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Singing with Makaton at New Place

Sensory trails and Makaton symbols bring Shakespeare's New Place to life for our visitors

Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark,
The beggars are coming to town;
Some in rags and some in tags
And one in a velvet gown

Visitors to Shakespeare's New Place may recognise this rhyme, which is heard frequently in our exhibition there. “Hark, hark the dogs do bark” was given a new lease of life recently with the addition of Makaton signs and visual aids (pieces of velvet and toy dogs!) so that a group of visiting children could enjoy a multi-sensory experience as they learned the rhyme. This activity was part of the development of new inclusive sessions at Shakespeare's New Place, and it is hoped that more will follow as we learn from customer feedback.

Makaton is a way of enhancing communication by adding signs and symbols to speech. Makaton signs are based on signs from British Sign Language (BSL), but whereas BSL is a complete language in its own right, Makaton is intended to be a flexible system that is particularly useful for those whose language skills do not develop in the usual way. Last September, a group of our staff and volunteers attended training at New Place on “Using Makaton with Singing” and that is how we found ourselves leading a group of enthusiastic participants from Tiverton Special School in Coventry. The children and staff members from Tiverton thoroughly enjoyed singing three rhymes with accompanying signs and tactile props.

The visitors also completed a Sensory Trail that used Makaton symbols and photographs to guide them around the site.   They were encouraged to…

Sensory Trail
Find, touch, look and sniff

This caused much merriment as children explored the sculptures in the garden and rubbed their hands on the rosemary plants to sniff the scent. Our first Sensory Trail had seven objects, and it is hoped to increase this number in the future to enable exploration of the whole site. A member of staff from Tiverton commented that it was very refreshing to encourage the children to touch things and explore properly, rather than feeling that a historical site was not for them.

We look forward to developing more interesting and inclusive approaches like these, so watch this space!