BY Tracy Fiore
With an increased focus on the social-emotional well-being of all students, my main goal is to do my part, as the school Speech-Language Pathologist, to foster the social language skills of not only my target students, but their classmates as well. I have adapted a program previously geared for children with autism and pervasive development disorder (PDD) and now use it with whole classrooms (including all students). Each week, I present a lesson to preschool and kindergarten classes. These lessons are comprised of a simple, 4-part story and comprehension questions. After, members of the class participate in a role-play where the story is “acted out” using props. Loveable Matt and Molly stories make social skills “stick” with familiar characters, predictable routines, and concrete behaviors. Students learn the right and wrong ways to act at school and with other children. At the end of the activity, it is my objective that students be able to solve social problems using language, interpret facial expressions and body language and understand why an individual might be acting or feeling a certain way. Many students and teachers have expressed interest in Matt and Molly lessons continuing into the upper grades (Grades 1 – 3). Recently, I learned that such a program had been published and was available. Additionally, I discovered that the newer edition program included mini copies of the weekly lesson to send home so that families could participate by supporting the students and reinforcing skills in the home setting.
How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
An important component of the Social Language Curriculum with Matt and Molly is the 20 questions posed to students after hearing the story (10 YES/NO and 10 WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY questions). These questions allow me to discern comprehension of the material. Another means of evaluating the project is to observe how well the students, when engaged in an everyday social situation (such as the need to compromise or the feeling of anger), are able to activate the prior knowledge they ALL acquired by participating in the program to transfer the skill into a new environment.
Benefit to the students and the school
In my district, there is a push to promote broad and challenging curriculum that fosters the social, emotional and academic growth of all students (K-12 CURRICULUM GOAL). This includes the social-emotional learning (SEL) of all students. Given my expertise in the area of language, it is my hope to continue imparting my knowledge of pragmatics, or social language, needed to successfully navigate a school day and eventually, adulthood in the community. Here at the Center School in Mattapoisett, we are are a full inclusion school. This means that students with academic, social and physical challenges are educated along side their typically-developing peers. I discovered that many of the lessons and strategies I once used with my special education students in the area of social language often benefited the rest of the class as well. There is no better way to promote a classroom full of compassionate, helpful and empathetic students than to have all students using a common language and seeing the socially-appropriate models for behavior.
Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
I would start the program as soon as I received the materials. I will continue to use the first edition of the program, which targets Preschool and Kindergarten students. Some of these students have heard and acted out the stories many times before. When I learned that a second edition targeting older students (1 – 5) had been published, I was very interested in obtaining it in order to increase the target audience and provide more of an impact. Given that so many students (and teachers) have become quite engaged by and delighted with the program, being able to carry the lessons over in to the upper grades would be beneficial.