We are fast approaching December, the final month in a very long half-term and of course, the last month in another challenging year. December comes at the end of the Autumn Term when we are often getting to know a new class and students and often (as summer is a traditional transition time) a new school. It can be exhausting!
Let’s add to this that it is a very sensory term. We have the move from summer to autumn and then through to winter. There are many opportunities for including sensory activities in our classroom activities; for example, autumn is a season offering many sensory opportunities, and then, of course, we enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Diwali and Bonfire Night before moving towards the festive season of Christmas.
It is unsurprising that although it is an exciting and stimulating term, as we approach December it can feel as if we are drawing on already depleted reserves of energy and enthusiasm. We talk about and have policies on wellbeing both for our students and staff. This blog is designed to offer some helpful ideas.
- Planning. We plan all year round. However, December brings with it an additional set of activities; card making; rehearsals and performances; perhaps special visits out of school or groups coming to perform in school; special celebratory assemblies; coffee mornings, and maybe a whole school lunch. Juggling all of these whilst maintaining a secure, consistent classroom atmosphere for our students is challenging – how to fit everything in? One suggestion is that no matter what your preferred way to schedule and plan the rest of the year is, a simple, low-tech month of December can be posted on the classroom wall. On this, events can be displayed, and it is also helpful to add a 3 working day early warning for deadlines so that there are no surprises. Crossing off each day is also surprisingly satisfactory!
- Glitter! An essential for many activities and yet oh…it gets everywhere! So often, our students struggle with the motor skills to sprinkle successfully. You can purchase glitter in sprinkle containers; for example, https://rb.gy/eybfcy but equally, homemade alternatives can be both cheaper and matched to a student’s preferred type of hold/grip. So, it is well worth looking at adapting reusable drink holders, and some types of instant noodles come in plastic cups with lids that already have drain holes that work very well. Small, handheld vacuums are perfect for clearing up overspills and if kept expressly for this purpose, allow the recovered glitter to be reused.
- Sensory Resources! Oh, the opportunities we have at this time of year…tinsel, baubles, aromas, lights, trees, coloured papers, it just goes on and on. You will probably have a tatty-looking bag or box full left from the previous year. Fear not, once out of the box and fluffed up a bit, their magic will return. Identify what you have and then match it to the activities (and decorations) you have planned. This leaves you free to shop for any new additions. Use the cheap shops such as Poundland in your area, or any local markets, so that you pay the least for your purchases.
- Curate ideas to save time. You will have some ‘regular’ activities that have worked well in the past, but it is always fabulous to try new ideas, and of course, the nature of the needs, abilities, and interests of your class may well have altered. At this point, it might be good to turn to the ideas of others to see if they are usable, or adaptable to your situation. Here are 3 suggestions to get you started: a) Check this Pinterest board for lots of sensory ideas https://www.pinterest.co.uk/inclusion4all/christmas/ b) The brilliant Pete Wells has lots of amazing sensory stories – why not try one?https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rros2xboduvlfuv/AABQk7qr643zEKTUUNjw4Utra?dl=0 c) Check the many offerings from Go Noodle…this is a current favourite here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTQrR1UIBRY
- Story bags. Into a pillowcase place objects, photographs, symbols, or words that represent a story you are working on. Take turns removing something from the pillowcase and talk about it… who can guess what story the pillowcase represents?
- Strange that this is last on the list because really it comes first! In order to have a fabulous time, and for you and your staff to be able to enjoy the end-of-term activities with your students, you must look after yourselves first! This isn’t about a one-off thank you, it’s about a sustained approach offering support, appreciation, and flexibility. Here are a few ideas that may be useful (depending on the nature of your group):
a) Try to give everyone a bit of extra time. This could be during a story session or offering to take an extra playtime duty.
b) When matching staff to activity groups in a carousel session, ask what they would like to lead (you may well do this already of course in which case, well done). Work to strengths!
c) If your planning is done carefully (see point 1) then there should be a minimum of after-school jobs to be done and it is this time of year that we should encourage everyone to leave on time and have time with their own family/for their own preparations.
d) Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate – everyone! There are often end-of-term appreciations of student achievements… don’t forget to do the same for staff. They, and the students, will appreciate this.
Finally! Don’t forget that after all the rushing around, it is time to relax and be proud of what you have achieved in 2022! It is also time to pop to the sales as all the unsold sensory items will be really cheap… stock up for next year!