by Laura Corbett
One of the biggest challenges we face in Early Intervention is teaching our children social skills. Many of our children struggle with taking turns, sharing, using nice words, and simply engaging in simple back and forth conversation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children published an article in “Beyond the Journal” in November 2006 titled “You Got it! Teaching Social and Emotional Skills.” The article was written by Lisa Fox and Rochelle Harper Lentini (read it here) and it discussed the importance of teaching social and emotional skills and ways to go about doing so. Fox and Harper (2006) suggest that teaching social skills involves three stages of learning: introducing a new skill (show-and-tell), building fluency (practice makes perfect), and skill maintenance and generalization (you got it!).
Our philosophy here at Easter Seals is first establishing positive relationships in which we foster a safe and happy environment to prevent challenging behaviors. Easter Seals Early Intervention Center in Philadelphia recognized a need to get creative with the way we teach social skills and the way we “show-and-tell” new skills. Simply telling a child to “be kind to your friends” means nothing to them unless we show them what “being kind” looks like. Many of our kids need to be highly motivated to stay on task and maintain attention to grasp new concepts. Together staff brainstormed and we came up with the idea to put on a puppet show to help teach kindness: helping your friends and teachers, and sharing. Staff members jumped at the opportunity to volunteer to be a character in our show. One of the strategies that Fox and Harper (2006) list in the article talked about modeling with puppets, so we knew we had chosen a winning strategy!
We chose the story “The Little Red Hen (makes a pizza)” by Philomen Sturges and adapted it slightly to make it more relevant for our children. Similar to the original Little Red Hen Story, the farm animals refuse to help the Little Red Hen as she makes her pizza, but as the story continues, the pig, the duck, the dog, and the cat realize in the end the importance of helping a friend and sharing.
We invited the families to attend and all together shared our own pizza party after the puppet show performance. Back in the classrooms, the teachers continue to use puppets and repeat the same lesson they learned in the story of “The Little Red Hen (makes a pizza)” in order to build fluency and generalization.
The clip you can watch below is a snapshot of our puppet show where in the end together the animals washed the dishes. We are ecstatic with that way the children responded to the puppet show and we plan on doing it again in the Fall!
Big thank you to the staff that helped put it all together J (Eddy, Maureen, Rufus, Nancy, Hayley, Kelly, Grace)
Laura Corbett has been working with Easter Seals as a Special Education teacher since January 2013. She works in the Philadelphia division both in the classroom, the community, and as a Supervisor. She received her Bachelors in Early Childhood and Special Education from the University of Delaware and is a few classes away from her Masters of Education from Arcadia University. She has been working in Early Childhood/Special Education since June 2009. Some of her previous work experience includes teaching young children of abuse and neglect (often with developmental delays) along with their parents in Southwest Philadelphia and an inner city writing program for kids from 5-18 years of age in South Philadelphia. She is very passionate about behavior management/social skills, the use of a therapy dog with kids with special needs, and really enjoys working with the families and establishing strong & support relationships. Laura loves her dog, going for a run, and enjoying the beach with her family and friends in the summer at the Jersey Shore.