Yesterday, we started a new project with Alora Herbst and her 1st-3rd grade class of all boys at Haskell Steam Magnet. She describes student this way:
"This class is for diverse learners with a variety of disabilities who require a smaller environment and extra support to access the classroom curricula."
They described themselves as :
a tiger, 2 cheetahs, panther, ninja, an enderdragon, a scary clown, a 20 meter komodo dragon, a TRex, Godzilla, and King Kong,
I have to admit that Andrea and I had a bit of of the butterflies before going in on how we would work with this group. We have no idea what to expect. We have a five week program. How will we adapt it for this group?
Our first real challenge: What is podcast?
We call on students excitedly holding hands in the air: Cheetah 1, "I know! Like a video. Me, "Nope. Yes, Scary clown?" "Is it a video?" "No....yes, 20 Meter Komodo?" "It's a video on the radio!" "Close enough!"
How do you win over a suspicious, focus challenged, video drenched audience to the power of words? You activate the imagination with sound and words only of course. We played ocean sounds and had everyone close their eyes and imagine the ocean. We did a whole walk in a lighthouse. Feeling magical, I opened my eyes. Upon which I realized that only two of us had our eyes closed at all for the whole exercise. Then Andrea opened her eyes too. We all blinked and looked at each other. Hmmm... While the exercise failed (embarrassingly!) we did see their desire to participate by how they were observing us. That took focus. That is a challenge here. To have them experience the power of words, then, we first had to have them feel the power of engagement. I was trying to impose on them my idea of imagination. It wasn't that they weren't open to us. I wasn't reading them. How to open the connection?
Magic Portal. The Journey Begins!
There are two things that have served me well in life. Waiting tables and improv. Dealing with the public has taught me that if you give someone who is misbehaving a chance not to while saving face, 95% of the time, they will take it. It's just more fun to be a part of what's happening. The great lesson of improv is the great 'Yes! And..." Accept what is happening and run with it. All great adventures start that way. And so it was at Haskell on Tuesday. Andrea and I scrapped our plan except for the intention, which was to get a handle on the students and get them excited about story telling. All they really wanted was to be heard. We funneled their excitement to be able to add to a story by grabbing onto one kid's love of roblox which became a portal to a different world where they could be anything they wanted. They chimed in on what the world looked like (colors everywhere, wide open spaces). One by one they told us what they were, how they looked (ferocious animals, fast animals, ninjas and monsters who surprisingly worked together and protected each other). They listened to each other and built on each others details. Success. Before we knew it, our hour had flown by. There is such validation in sharing a creative endeavor for all involved. Even our "scary clown," who had chosen that to intimidate and separate, was now a snake instead, a participating protector in our monster hero community. What we learned by letting go is that this group has no limits on curiosity and imagination. We cannot wait to go back!
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