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Use Drama and Acting Activities to Encourage Social Skills in Your Special Needs Students

written by: Bonnie • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 8/2/2012

This article explains the importance of social skills for students with special needs and offers suggestions to create a repertoire of social skill building activities for a teacher's classroom.

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    Drama Activities for Special Needs Students

    Strong social skills are one of the most important factors in leading a positive, successful life. Many young students are bombarded with violence on television and spend countless hour spent in front of a computer or on video games. It is becoming the norm for children to be raised in non-traditional family situations which can sometimes contribute to inadequate social learning.

    Students with special needs are especially affected by the lack of social skills. One of the issues is that many disorders, namely autism, affects the portion of the brain that helps children learn and understand social cues. It may be extremely difficult for many students with special needs to learn and behave in a socially productive manner. Another issue for children who physically appear different, act different, or are placed in special classrooms within even an inclusive school are often isolated from typical education peers.

    One technique to help students develop social skills in a fun, stimulating environment is through drama and acting. There are many programs put together by parents, dramatists, and special education professionals to encourage this to help students. Teachers and parents can look for available programs in the community and get their children involved.

    Teachers can also incorporate drama into their lesson plans or as transitional activities to help foster social skills.

    Here are a couple drama activities that can be used within a classroom setting to encourage social skills:

    1 Sponge Bob Square Pants

    Begin by asking students about different feelings (happy, sad, excited, sleepy, angry, bored). Then ask each student, one-by-one, to say, "Sponge Bob Square Pants" in whatever feeling they want is assigned to them. Have the other students guess what feeling they are expressing. The goal of this activity is to get students in touch with feelings and how they are expressed through body language, voice tone, and volume.

    2 Zip Zap Zoom

    Students stand in a circle. The first student makes eye contact with the peer of their choice and claps (*be sure to not allow students to clap directly in each other faces) in their direction and says, "ZIP!" That students turns to the peer of their choice, claps, and says, "ZAP!" That student repeats and says, "ZOOM!" This continues for a couple minutes as a greeting. Instead of saying "ZIP, ZAP, ZOOM" the students may say the peer's name (name tags are good to use in this situation if the students are unfamiliar with each other.) The goal of this activity is to encourage eye contact when addressing another person.

    Brainstorm ideas that will fit the developmental and social needs of the students in your classroom to build a repertoire of social skills building activities. An enormous chunk of a child's education should go beyond academics and focus on giving students the tools needed to survive in life.