“Do you have a social skills class for older kids?” was a question I often heard from parents whose children had just completed Friends Play Group (FPG), a theater-based social skills class for children ages 6 – 9 years.
FPG was developed in 2008 by myself, a drama teacher, and Linda Young, the Principal of K-12 students with special needs in the San Mateo County Office of Education. We partnered with the non-profit San Carlos Children’s Theater, where the program was added to their theater arts class line up.
We found that it was not unusual for children to repeat Friends Play Group until they had “aged-out” at which point parents encouraged us to create a second class where FPG left off. We submitted a grant to Autism Speaks which helped us launch Team Friend, a social skills class for children in the 4th – 6th grades, geared towards helping them prepare for middle school.
Team Friend is taught by three teachers: Tracy Bonaduce, Psychologist/Program Specialist; Debbie Klinger, Speech & Language Pathologist; and myself, theater arts teacher.
In the fall of 2015, we will be teaching our fourth session of Team Friend. With a maximum of 10 students, each child has ample opportunity to participate in skits, improv scenes and scripted scenes based on the social skills lesson of the day. We cover issues such as communication and conversation skills, friendship making skills, problem solving, perspective taking, how to join a group, dealing with a bully and interacting with adults and teachers.
Technology is a key facet of Team Friend. Using ipads, the children take turns in the role of ‘Director’ filming and directing the scenes acted out by the students. The footage from the entire session is compiled into a single movie and burned onto DVD’s. During the final class of Team Friend, parents are invited to watch the movie which gives an overview of what the children learned. Each child receives a take home DVD which not only provides parents a clear picture of their child’s experiences but also serves to reinforce strategies taught during the class.
And of course with any drama class, fun and games are a key component of Team Friend. Each class always begins and ends with a theater game using imagination, body movement, eye contact and one-on-one interaction. Games such as Mirror, Mirror, Zip Zap Zop, Who Here?, Artists and Statues, and Pass the Clap are favorites. As the session progresses, the children become more proficient in the games challenging themselves on speed and accuracy which always ends in laughter and team spirit.
Team Friend is taught at Central Middle School in San Carlos on Tuesday afternoons from
4:30 – 5:30 pm. The fall session begins Tuesday, September 22 and continues through November 3.
After her son completed a session of Team Friend, one mother told us, “There is nothing like this class that I’ve ever seen. It is so unique! Parents need to know it is available.” She promptly signed up her son to a second session of Team Friend!
For more information on how to register for Team Friend visit: http://www.sancarloschildrenstheater.com/classes/
For information about Team Friend visit: http://www.friendsplaygroup.org/#!team-friend/ckml
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Parents who sign up their child for Team Friend are encouraged to fill out a Parent Questionnaire at this link: http://www.friendsplaygroup.org/#!parent-questionnaire/c1bw3
To contact Shelley Frost, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 650-906-8296