Monday, June 15, 2015

Using Poems as a Mini Play

Several of the Animated Step-by-Step Poems lend themselves beautifully to being conducted as a visually supported, mini classroom play using the interactive whiteboard as the ‘glue' that allows the activity to run smoothly.  

Think about the many benefits of preparing a class to stage a play …. 

-being exposed to repetitive readings of the poem or song text on the interactive whiteboard;
-greater exposure to your AAC symbol set;
-learning to wait your turn;
-learning to recognize your turn;
-receiving practice with motor access on an AAC device;
 and of course … last but not least ....
-teamwork … teamwork … teamwork!

In fact I’d say that if you are planning a special show for parents or the school's talent show, this format provides students with the extra ‘scaffolding’ necessary for ensuring success and making everyone look good … teachers included!

Several of the Animated Step-by-Step poems/songs offer the following general roles illustrated using the Five Little Snowmen poem as an example: (note: narration can be realized using natural speech or augmentative communication).


5 little snowmen 
standing on a hill
5 little snowmen 
standing very still
Out came the sun 
and melted one away
Now there's 
4 little snowmen 
standing there today.

4 little snowmen 
standing on a hill ... 
(repeats with reduced numbers)


Time Dependent Repetitive Line(s)

As the name suggests, this is usually a phrase or sentence that repeats predictably within the poem/song. It is called time-dependent line because it must be inserted in a particular place in the poem. This role is especially great for children undergoing training in motor access and is considered to be a great ‘next step’ for the child that has mastered the concept of cause and effect switch use. A variety of single message voice output devices e.g., BIGmac (AbleNet) can be used to program the time-dependent repetitive line. This role can be facilitator-assisted, i.e, a classroom assistant or therapist is offering the switch when it's time to be inserted or it can be available at all times, leaving it up to the child to decipher when they should activate their message.

The Animated Step-by-Step Poem, 5 Little Snowmen, has several time-dependent repetitive lines that can be assigned as roles to different children in the class.


Standing on a hill

Standing very still





 Out came the sun

 And melted one away

 Standing there today


Slot-Filler Items

Think of slot-filler items as a ‘revolving door’ where content is inserted within a place holder. Slot-filler items typically reflect a category,  although that category might simply be the rhyming words of the poem. 

Numbered snowmen: 

5 little snowmen, 
4 little snowmen, 
… No little snowmen    



At a very basic level, slot-filler items can be programmed sequentially into a step communicator (e.g., Step-by-Step Communicator from AbleNet).

To further reinforce the concepts they are using, symbols representing the  slot-filler items might be bound together as a unit allowing the classroom assistant to sequentially and efficiently flip to the corresponding symbol. The child is always being stimulated with the symbol corresponding to the slot-filler item they are hearing on their voice-output device.


Slot-filler items may also be programmed on a voice-output communication device/tablet with a corresponding hard copy or digital communication display being available to the child. 




Non Time-Dependent Repetitive Line

This role is designed for children that are cognitvely young and undergoing cause and effect training. It allows them to trigger a related sound effect that adds ambience to the reading of the poem. These sound effects can be added at any time and are typically added with lower intensity ... they are intended to add but not detract from the main ‘collaborative reading of the poem’. In our example, 5 Little Snowmen, that sound effect might be a howling winter wind.


Motor Roles (Acting it out)

The possibility also exists for practicing meaningful and much needed motor skills. With 5 Little Snowmen, for example, five students might be assigned the role of acting out the actions of the snowmen (standing, standing still, melting away) which might be translated by a motor therapist as practice moving in and out of a seated and standing position.

In closing ..... It is important to remember that roles should be assigned based on therapeutic need and symbol support may be a plus even for children using natural speech. If a child is working on cause and effect, obviously the role of time-dependent repetitive line might be a perfect fit for this student’s therapeutic needs.  If a student is struggling to master direct access on a voice-output communication device, the facilitator-assisted use of  blockers (to be discussed in a future post) might make sense, allowing that child to experience success while still giving the child much needed practice ‘hitting’ the open target. Similarly a Y-cord (to be discussed in a future post) may be necessary to help switch-users avoid accidental activation and develop motor automaticity.

The realm of possibility is endless. In the hands of a creative team, a variety of goals can be collectively addressed in a meaningful, creative way when using poems as a mini play.


… ‘til the next post                 (follow me .... a new post every Monday!)

© 2015  Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.

canadiangoosse@gmail.com