Dramatic Expressions - Teaching personal, social and emotional skills through drama

From Conversation Sofa to Black Sheep Resources

Posted on | March 28, 2016 | No Comments

Well, hello  again!

‘It’s a long time since we heard from you,’ I hear you cry.

‘And why is this?’ I ask…. and the answer is, ‘Because I have been working on resources for Black Sheep Press‘.

My Conversation Sofa ideas eventually translated into a proposal to Alan Henson of Black Sheep Press, a company which produces resources for children with language needs. Here I worked with Helen Rippon, both a speech and language therapist and an illustrator. We worked on producing two packs, the aim of which was to challenge children with common social questions and scenarios and to find common responses through the use of drama. We worked on a basic pack for children between 5-7 and an intermediate pack for those between 7-11.

And so after many  drafts and iterations the two packs were published. They are Prag 14 and Prag 15. The essential stimulus is Helen’s cartoons and the essential tool for exploration and consolidation is drama, as described in the lesson plans.

It has been an absolute delight to work with the Black Sheep team – Alan, Gill and Helen in particular. They are encouraging and helpful, but also provide critique and fresh ideas.

And so it is that we are working on a third pack. This will be the advanced pack and much thought has been put in to considering the sorts of challenges which teenagers meet – introducing new people, ‘fessing up ‘ to errors, responding to phone calls and visitors are just a few.

More about the advanced pack soon……..

Friendship Terrace by Black Sheep

Posted on | April 4, 2012 | 3 Comments

‘Ah, good old SULP‘ I remarked as a member of our Speech and Language Team leafed through resources in preparation for her lesson with Key Stage 1 children the following day.

Wendy Rinaldi’s Social Use of Language Programme seems to have been with us for ever, providing a vital resource for children having difficulty with friendship and communication skills.

My colleague and I started discussing similar resources for children just that little bit older. ‘Of course, there’s also Friendship Terrace,’ she told me, an enthusiastic gleam in her eye.

Termtime over,  I have the opportunity to share you with you, dear readers, my thoughts around Black Sheep Press and Friendship Terrace in particular.

Firstly, we cannot escape the Elephant in the Room – the price difference between Wendy’s products and those of Black Sheep. Suffice it to say that, as I glanced over Wendy’s price list, a sip of tea which was going down very nicely up to that point suddenly appeared to change direction resulting in a major coughing fit.

Has anyone got money like that to spend at the moment?

To be fair we are not comparing like with like.  Friendship Terrace gears its materials towards character traits rather than particular conversational skills. The author, Sue Nicholls, has a background in being a Youth Worker and Childminder. Plenty of experience of conflict resolution there then!  The emphasis is on ‘Friendship Blockers’ and ‘Friendship Builders’. There are stories, printables and instructions for use.

Friendship Terrace spans a different age range to SULP (which is split up into Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 materials) and I wonder how that would work.  Key Stage 2 SULP materials seem to show illustrations of very tall youngsters engaged in rather teenage pursuits. In contrast Friendship Terrace, with an alleged age range for 4-12,  has illustrations not unlike The Mister Men in style. Fine for the younger children…. 

I find myself standing up for Key Stage 2 children again.  What exactly are their needs at this point? It’s a daft question in some ways, I know. Where are the specific resources?

But well done Black Sheep Press. I like your stuff and will be coming back!

Theatreland Walking Tours – Signed!

Posted on | April 3, 2012 | No Comments

Well, here’s an intriguing thing. Official London Theatre is offering two walking tours  – one exploring the History of Theatreland, and the other discovering Haunted Theatreland. And on a scheduled date for each event the walk is to be signed by a BSL interpreter. Sounds great.

I notice that the second of these tours – Haunted Theatreland – takes place in the dark of a November night so let’s hope that the Guide and her interpreter stop under lamp-posts and other sources of light to allow the face and hands to be clearly seen. Of course the atmosphere should be spooky but not so dim that communication is obscured.

Great idea!

Social Settee or Conversation Couch?

Posted on | February 17, 2012 | No Comments

Over this half term I’ve had time to delve around a bit behind those headlines of a few weeks back which suggested that employers are concerned about potential young workers’ lack of interpersonal skills, amongst other things. Here’s one for example: http://tgr.ph/AspjCA

Interpersonal skills are, apparently, one of a set of ‘soft skills’ which  includes elements such as punctuality and organization. Emphasis is now being placed on the teaching of such skills in schools as a preparation for life in the workplace, so it is said http://bit.ly/w8rOxO

It seems to me that  the work I’ve started with the youngsters sits well with this. Of course we are always trying to ensure good results in English and Maths for deaf pupils, but to stand the best chance it seems that interpersonal skills are also key. The difficulties for deaf young people to develop these skills at a high level are obvious. However, I don’t think success in this area is altogether related to degree of deafness. It seems to me that it has something to do with personality, and something to do with a willingness to empathesize and enter into the needs of others.

One area around which I have been working recently is that of  ‘social responses’ . We get as far as teaching children to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the right places, but it seems to me that we sometimes don’t get much further than this. For instance we say, ‘How are you?’ to a child and they answer ‘OK’ or ‘Fine’ but do we teach them that this is, in fact, a two-way enquiry? If someone says, ‘It’s my birthday’ or ‘I won the race’ or ‘My cat’s just died’  what are appropriate replies? At what age should we be expecting to see the development of these responses?

And so these are the resources I am working on just now to use with my conversation couch…or is it a social sofa?    

Dorothy Heathcote Obituary

Posted on | December 27, 2011 | No Comments

Sandra Heston of the Guardian sent me this excellent obituary honouring the work and memory of Dorothy Heathcote. Never realised that as well as her inspirational work she also had a very kindly face!

Thanks Sandra!

Residential workshop 2012

Posted on | December 26, 2011 | No Comments

It’s that time of year again and I’m preparing to run workshops for trainee teachers of the deaf and hoping to excite them by the benefits of drama to deaf children.

Some material will be the same but I’m hoping to include 3 innovations, developed from what I’ve learnt this year. Firstly I hope to put together a list of resources around drama and deaf children, mainly consisting of weblinks. Secondly I’m hoping to create some glorious masks from the ideas on Jim Morris’ website to hang around the lecture space. And lastly I want to include some thoughts about ‘Conversation Sofa’ the technique for helping to develop the interaction skills of deaf youngsters which I’ve been playing with recently.

‘Hope it all goes down well. 

I’ll let you know…..

Recommending Integreat

Posted on | December 19, 2011 | No Comments

I was able to recommend Integreat as a Drama Group to one of the children I support this last week. This child loves drama and performed proudly,and confidently in the school play last week. He had expressed a desire to join a group with deaf children in it so I was glad to be able to send information to the family about Integreat. It remains to be seen if they take it up…..

Developments on the sofa

Posted on | December 19, 2011 | No Comments

Life on ‘Conversation Sofa’ has been going well. The child I have been working with is now asking her own questions, remembering to look interested, saying’ Uh-huh’ in the right places, and so on. She likes to decide which characters we will be and devising names for both of us. I like to pretend we are in a teashop, but that’s because I like drinking tea.

I’m aware that she may not yet be generalizing and so I encourage her to use the same techniques when we’re talking in other contexts.

I’m very aware that, in practice, – or rather in real life-  things may not be so easy for her. For a start she has background noise to contend with making listening very difficult. So, in addition to the usual conversational skills we have brought in ‘Deaf specific’ techniques. We have talked about how to deal with The Mumbler, The Back-to-You and The Different-Leveller. We’ve practised alternatives to ‘Pardon?’ and devised requests like,’ Please would you turn round and face me?’

The more Iwork in this field the more I feel that a major aspect of our role is in legitimizing self-advocacy skills and schooling deaf children to use them. As Julie Mather from the Ear Foundation has said recently, this is a whole alternative curriculum to be teaching the children.

The next task is to think a little more about this child’s diction. Staff at school think that this is also impeding her ability to converse at length. Hmmmm……..

Conversation Sofa

Posted on | November 22, 2011 | No Comments

Here’s my new technique that I’ll be using today.

I’m working with a child (Year 7) who needs some work on conversational skills. She needs to think about conversational openers, questions she can ask, phatics (‘uh-huh’, ‘yeah’, nods) and eye contact.

Between us we’ve devised a new technique called ‘Conversation Sofa’. In the library where we work there happens to be a squishy, comfy leather sofa. We choose a topic out of 3 (today’s are ‘Children in Need’, ‘Shopping’ and ‘Grandma’) and then go deliberatley to our sofa and practise our skills. We use the wonderful ‘Snivel and Shriek’ workbook ‘Feeling Fabulous’ (‘Getting the message’page ) to record our success. I’ll let you know how it goes today…..

Jim Morris, PSHE and puppets

Posted on | October 30, 2011 | No Comments

Jim Morris and his puppet-making cheered up what could otherwise have been an initially dispiriting trip to Aston Hall over half term.

My husband said, ‘Let’s go out and have a lovely lunch at Aston Hall, invite your sister and The Nephew and just have a nice afternoon’. Once there we discovered that only guided tours of the Hall were on offer that afternoon which upset the Other half. No Earl Grey and no de-caffeinated coffee, three sad-looking packs of sandwiches, none of which I wanted to eat, caused me to throw my toys out of the pram and stamp out of the cafe hoping to find more interesting food offerings in Aston. Ten minutes later, realising the folly of this endeavour, we slouched back to the Hall and decided to make the best of it.

We’d warned my sister that there didn’t seem much on offer but still she came and finding some stairs upstairs we discovered Jim Morris making monster masks with a group of very absorbed children.

The Nephew has definite ideas and soon knew what he wanted to do. The afternoon was quiet and ordered and each mask emerging had the stamp of experience regarding what makes a truly satisfying object to take away.

Jim, who describes himself as an Artworker, is familiar with many environments including schools, art galleries and museums and works with a wide range of clients, including people with disabilities. Of particular interest to me is the work around puppets and PSHE or PSHCE (not sure what the C stands for – ah, citizenship, I’m guessing) and it is this aspect of his work which is featured in School Select a magazine for schools in the Midlands. Though frankly it looks to me as though he could turn his hand to pretty much anything required.

The Nephew came away with a mask looking disconcertingly similar to his uncle and despite it being a blowy day on a good strong pole it stood up robustly to the elements.

So thanks, Jim. Absorbed enterainment meant the rest of us could look around Aston Hall which, in the event, turned out to be a treasure.

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