Therapeutic recreation and education are like chocolate and marshmallows (think S’mores). They are both wonderful by themselves, but together-WOW!!!
First, here is the story before the story.
It’s that time of year again. The dreaded End of Grade testing is here. No matter what the test is called in your location, the kids (and their families) are stressed. Our kids, who already have severe anxiety issues, are beginning to show signs of falling apart. Parents are reporting that the kids are not sleeping at night and have been dealing with headaches and stomach aches and are so moody. We have been seeing kids coming into the session and as soon as the door closes, start sobbing because they are so stressed and anxious about passing the test. It has been taking us 10 to 15 min. to get them relaxed enough so that they are able to learn anything. If kids are not emotionally in a place where they can manage their anxiety, they are not emotionally available to learn even it they have the ability to learn the material.
All last week, we attended IEP meetings and teacher meetings with the parents (for those kids without IEPs). All of the teachers and staff seemed to get what we were saying, because so far this week ALL of the kids came into the session with big grins on their faces. One kid came in with a handful of papers from the last several days with good grades on them. Another reported that he had taken the reading portion of the EOG and was happy with his performance. He spontaneously told us that he had used his relaxation techniques and self-affirmations and they “really worked! I was able to get through the whole test!!” We’ve heard that some of the teachers have used some of our fun techniques and the kids loved it.
After the pain of this past month, this week has been amazing!
As a special chance to help kids relieve the stress of the tests, we have been having our Under the Stars Campfire Camp-In. Yes, we do have night skies and campfires in our office. And the kids loved making their own S’mores by the campfire!
I’m including a list of some activities that we are doing this week in case parents or teachers would like to turn the stress level down for their kids.
S’mores – Gluten free graham crackers, Kisses, Fluff
Take a small graham cracker and put a Kiss on it. Nuke for about 15 secs. (Careful, it’s very hot at first) Spread another small graham with fluff. Carefully smoosh together making sure to watch the stuff ooze out. Make enough at the same time for everyone at the campfire. Enjoy.
Do as I say, not as I do– “I like to (name an activity like walking…but do a different activity…like flapping your arms). Next person has to demonstrate what you said-not what you did and then he continues. This is a great memory game and focuses on following verbal instructions which is really a critical school skill.
Pack the back pack– On my camping trip I will pack (name item). Next person has to start with the same phrase including your item and add his own. Continue adding items to the backpack including all previous items. We like this memory game a lot. How many items can you remember? This helps with listening to all participants and listing all of the steps in an activity. It is not very different than listing the steps for a word problem.
Fortune teller story– Everyone rotates writing down group sentences (which can be as silly as possible). Large poster paper. This fun activity gets even the most reluctant writer into the act.
Math Ball – Use per child’s math needs. Math ball. Our Math Ball can be used for learning basic numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, factors, fractions and more. Did I mention that its fun, too!
End Of Grade song to tune of Twinkle “Twinkle Little Star” or choice of student. Change the words and let out those feelings!
Jump Rope – similar to 1,2 buckle my shoe….1,2 I Can Do; 3,4 Tests and More; 5,6 There are no tricks; 7,8 I Can’t Wait; 9,10 summer again; YEAH! Good activity to help kids re-frame their thinking about testing
Frankenstein Fracktions – Dr Frankenstein put together many animal combinations. He couldn’t choose what to call his new creatures until he did his fractions. He combined 1/8 of a Cow, 3/4 of a Moose, and 2/3 of a Goose. The animal with the larger fraction comes first in the name. Is this animal a Moogoomoo or a Goomoomoo or Moomoogoo? (Try saying any of these 3 times without laughing. Anxiety has just left the building! )