a party.  You are introduced to someone new.  They tell you their name, ‘Hello I’m Hayley.’  Instantly forgotten.  But imagine that she trills ‘Hello, I’m Hayley,’ whilst simultaneously spinning, ballerina-esque, clockwise at 100rpm on her toes.  Would you be so likely to forget her name then?  It’s the same reason we learn lyrics to songs more easily than the same words written down in bland text on white paper.  Kinaesthetic learning.

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What is Makaton?

Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs are used with speech in spoken word order.  This sign language technique uses a range of gestures to communicate information.  Not only is it easily used but it is also simple to learn.   In short, Makaton supports, backs up, speeds up and develops language learning.  It gives two different types of input for every word, an extra hook to hang the word on if you like.

How is Makaton used?

Makaton users are first encouraged to communicate using signs, then gradually, as a link is made between the word and the sign, the signs are dropped and speech takes over.  This might surprise you, as you would perhaps think that signing would prevent speech developing. But research suggests strongly that this is not the case. In fact the opposite occurs, as signing seems to positively encourage speech development. Many hundreds of thousands of children and adults have been helped significantly in this manner.  At Regents, we have seen numerous evidence of its effectiveness in settling new arrivals with no English, EAL learners’ rapid progress, positive behaviour management, great story telling and tools for ‘Talk for Write’. 

Who uses Makaton?

Makaton is an internationally recognised communication programme, used in more than 40 countries worldwide.  Most Makaton users are children and adults who need it as their main means of communication.  But research shows that everyone benefits from learning through Makaton because Makaton combines all of its visual, audio and kinesthetic elements in a highly successful teaching approach.

How can we enhance learning using Makaton at Regents?

At Regents, Makaton is used to communicate a variety of different information including feelings and emotions, directions, playing games, telling stories, new concepts in science and topic, instructions and so many more.  We use a total communication approach to teaching and learning and this includes listening, speaking, gestures, Makaton, facial expression, photos and pictures.  We are beginning to spread the benefits of Makaton to all staff and would like to encourage the families and carers to join us in developing this initiative.  The more people use it in different languages and contexts, the better communication skills the children will acquire.  Consistency and exposure is the key to success.  Above all, it is fun and engaging so it is guaranteed that you and your children will enjoy learning Makaton.  If we, all Regents community, work together as a whole, the end result would be what we all want for our children; enhanced learning as the children’s confidence in language and communication flourish.  

Article by Hannah Martin and Emi Imai , Year 3 teacher and Year 1 teacher

For more information visit: Search ‘Makaton basic signs and songs’