Friday, 6 January 2012

Drama Club Friday: Grocery Shopping
What kid likes going to the grocery store? Unless it happens to be your special interest/obsession, or unless you have a really cool parent who makes it  a scavenger/treasure hunt,  you are pretty much doomed to dread the tag-along-shop that most kids have to endure. When I was a kid it was the worst. As an adult, it's still the worst; BUT a girl's got to eat. 

Special needs kids don't always get this exposure, but I certainly think it's a worthwhile thing to start young with. It may not be fun (for you or them), but it can be engaging and will be one step towards  functional skill development, valuable life skills, social skills and the ability to self-regulate despite the lights, the noise, the smells, the sights, and so on. Everything CAN be a learning opportunity, but you knew that already if you're a teacher, or parent. 

Today we had a really great drama class. Our performance theme was At the Grocery Store; we started, as we always do, going over expectations and discussing the meaning of drama. We read the message on the board together; with some encouragement, we decoded the message which told us that if we did well today, we might get a treat. In my class, a treat is a always a "might" because as I explain, it's for sometimes. A treat is never a given.  

So then I introduced the scoring system, a line of 5 empty faces and one already drawn (a 6th) to demonstrate the currency. "If we (it's always we not you) follow our directions, and get 5 happy faces, we might get a treat. Do you like treats?" everyone smiled. I love to ask somewhat rhetorical questions, especially when the answer is makes everyone feel like are more in control than they really are :P and keeps everyone involved. It also allows me to check for comprehension; if someone is not saying, for example, that they like treats (or at least smiling, nodding, or what have you) I venture to say they are not listening too carefully, or missed something somewhere and I might want to backtrack to see where they fell off.

Where was I.....After a brief group meeting we got right into a warm up; I love musical warm ups (especially those from DREAM ENGLISH.COM) because it takes the pressure off the teacher to maintain to beat, while modeling actions, prompting and reinforcing.... So, the music was on and my students exclaimed "sing to us!"... so much for not carrying the beat. I left the music on, and sang along to the music the best I could, which still gave me the freedom to prompt/reinforce as needed....which is a lot :) We were all warmed up by the end; mission accomplished.

One aisle of our MM grocery store; I saved boxes for 6 months in anticipation of this activity!
Next we headed to the floor to make a grocery list (on all fours, on the floor because we all needed a little sensory cool down). I modeled how to make a grocery list and each child took turns deciding what to put on my master list and then their own lists. Some students copied my list verbatim while others got creative, sometimes with letters but usually with some kind of hieroglyphs. These lists were taken right to the grocery store where I coached each child through their first shop, checked them out as the cashier and then let them get creative as I moved on to the next student. Half way through the play period I brought in a pretend oven, some pans, a mirror and a few costumes. The kids were totally into it and were getting really creative writing ingredient lists, going to the grocery store, and taking turns being chef, cashier and shopper. If I brought it all in at once, it would be too much. I know my customer!

All the while I was actively prompting to follow our directions/rules; I do this by modeling the expectations. Let me back track..what were expectations upon which the tentatively promised treats rested upon?

  1. Be nice 2. Use your friends name to get their attention 3. Talk to each other! 

Another aisle in our grocery store
The first one is self explanatory; the second comes from a belief that kids need to be reminded to use their friends names before addressing them; if I say, "Alley ask Billy if he wants water" a child will usually repeat it without first ensuring that the child is listening/aware of the question being asked, etc. It helps promote a more reinforcing social experience, when you first call the person's name and then issue the request; you increase the likelihood of getting a response, therefore having a meaningful social exchange. Its especially important when you have friends with Autism Spectrum Disorders, because they may not be tuned into you unless you ask for their attention first. Finally, the last rule is to talk to each other;  the first class, and every subsequent class during our initial meeting, we discuss the definition of drama a component of which is "when people talk to each other" (we choose not to focus on mime because the goal is increased language and social interaction). 

I gave the five minute warning; then, I called everyone to carpet. We sang our goodbye song and class was finished. They got all 5 happy faces, and got a special treat. A Christmas chocolate...Might as well have been gold. It's the small things isn't it?! :)