2002 Conference Proceedings

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Multi-age Special Needs Students Use Assistive Technology to Produce and Perform Theatrical Productions

Katie Henley, Shirley Jackson, and Janis Pankey
Shrine School, Memphis City Schools

This was an arts integrated, cooperative learning experience between high school, elementary and pre-school age special needs students developed by three classroom teachers in a special day school in Memphis, Tennessee. The students involved have mild to profound cognitive, sensory, communication, academic and vocational deficits. Many have limited to no speech, and often have difficulty comprehending verbal directions. Many needed to be supported with assistive and instructional technology for voice output, and for partial participation in tasks of independence, expression and social interaction.

The curricular areas addressed were Communication, Prevocational and Vocational Skills, Socialization, English/ Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Fine Art. The high school students directed and promoted a play. The young children worked with the teachers and high school students to create sets and props learn staging, choreography, scripts, and dramatization. We expected all students to meet their individual goals (IEP) using a variety of assistive technology, while working cooperatively for the best group effort. IEP and transition plans addressed the need for students to build communication skills both in school and in the community. This arts integrated, cooperative learning project was a laboratory for vocational skills and an authentic medium for both remediation and instruction of all basic skills.

Our long-term goals were to prepare our students for educational, recreational and life-long learning and to promote confidence, productivity and increased learning in other areas. Our measurable objectives were twofold:

* Individuals were assessed according to their IEP goals. IEP goals and objectives (which related to the child's developmental level, and were life-long learning skills in various areas of need). As the children participated in this project they addressed all or many of their individual goals.
* Individuals were assessed according to project objectives:

Work cooperatively Communicate effectively Make informed decisions and judgements Exhibit reading or pre-reading skills Tolerate new sensory stimuli Use assistive technology effectively Produce sound or movement in response to activities

The project activities were:

* High school students planned lessons for younger students
* High school students read a variety of stories to the younger students and led group activities
* Whole group participated in field trips to local performances
* Whole group participated in Center For Arts Education Artist residencies
* High school students adapted a story for play production
* High school students promoted and managed the production
* Younger students created scenery, props and costumes
* Younger students participated in dramatization, choreography and musical interpretation

We utilized the following resources: high and low-tech devices, books, newspapers and magazines, teaching artists, (Memphis Arts Council Center for Arts Education), Shriners Organization, parents and guardians, and The University of Memphis Department of Theatre and Communications.

In this project, students learned from each other, as well as from new or outside instructors. They improved collaboration and communication skills, which will impact their transition from school to home to community to the workplace. We observed increased parental involvement, improved student attendance, increased productivity, and achievement of IEP goals. The technology and materials we used maintained and enhanced student learning and participation as well as parent involvement.

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