I love being a Makaton trainer and although I develop and deliver many courses around SEND and inclusion for the Early Years and Childcare Service (EYC) for Suffolk County Council, Makaton remains my favourite training to deliver.
We have been fortunate in Suffolk to keep Makaton as a core programme in the EYC – as a service team we all know how it benefits our young children in the county. Not just those with communication difficulties, but our children with English as an additional language and our pre-verbal children. It is used across our Early Learning Together (Portage) programme, in our Little Stars Communication groups run in Children’s centres and widely throughout our early years settings.
But…. having trained so many wonderful practitioners in our Early Years sector it never ceases to amaze me why it isn’t used more! I find practitioners are really enthusiastic when they complete the workshops but then when they get back to their setting it just…. stalls.
I think this is partly due to a lack of ideas of how to put it into practice in an Early Years setting. So I developed a follow up training called Makaton In Practice, which settings can access once they have completed their Beginners workshop. I go to the settings to deliver this training and I take along lots of resources to show practitioners that it is really easy to put into practice. Of course I always signpost them to the brilliant collection of resources on the Makaton website, but there are many things they can make or do themselves. Such as:
“X Factor” style sing off – in small groups practitioners learn a song from the Singing Hands books. This is great fun and brings out the competitors so the practitioners stop thinking about signing and start thinking about winning!
Story Sacks – all good settings have these or can easily make them from the resources they already have in the setting. I show them how to stick labels into the books and hand draw the symbols to key words and then add signs to use with the story.
What’s in the bag? – I ask the practitioners to go around their setting and place objects into a bag. Then I show them how to sign “What’s in the bag?” and they take it in turns to bring out an object and sign what they have.
Puppets – most settings have puppets which can be used in a variety of ways. Even just simply using them to sing and sign the “hello” song. Often practitioners are using puppets to talk to the children about emotions and it is a chance to teach them the signs and symbols for “happy”, “sad”, “angry” and “scared.”
Weather bingo – I have made a simple set of weather bingo cards and we have a game. Again, as the practitioners get involved in completing their card they stop worrying and start enjoying themselves.
I find practitioners just need that extra gentle “push” into actually using their Makaton after they have completed the Beginners workshop. All of the games and activities I get them to play can be easily adapted to use with children and we discuss how to do this to suit all ages and abilities. I find this extra training gives practitioners’ confidence and gets the creative juices flowing. I leave them with the challenge of each practitioner making a new resource to use with the children and demonstrating it at their next staff meeting.
Early Years & Childcare Learning & Development Consultant
Suffolk County Council