by Janie Haugen-McLane, Co-Founder PCI Education
Many years ago while working with adult students with intellectual disabilities, I decided to make a game board, just for fun. The idea: to get everyone engaged in a fun, social-group activity that would foster age-appropriate on-topic conversation.
The students knew how to talk but often wanted to go over the same information, repeatedly. It was time for a creative solution.
My husband, Jeff and I went to local-area flea markets in search of old game boards. After covering the first of the boards in white contact paper, I drew squares, each with a different question. The first game was titled: “Just for Fun.”
In each of the squares I wrote questions for the students to answer, hoping I might learn more about the students as they learned about each other. The questions concerned fun sports to play, funny stories that make people laugh, a favorite hobby, fun board games that students play and various other recreational topics.
One question: “If you could be any movie star, who would you choose to be?” The first student, who just happened to be red-headed and loved to watch classic “I Love Lucy” reruns, landed on that square and answered, “I would be Lucille Ball; she is so funny.”
The group was having a ball! Well, everyone but Herman. An older, gruff-talking man with seldom a kind word for anyone, Herman later landed on the movie star square. After listening to the question, he looked directly at me, squinted his eyes and growled out in his sandpaper voice, “I would be The Duke; do you know who that is?” I smiled and said, “Do you mean John Wayne?” He leaned back in his wheelchair, smiled and broke the silence with loud laughter. The whole group sat there stunned in silence. You see, none of us had ever seen him smile or heard him laugh. I believe Herman had even surprised himself.
Herman had helped me discover that some people do have smiles inside… the smiles and laughter just need an escape route. That day a spark was ignited, a spark that led to the writing of PCI’s Life Skills Series of games about living in the real world.
Question of the Week: Tell PCI about a fun, innovative teaching solution you have used to encourage a student to participate in class. Please use the first name “only” of the student, for privacy reasons. We look forward to hearing about your experience!