The Pros and Cons of Online Makaton Workshops

Saskia’s insights and comments on online workshops

16 March 2020 was a day that I will never forget! Lockdown restrictions were being put in place and my three Signing with Babies workshops were cancelled, one level 2 workshop and an Enhancement workshop had to be cancelled. I truly didn’t know what I was going to do.

The Makaton Charity worked incredibly quickly to devise a way that Level 1 and 2 workshops could be delivered online. Initially, I was unsure whether this would work or if it was even something that I wanted to do.

The beauty of the face-to-face workshops is the interaction between course
participants; the sharing of knowledge, hints and tips of how Makaton is used
in their home or setting and learning from each other through group and paired

Since the end of April I have run several online workshops,
using Zoom:

  • a medical taster session
  • 2 bespoke PSHE sessions
  • a bespoke secondary school taster session (30 teachers from Bodmin College –
    split into 4 sessions – a Herculean task organised by the Deputy SENCo at
    Greenfields ARB)
  • 3 Level 3 workshops
  • an informal ‘refresher’

I have more Level 1 and 2 workshops, an Early Years tasters and a formal refresher tasters in the pipeline for June and July. As soon as the Level 3 is released, I will also be running that online. And my views about online training? It’s different but I like


people ho are on the workshop really want to be there!

although it can be quite intense, the Charity has scheduled in 3 screen breaks to make
sure that learners don’t become screen-fatigued during the Level 1 & 2 workshops

it focuses everyone’s attention! It is delivered in Gallery view, so everyone can see everyone else’s signing.

people are very polite and there doesn’t seem to be many interruptions or talking over each other, yet everyone gets to have their say and share personal experiences

it allows for questions to be asked via ‘chat’

you get to see people’s homes! I have ‘met’ people’s cats, dogs, babies, grandparents, children and partners! One of my cats (whose hearing has gone) likes to sit on the bed behind me. It’s a nice talking point and breaks the ice!

breakout rooms allows people to do paired or group work and (now that I have this
sussed) I shall be making use of them more. As a host, I can drop into the rooms at any point and, if the learners need my help, they can request that I join them.

timings of the workshops have allowed me to be flexible with my working day. I’m able to offer weekend, afternoon and evening training so can fit in with people’s
own circumstances.

we don’t have to pay for venue hire and I don’t have to drive to the venue and carry boxes of manuals, Makaton books, refreshments, a laptop, a projector and a screen. That’s been quite pleasant. I just have to walk into my spare room, put a box on my desk with my laptop on top (in order to get the height right) and off we go.

We’ve been able to continue with our signing choir: Makasong. Parents have reported that they appreciate the routine of this every Monday evening. I have also run a Signing Choir half term activity for CAAP (Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme) and this was a lovely way to ‘meet’ other families who were interested in singing and signing.


the Internet! Not only my internet but the connections of the learners. There have
been times when I become a ‘Dalek’ but I have warned learners that it might happen. They all wave at me and I then leave the meeting, come back in and that fixes that problem.

people who join via iPads or tablets don’t have as stable an internet connection as
people who join on laptops or computers. A few people have had to leave momentarily and re-join the meeting. One poor lady was unable to attend a workshop because her whole road’s internet had gone down and she didn’t know until she was unable to join, looked out the window and there was a man with a van and lots of wires everywhere! Fortunately, she was able to transfer to another workshop.

the price of the Level 1 & 2 workshops. The Makaton Charity has set the price of each workshop for the lockdown period, we cannot offer any of our TALKmoreCORNWALL CIC subsidies, because we’re not allowed to ‘undercut’ other freelance tutors. However, so far, people have been happy to pay £59 per workshop.

When lockdown is over, I am looking forward to being able to provide face-to-face workshops again. However, I will be carrying on with online training too as I really quite like it!