“Ms. Saus, you really like ‘Star Wars.’”
Yes, dear child. Among many things, I do really like “Star Wars.” And no one who sets foot inside my speech room misses it.
Actually, many pop-culture icons earn a place in my treatment space, from “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” to Marvel’s “Avengers” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” We SLPs spend a lot of time in our speech rooms, so creating an inspiring setting keeps us energized while sparking the interest and imagination of the young students we treat. It also opens the door for rapport, conversation and connection.
Over the past few years, my love of “Star Wars” grew with the advent of new spin-offs, toys, Legos and now—you must know about this unless you’ve been living under a meteor rock—a new movie opening tomorrow! It’s a great time to be a fan.
And a Rogue.
Wait—what’s a rogue?
There exists, believe it or not, a group of people who use “Star Wars” in classrooms to teach academic concepts and life lessons. As members of StarWarsintheClassroom.com, we earn the moniker: “Rogues—an elite group of educators who seek to make learning more fun and exciting by integrating the ‘Star Wars’ Saga into their curriculum.”
“That’s great and all, but just how do you use ‘Star Wars’ in speech sessions? And with your age group?” After all, the social, political and even mathematical ties worthy of dissection and discussion readily apply to activities for older students, but pre-kindergarten?
Rest assured, there’s more than you might think. Allow me to count [just a few of] the ways:
- Rapport: The recognition of a favorite iconic figure or item goes a long way in making connections with a student—from the shy ones to social butterflies, and even troubled ones who feel alone and unconnected with the world.
- Recall, storytelling and play, answering questions: Talking about movies, television shows, toys and characters really targets open-ended communication skills. Initiating a “Star Wars” conversation might elicit some of your best topic-maintenance trials!
- Social awareness and perspective-taking: The Saga’s Jedi Code and practice often speak of mindfulness of surroundings and others. This awareness of others and the world around us is crucial to building good communication skills. A good communicator needs to observe current situations, others’ feelings and others’ attempts to communicate to maintain reciprocity and social connections. One of my favorite teaching moments occurred when two boys playing “Don’t Break the Ice” saw two different designs based on where they were sitting. The resulting debate supplied a chance to use a favorite Obi-Wan Kenobi quote on them: “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
- Drill/practice and rewards: Star Wars figures make great manipulatives. Use them to practice position or direction concepts, following spoken directives, sorting, counting or describing. Break down related crafts—many found on Pinterest and Google—into pieces earned one at a time during drill and practice tasks, for following directions, or to target sequencing. Homemade foam light-sabers make perfect bubble poppers as an earned reward. Playdoh play with Star Wars cookie cutters and figures targets vocabulary and language concepts, plus adds a fun sensory component!
- Imagination and confidence: We all struggle to tear down gender barriers and overcome social stigmas. What better way to instill imagination, creativity and the confidence to “just like what you like” and “be yourself” in your learners than by embracing your inner geek and becoming a role model? Whatever your obsessions, show your students it’s OK to be passionate about something, even if others might consider it silly. An added bonus comes from using it as a treatment tool!
How do you incorporate “Star Wars” or your favorite pop culture into treatment? Let me know in the comments below. And may the Force be with you…
Angela Saus, MA, CCC-SLP, a pediatric SLP for 17 years, teaches at Gerner Family Early Education Center in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s also an avid lover of nerdy things, “Star Wars,” pancakes, tea and M&Ms. Follow her on Twitter @CrissXAppleSaus. firstname.lastname@example.org.