Monday, July 15, 2013

Stop & Freeze- Playing games to teach safety an impulse control

When I co-taught in kindergarten classrooms at the Think-Tank my co-teachers and I spent a lot of time playing impulse control games with our classes in the beginning of the school year. They were the perfect way to let the kids have fun while we got to know them, but at the same time teach those "learning to learn" skills the kids would need to be successful throughout the year.

Now that I teach students with intellectual disabilities I've had to alter the games a bit. One that I found extremely successful this year was our daily "stop and freeze" game. For the adults in the room it could not have been more mind numbing. Every day between morning meeting and our reading lesson (a chance to get the wiggles out) we'd play a song (usually 'The Ants Go Marching One by One'. We found that if we changed the music it would distract the students too much and they'd focus on the new song, not the game.)

The game basically entailed me, marching with a stop sign, with the class marching in a line behind me. Every once and while I'd suddenly shout "STOP!" while holding the stop sign. The kids would all have to freeze.

In general education this is a pretty simple game and most kids would have gotten bored with it after a week. In my class, however, it was a daily safety lesson.

Many of my students needed to be taught that when an adult says "stop" they need to stop. Immediately. Even more importantly- they would stop and look at the adult. They need to be able to stop before touching a hot stove, running into traffic, getting distracted and wandering away from their parents/teachers, or from making a very unsafe choice. "Stop and freeze" wasn't so much a game as it was guided safety practice. 

The kids of course thought it was hysterical, or at least they enjoyed the daily marching and singing.

Most importantly, however, I was able to take data on how much times the students stopped and looked at the adult when asked, and whether or not the students were able to transfer that skill to other environments- the hallway, the playground, the cafeteria. And they were. After a few weeks of playing my class was absolutely safer in the hallways and more responsive to adult directions to stop.

Next year I'm going to have to find more opportunities to practice safety and social skills in game-like, repetitive situations. 

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