By: Jillian Klatt
This past Wednesday was the first ever day of the Wonderbus Superhero Summer Camp, and it was a blast! Mrs. O’s goal for the camp is to give her students an extra push on their language, expression, and social skills. The day started with a yoga circle and some breathing exercises led by Mrs. Mihaljevic, a yoga instructor and special education teacher, to get the group’s blood flowing and their minds clear and ready to learn. While in the circle, Mrs. M and Mrs. O introduced the students to the lesson of the day by asking them to share out who their superheroes are. The student’s answers ranged from teachers, to moms, to cartoon characters, to their pets and best friends. But what about when those heroes are not around to help us? Mrs. O explained to the students that each of them also had their own superpowers and that they could be their own superheroes. Social and expressive language skills play a huge role in self-advocacy and problem solving, this first day of summer camp was just the first step to transforming these kids into their own heroes!
To become a hero, the students first have to understand how to recognize superpowers—the skills that help them successfully communicate. To get the students brainstorming about what their ideal superhero would be, we started off with some good old-fashioned arts and crafts. The students got to get creative with markers, colored pencils, and paint to imagine what their superhero would look like while being encouraged to discuss some of the traits of their heroes. Not only did this bring attention to the types of skills that are important to the students, but it also created a great opportunity to practice concept imagery and expressive verbal skills. Concept imagery involves the ability to create and express a mental image to understand and think about an idea or concept. This skill is particularly helpful in reading and auditory comprehension. Getting crafty almost always inspires creativity and imagination!
While on the WonderBus, students practiced receptive language and teamwork skills with a scavenger hunt breakout box game. Mrs. O hid keys around her bus and gave the students cards with riddles about where the keys were hidden. The students worked together to solve the riddles and search for the keys to open all the locks on a treasure chest! In the picture above, a student is checking the window after reading a card with the following riddle: “This is the glass that you look through to see outside. Look around, where might the key hide?” Even though the students put all their heads together to solve the riddles in the end, they were first encouraged to take turns and allow each student to try to find one key by themselves. This was great practice for learning when it is appropriate to help others and how much assistance to provide when helping. The riddles themselves also provided opportunities for the students to practice skills in inferencing and abstract thinking, which will come in handy in the limitless sticky situations that a hero may have to do some rescuing for!
Contents of one of the challenges for the older students to practice recognizing facial expressions and receptive language.
The older students also played a breakout box game with the treasure chest, this one focusing more on pragmatics and social language skills. The students had to work together to find 5 baggies that were hidden around the playground. Once they used their communication skills to work together to locate the baggies, they had to complete challenges that were inside the baggies to earn the key to unlock the treasure box. Each challenge presented the opportunity to practice recognizing and applying social language skills like facial expressions and tone of voice. One of the challenges had students role play scenarios where the same sentence could present different meanings based on which word was stressed. For example, the utterance “I didn’t SAY you stole the money,” communicates something different than “I didn’t say YOU stole the money.” Another challenge involved matching a written emotion to picture representations of the physical look of an emotion, as shown in the picture above. Body language and tone of voice provide ample amounts of crucial communicative information. The students are learning how expressive and receptive tools like these can extend their communicative superpowers beyond the word level!