Although school in December and Christmas can bring joy and happiness to many, for some it can be a very unsettled time of year. With changes to the timetable, end of term performances and new seasonal activities, it can be hard to keep up with all the challenges that December can pose.
A lot of extra activities occur over the Christmas period which means that a child with SLCN may feel overwhelmed. They may be asked to be on stage, they may be asked to craft something that requires a lot of dexterity, they may be required to remember even more things to bring into school. For our pupils with SLCN these challenges can be heightened if they are finding the change in routine upsetting or don’t have the vocabulary to express their feelings.
To make things a bit easier for you and your children with speech, language and communication needs, try these top tips to help things go a bit smoother:
The school performance – it’s not all about learning lines!
There are so many different parts to a school performance, from acting, to dancing, to singing - just being on stage is a huge challenge for many.
- Have lyrics to the songs enlarged for all
- Let some children just sing the chorus
- Ensure plenty of non-speaking parts
- Have plenty of spare costumes for lost/forgotten items
- Plan activities for the children with smaller parts – lots of time can be spent watching others rehearse and boredom leads to mischief
- Give those who are backstage proper titles so they feel that they are an important part of the production
Long assemblies – how can we make them more accessible?
Over the Christmas period, the assemblies seem to gradually grow in length to discuss the festive activities. Sitting on the hall floor is uncomfortable and at times assemblies can be a bit boring. So, try:
- Getting the children moving, standing, clapping, singing
- Providing visual prompts to explain changes to the day
- Seating children who are unlikely to last the course near the exit so you can whisk them off with minimum disruption
- Keeping assemblies as short as possible
This can be a real make-or-break activity – children either create something they are very proud of, or they give up and disengage quickly.
Choose an activity that has a basic structure that can be achieved as independently as possible by most but can be extended for those who are more confident and creative. For those who need that bit of extra help:
- Provide step-by-step instructions with pictures
- Thread their needles
- Have fabric patterns already cut out
- Demonstrate each stage first
- Sit with them but try and not ‘do’ for them
A success story
At my school, I worked with a child who desperately wanted to be part of the Christmas panto but found sitting in one place long enough very challenging – he would also ‘ad lib’ shall we say and so we never knew quite what was going to happen next.
What worked well was to give him a huge placard with the catchphrase ‘Hocus Pocus Don’t Lose Your Focus’ on it. At times throughout the performance (with a nudge from me) he would run onto the stage. The audience soon got the hang of things and would bellow the phrase loudly as soon as they saw him. It didn’t matter that sometimes he went on without a nudge or that he went on backwards or that he wouldn’t come back off once he was on the stage. He didn’t have to learn any lines, delighted in the audience participation, and had an absolute ball!