Press release

Makaton project goes global

Published on 8 March 2019

Music and sign language are bringing children around the world together in harmony thanks to an eTwinning project conceived at the University of Dundee.

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Youngsters from more than 40 countries have contributed clips of them singing and signing along to popular songs with Makaton as part of a project to break down cultural barriers and promote inclusion.

The project, known as ‘Hands of the World’, has been coordinated by Sharon Tonner-Saunders, from the University’s School of Education, who said that music was an ideal way to bring children together.

“This is breaking down the barriers of the classroom and opening up pupils’ learning to the whole world,” she said.

“Bringing young people together in the same video is prompting them to ask questions about different cultures, different languages and geography. Our latest video starts off with four-year-old children in China and ends with student primary teachers, which creates a truly inclusive project.”

Despite having launched just several weeks ago, Sharon said that she has already been inundated with requests from schools around the world to get involved in the six-month initiative.

Featuring pupils from schools across Europe, as well as Canada, China, Mexico, Tunisia, and the United States, the first compilation, featuring The Greatest Showman track ‘This is Me’, has already been viewed thousands of times, despite not having been listed publicly on YouTube. A second film, featuring the song ‘A Million Dreams’ from the same soundtrack, has only recently been posted.

Unlike British Sign Language, which is the language of the UK’s deaf community, Makaton was developed to assist hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. Signs are developed to look like a word and be as simple as possible to perform, making it particularly easy for children to learn.

“The two songs that we have completed are about identity, and that is one of the aims that we want this project to promote,” added Sharon.

“We want to be inclusive and to involve as many schools as possible, and these songs really reflect that message. Our latest song features schools from 40 different countries, but I am already being contacted by teachers from more nations wanting to get involved.

“Due to the success of the project, I have had to be creative with other sub-projects, for example, a Makaton Challenge of the Week and signing of ‘Ten in the Bed’ for World Book Day, to enable all interested schools to be included.”

The project has been facilitated by the eTwinning programme, which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and is managed in the United Kingdom by the British Council, for which Sharon is an ambassador. The eTwinning portal facilitates online relationships between international educational establishments so they can collaborate on projects that promote cross-cultural understanding.

A spokesperson for the British Council said, “We are thrilled to be supporting this truly innovative, inclusive and collaborative eTwinning project.

“It’s a joy to watch the project develop and to see how excited and motivated the kids are to be communicating with their peers on a global scale through Makaton and song. It’s plain to see how bringing the world into the classroom through this innovative approach, will go towards helping kids to understand cultural diversity and other languages.”


Press Office, University of Dundee