Have you ever planned fun activities or days for your class that were anything but?? Instead of being fun, it was chaotic and full of behaviors! Not fun!! Here are some tips for helping students cope and enjoy less structured, fun based times.
Many of our students crave days full of routines, sameness, repetition. The idea of holidays are exciting, but many of my kiddos have trouble with all of the novelty. Here is what has helped in my classroom:
Keep Visual Schedules
On typical days, students often have visual schedules (pictures or text). Don’t take that support away. Telling them that it is just going to be a fun day can instantly trigger anxiety and worry. This puts them on the defensive and less likely to use coping and self-regulation skills.
Review Expectations or Social Stories
Students haven’t always had a lot of practice being able to self-regulate and cope during less structured times. Maybe they haven’t had a lot of SUCCESSFUL practice. Knowing this, we need to be preemptive and teach students what is expected, how they need to act, etc. BEFORE the party, fun day or whatever.
Add Themes & Vocabulary Into Routines
If students have never been able to get through a day of “fun”, then we need to start small. I like to start with an hour. For example, on Halloween we might do an hour of Halloween fun and in the middle of our regular schedule. This allows my kiddos to be successful in enjoying the fun time. As students are successful, we add in more less structured activities. Just like anything, we take baby steps towards success and mastery.