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Makaton - Using Drama in Education

Sam is an actor, director and general theatre enthusiast who works with Protocol Education as a teaching assistant in London. In his debut blog, he shares with us his knowledge of communication and in particular his discovery of makaton and how it can be used in the classroom to gain better understanding.

Makaton: Using Drama in Education

Alongside my pursuits in education I work as an actor, director, and general theatre enthusiast.  My training is predominantly in Drama and a lot of my experience in the world of education is in facilitating drama workshops.

With this experience in mind, I have always been fascinated by the way drama brings various forms of communication together and uses the results to tell a story, to create an atmosphere and to make a point.
Where an author only uses the written word, and a trumpet player their instrument, the theatre maker's toolkit is made up of language, movement, music, visuals, dance and so much more, used in a fantastically collaborative way.  The way music underscores film can completely change the way the audience responds to a scene, the way an actor uses their body and voice to interpret the written word can dictate the direction a plot goes in, and the way a dancer moves to music can generate the most powerful of emotions.  In drama it has always been known that different forms of communication, different 'languages', work best alongside each other.

Makaton demonstrates, like drama, that if we use a variety of modes of communication to convey information, we will not only improve clarity, but also the energy and the vibrancy of what is being said.

Discovering Makaton

Imagine my delight, therefore, when upon taking my first steps into the world of education I discovered Makaton.  Makaton is gaining prominence and popularity in education systems around the world at a remarkable pace but for those readers who don't know about it, Makaton is a Language Aid that brings together speech, sign language, facial expression and body language into one single act of communication.
It's written form uses the alphabet, symbols and pictures to do the same thing.

Popular in SEN environments Makaton brings to education a wisdom that drama has understood for a long time. In the same way a theatre maker uses a whole plethora of different 'languages' to tell a story, Makaton users champion all the tools available to them to convey information.  Makaton demonstrates, like drama, that if we use a variety of modes of communication to convey information, we will not only improve clarity, but also the energy and the vibrancy of what is being said.

Creating better communication

The inclusive drama charity where I first learnt about Makaton used the system all the time, with young people who used it in their education (particularly those in SEN schools) and with young people who didn't.  The results were fantastic.  Not only did it assist with inclusivity, but also it created an environment where everybody was communicating in a clear, lucid way, and like true theatre makers, were using all the apparatus available to them to communicate and to tell a story.  Makaton made them better performers and performance made them better at Makaton!

Now obviously teaching 30 young people Makaton in an already bulging curriculum isn't always possible, but I would always encourage all teaching staff to have some sort of training or experience in the system to aid them with their teaching practice.  I'm quite new to Protocol Education but I've already found that using Makaton in any class environment can be very useful, especially with young people who have difficulty in focusing, or have behavioural issues.  If we use clear words, gesture, facial expression and body language in our engagement with young people we can only assist in their understanding.  In drama we use every tool available to us to impart information to an audience, lets use Makaton to do this in the classroom.

For those interested the BBC has some great Makaton resources here:

Do you have experience with makaton? Would you like to share with us? Email Megan at for more information. 

Share you thoughts with us on TwitterFacebook, or Google+

Tags: SamC, teaching-assistant, SEN, makaton, learning-tools, experiences, ideas, drama, communication, enhance

Category: Australian Teachers

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