For many students with learning difficulties, we know two things: routines are critical for them to be successful, and it is often difficult for them to develop meaningful relationships. When we ask students to go in and out of the classroom for various interventions, this disrupts the students’ routines. It also makes it more difficult for these students to develop meaningful relationships with their peers and their classroom teacher when they are being pulled in and out of the classroom setting. Do these unintended consequences outweigh the benefits of a pull-out intervention? Is there another way?
Leah talks about the unintended consequences of pull-out interventions during class times and the importance of student routines, and I agree completely. However, there is one major school routine called recess that can be a huge obstacle for some students, especially those already dealing with learning difficulties. For these students, developing positive relationships is a challenge, one that is made even more so in the unstructured setting of the outside playground. Others need to know that their relationships are real and based on meaningful activities, not just babysitting. I work diligently to create a safe classroom community that includes all learners but then the bell rings – and for some stepping outside of the room for recess can be that pull-out with unintended consequences.
I was fortunate to work for several years with the very wise Susan Weisenburger who created a recess Friendship Club in her office for just those reasons. Students who experienced difficulties on the playground were able to have their break with her and bring a friend. They played games, Legos or just sat and visited. I loved walking by the room and hearing the hum of happy voices and seeing smiles on their faces.
I want to recreate that experience of growth and positivity that can come from a smaller scale, safe recess setting. In my class there are students who need help establishing positive friendships, and others who would benefit from participating in meaningful activities. I am using Minecraft to provide a safe setting and establish common interests as the beginning of friendships and building positive relationship skills.
I know that having meaningful connections and relationships with peers is a critical factor in student success at school. Just as I plan provocations and activities to build reading skills, I also need to provide strategies and scaffolds for students to assist in relationship building. This year I can use the Minecraft club for students as a means to do so. For a student with limited mobility, outdoor recess is a challenge. Providing the opportunity to remain inside with friends is necessary, but so is the need to ensure that they are engaged in activities which allow all equal opportunities. Playing Minecraft does just that. All the students are very invested in creating the world. The focus shifts from staying inside at recess to the conversations and discussions about the requirements of their world. When this is in the forefront, individual differences fade to the background.
Leah asks “How do we continue to strive to make differences ordinary in the everyday classroom? ” I am excited about using Minecraft as a tool to do exactly that!