“Ms. Saus, you really like Star Wars.”
Yes, dear child. Among many things, I do really like Star Wars. And it’s apparent when one sets foot inside the therapy room.
Actually, there are pieces of numerous pop culture icons in my therapy room, from Star Wars and Star Trek to Marvel’s Avengers or superheroes, and How to Train Your Dragon. There’s an assortment of yellow beetles and happy faces, too. When therapists spend as much time as we do in our therapy rooms, it’s elemental to create a space that works with us and sparks the interest and imagination of the young minds we work with. Ours, too, right? It opens the door for rapport, conversation, and connection.
Over the past few years, the love of Star Wars has grown in momentum with the advent of new series, toys, and now – unless you’ve been living under a meteor rock – a new movie that’s about to drop. It’s been a great time to be a fan.
And a Rogue.
Wait – what’s a ‘rogue’?
There is, believe it or not, a group of people who actively use Star Wars in their classrooms to creatively teach academic concepts and life lessons to our students. As members of StarWarsintheClassroom.com, we earn the moniker: “Rogues – an elite group of educators who seek to make learning more fun and exciting by integrating the Star Wars Saga into their curriculum”. It’s an honor to be amongst their ranks and admittedly a whole lot of fun.
It’s also a bit of a challenge.
One asks: “That’s great and all, but just how do you use Star Wars in speech therapy? And with your age group [of three to five-year olds]?” After all, the social, political and even mathematical ties worthy of dissection and discussion readily apply to activities for older students, but pre-Kindergarten?
Rest assured, there are more ways to effectively incorporate the fun of a galaxy far, far away than one might think. Allow me to count [just a few of] them:
As mentioned before, the recognition of a favorite iconic figure or item in your room or on your person goes a long way in making a connection with a student – from the unequivocally shy ones to social butterflies, and even with the troubled ones who feel alone and unconnected with the world.
Recall, Storytelling and Play, Answering Questions
Familiar thematic items and figures add something extra to your curriculum, such as using a themed Build-a-Bear to supplement a literacy-based speech and language unit about teddy bears. Language use during play and conversational turn-taking require students to recall past experiences, respond to questions, and make additional comments. Talking about movies, television shows, toys and characters, and things that are really important to them is a great way to target open-ended communication skills. Initiating a Star Wars conversation might elicit some of your best topic-maintenance trials!
Social Awareness and Perspective-Taking
The Saga’s Jedi Code and practice often speak of mindfulness of surroundings and others. This awareness of others and the world around us is crucial to building good communication skills. One must be observant of situations, as well as others’ feelings and attempts to communicate, in order to maintain reciprocity, social conversation, and connection to others. One of my favorite teachable moments of this concept occurred when two little boys were building Don’t Break the Ice. Both boys saw a different design in the blocks depending on where they were seated at the table. The opportunity was golden for quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” The guided conversation that ensued, as well as the understanding and reciprocity that dawned between them, was one of those unscripted moments that is inspiring to witness.
Drill/Practice & Rewards
Star Wars figures make great manipulatives. Use them for practicing position/direction concepts, following spoken directives, sorting, counting, or describing. Break down crafts (many to be found on Pinterest and Google) into pieces earned during drill and practice tasks, following directions, or to target sequencing. Add new dimension to your game closet with open-ended SMARTBoard activities, BINGO boards or related store-bought games. Playdoh or kinetic sand with Star Wars cookie cutters or figurines target vocabulary, any number of language concepts in play, and add a fun sensory component! Homemade foam lightsabers make great bubble poppers (check out Miracle Bubbles in thematic bottles).
Imagination and Confidence
In this day and age, we work to tear down gender barriers and minimize social stigmas. What better way to instill imagination, creativity and the confidence to “just like what you like” and “be yourself” in your learners than by embracing your inner geek and becoming a role model? Whatever your obsessions, show your students it’s OK to be passionate about something, even if others might consider it silly. An added bonus comes from using it as a treatment tool!
Think you have what it takes to be a Rogue? Be sure to check out Star Wars in the Classroom. Like these ideas, or want to discuss ways to use the things you are passionate about, but are not sure where to start or how to make the content relevant? Feel free to contact me by commenting below, through the website, or on Twitter!
May the Force be with you…