Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Play that Encourages Reciprocal Interaction, Imitation Skills, Communication and Initiation

As a continuation of last week’s post about the Rug Play Center, I want to take some time to share another version of rug play.  This version was actually created after our morning class grew in size from 6 students to 9 students.  With the intensity of needs we serve, adding more students added new challenges.   However, like I always say ..."With new students, come the opportunity for my staff and I to learn something new!" 

Even in a growing classroom, we had to come up with a way for all the students to receive one-on-one direct instruction time and be in groups no larger than three kids at a time.  Sounds simple right?  

Well...as many of you have experienced some students have more significant needs and must be one-on-one with a staff person or in a smaller group of two to achieve progress. Further, some students' attention to task and learning skills are not at a level for them to be grouped into a larger group of three or four. 

Our solution:  In came Miss Denise and Miss Mary!!  Denise was a practicum student from the local college and Mary is a past parent who volunteers in the classroom.  (They are also known as the Buddy Bear lifesavers!)  We organized their schedules so that we could have one of them each day during learning rotations making for five adults on deck to support learning skills during our 100 minute learning rotation.

Originally, I simply added them to a group of three in which one student needed more one on one time and the other two worked nicely with the other adult. That worked for less than a day!  The students were too distracted by one another and the instruction of two adults in a center. 

Time for a revamp!  Through some thinking on my own and some brainstorming with my amazing staff, we came up with 2 more centers for a grand total of 10 centers!!  We used to have 8 centers at 12 to 13 minutes accounting for 100 minutes. But with 10 centers, we simply rotated every 10 minutes which was perfect for our new little learners.  Remember last week how I mentioned that we want to keep students at a center for the amount of time they can engage and attend.  Well, 10 minutes was our max!

We added free play art center where the students had the opportunity to use the skills they had been learning all year at structured art (color, draw, cut, glue, tear, and paint).

The other additional center was more difficult to come up with. As we brainstormed about the needs of our morning class, we realized that the original rug play was just not enough.  They still needed a lot of support to engage and participate in the center and on top of that the new students needed a way to build connections with the staff and their peers. Thus, interactive rug play center was born!!  The idea was the adult was extra encouraging through playful interactions, presence, eye contact and touch as suggested by the work of Dr. Becky Bailey and Conscious Discipline.  

Using this visual system, the students were engaged into a series of one to four activities. 



At the beginning of each week, I programmed hands-on playful games into four separate fabric bags (each one a different color).  Then, Miss Penny, our lovely play-based para expert, simply chose which bags to work on with which students. Some groups would go through all four activities while others would do one or two bags because their interest levels could attend to longer a play activity durations. 

To make the visual schedule accurate, Miss Penny would simply use a dry-erase marker to mark off unavailable bags. 


So what’s in the bags?  Basically, each activity is something that is visually structured, has communication supports and needs more than one play partner to be fun.  Here is one week's worth of examples to give you the idea.

Example One from the Green Bag:  Puppet Play - We put several puppets into a bag.  The kids take turns taking one out of the bag or requesting it with their words or by communicating with the aided language board below. 



Note: They can work on greetings like "hi" and "bye" or other social interactions such as high-fives, handshakes and hugs.  Miss Penny can also add in I Love You Rituals and other familiar songs with the puppets to keep the kids engaged and incorporate playful interactions that encourage reciprocal play, language and imitation skills.
Example Two from the Red Bag:  Nesting Blocks - Miss Penny helps the students use their problem solving skills as they stack the blocks.  Then, they work on waiting and impulse control as they count, clap, jump, or high five to a certain number before knocking them down. 


Note:  We use a visual system to support the waiting process.  There are four steps...



build the blocks,



wait,


knock them down,


and celebrate!  

The four visuals are glued together and laminated.  Then, they are folded so we can focus on one visual at a time or show the whole process.  You can access this visual as well as other ones discussed in this post by going to Boardmaker Achieve or by sending me an email. 


Example Three from the Yellow Bag: What’s in the box? - This is a fun guessing game I got at a Patti King DeBaun training.  You simply hide one item in the box and have the students guess from two or three choices what they think it is.  After you sing, What’s in the Box? to the tune Frere Jacques.


Note: We put lots of playful and motivating items in our box to keep students' interest and enthusiasm. Below are some examples.



Also, there is a Velcro strip on the outside that contains the items to choose from, as well as a yes and no icon Velcroed to the inside of the lid for student's response.  When students are ready for it, we have them wait to play with the items until they get the correct answer.  This works on memory recall, trust, object permanence and delayed gratification.   For example, if they guess wrong, we might say "try again" and close the box with them seeing that we put the same item back in.  You would be surprised how often they don’t guess right the second time around. :(

Outside of the box: Guess Options

                                                       Inside of the lid: yes and no answers

Example Four from the Blue Bag:  A Play Kit (My Favorite!!) - It is kind of on the same wavelength as example three only this time the students have to request items and use their words or an aided language board to say what they want to do with the item.   For example, using the aided language board, I could ask, "Do you want to blow bubbles or pop bubbles?" Or I could say, "I have a book. What should we do with it?"


The items are a books, cars and a little fabric road, maracas, mini blocks, and bubbles. Some of which are accompanied by a visual system or communication board. 



Communication Board for Bubble Play


Stop and Go Visual for Maraca Play (Stop is on the backside)

                                                
Sequential Visual for Mini Blocks



Fabric Road for Structured Car Play


Note: A duplicate of this play kit was sent home with a few of our students over the summer to work on play skills and communication.  What a great home activity! 

So there you have it folks. . . four play bags for four fun and socially engaging activities.  

Now for a few logistics .... Where do we store the play bags when not in use?  Answer is not in plain site of the students that sends the message that they are free rein.  They are stored in the storage cabinets in the back of the room. 


Secondly, where does the rug for this play go?  If you recall, this was an added center and if you remember from the classroom tour the whole classroom is used for something! So we had to get creative with the little space that was left! We actually used a 24 by 30 inch carpet runner from Wal-Mart for this center. Miss Penny would simply roll it out first thing in the morning over the tile line up spots.  Then after centers, it was rolled back up and stored under the storage cabinets. 



Lastly one quick modification, some of our students don’t have very strong core muscles and can’t sit criss-cross applesauce for very long so we accommodated their needs by adding two cube chairs and one turned into a table. 


*Cube Chairs are awesome!
You can get them through most school supply companies


Then, a few of our students sat with one leg on either side of a bolster to work on strengthening their core either the whole time or part of the time. The key here is to really think about what the purpose of the center is.  Is it core and gross motor strengthening or is it play and interaction?  In our case, it is play and interaction so if working on strengthening a student’s core limits their ability to interact and focus then the core strengthening takes the back burner. 

Well, that is it for now!  Catch you later this week when I share my top 20 favorite preschool games that support play and interaction.   

Best Wishes, 
Lindy






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