Play and social skills are the building blocks for early learners to succeed in the classroom. While neurotypical children tend to learn these skills naturally through play, our students with moderate to severe disabilities often require more systematic instruction. However, this does not mean that we cannot teach these skills through play-based activities!
As you begin to prep your plans for play-based instruction, first identify each of your student’s strengths and interests to ensure they remain engaged during learning. To help discover your students’ preferences and interests, consider:
Next, you’ll want to define the skills to target for instruction that will help your students become socially connected and engaged:
Once you’ve outlined the steps you need to take to prepare for instruction, you’ll want to determine how to teach in a play-based format.
When you’re incorporating play-based learning into your classroom, embed instruction within your students’ natural environment and familiar settings:
Remember to utilize explicit feedback to increase student engagement, play and skills. For example, rather than stating, “I see you’re playing with toys,” try stating, “I see you’re playing with Mr. Potato Head next to Clara!”
Observe, interpret and respond intentionally to your students’ exploration, play and social activity. A few simple ways that you can do this include:
Also, be sure to encourage students to initiate or sustain positive interactions with the other students through modeling, teaching, feedback and/or other types of guided support.
Another important aspect of play-based learning is the incorporation of peer-mediated intervention to teach skills and to promote student engagement and learning:
Through peer-mediated intervention and observation, your students’ social interaction and communication skills can improve.