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Sign of the times as Fenland pupils 'sing' with their hands instead of their voices




Children at a Fenland school have been learning a new skill as part of their music lessons thanks to the pandemic.

Key Stage 2 children at Friday Bridge School have swapped musical instruments and singing for learning sign language and performing using their hands instead of their voices.

The move, which began when the children returned to school in September, is the brainwave of music teacher Karl Gernert, who was desperate to keep the music going despite government rules, which ban singing in class because of fears over the spread of covid-19.

Karl, who is also part of Act II Theatre Company in Spalding, who has been learning sign language himself, took to the internet to find routines he could teach the children, as well as help them learn to talk in sign.

Children from Hawks Class sign 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane. (43150141)
Children from Hawks Class sign 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane. (43150141)

The results of the children's efforts have been put on the school's website for parents to enjoy and it has proved a massive hit.

Headteacher Sophie Foston said: "What Karl has done is just amazing. Normally he teaches them music and singing and he organises our school productions.

"But singing is not allowed at the moment, and sharing musical instruments like recorders is also not a good idea. It was really sad to think the children would miss out on music.

"Singing and music is such an integral part of our school, and in fact all schools, so it was great that Karl, who does a lot of work with the charity Sense, came up with this genius idea.

Children from Hawks Class sign 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane. (43150143)
Children from Hawks Class sign 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane. (43150143)

"The children have loved learning to sign and it has really taken off over the last few weeks, they have learned so much already. We put the videos online last week and the parents have loved them and to be honest they brought a tear to my eye watching them.

"What this has done is not only teach the children a skill, they would not otherwise have had the chance to learn, but also it teaches them so much more such as diversity, and that no matter what everyone can enjoy music - it's a modern foreign language and they have learned it because of covid.

"It has proved so successful that we will now continue to teach it even when we can all enjoy singing and playing musical instruments again.

"I have been in touch with Jonathan Lewis, Cambridgeshire's director for education, to tell him what we have been doing and he was going to send it out as part of his newsletter to tell other schools."

Children from Hawks Class sign 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane. (43150147)
Children from Hawks Class sign 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane. (43150147)

Karl added: "I can't take full credit as there are a lot of people out there already signing songs, but what I have done is take the routines and make them child friendly.

"It teaches the children so many music skills like rhythm and listening. The routines are like dancing. Signing words is only part of communicating the rest is from our facial expressions, that's where the emotions come from and that is another skill they have learned.

"We are now learning some Christmas songs and if it's possible we may try to organise an outdoor performance at some point.

Children from Hawks Class sign 'It's a wonderful world' by Louis Armstrong. (43150149)
Children from Hawks Class sign 'It's a wonderful world' by Louis Armstrong. (43150149)

"But it has been really great seeing the enthusiasm of the children, and how far they have come already."

Children from Kestrels Class sign 'This is me' from the Greatest Showman. (43150161)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'This is me' from the Greatest Showman. (43150161)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'Dance monkey' by Tones and I (43150153)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'Dance monkey' by Tones and I (43150153)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'Dance monkey' by Tones and I (43150155)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'Dance monkey' by Tones and I (43150155)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'This is me' from the Greatest Showman. (43150157)
Children from Kestrels Class sign 'This is me' from the Greatest Showman. (43150157)
Karl Gernert has been teaching pupils at Friday Bridge School to sing using sign language. (43150401)
Karl Gernert has been teaching pupils at Friday Bridge School to sing using sign language. (43150401)


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