My husband would not describe me as a flexible person. He’s right, I am not flexible. I don’t like schedule changes, I’m a creature of habit, and I could eat the same food for lunch every day. So, I can really relate to my students who struggle with inflexibility and rigidity. While I work mostly with kids on the Autism Spectrum, I do whole class instruction around social skills. Most recently, I was working with a second grade class on the idea of flexibility.
We started off by reading the book “The A-Team Presents... Max Gets Inflexible.”
The main character in this book, Max, struggles with flexibility. When there is a substitute teacher, who doesn’t know Max, things in his classroom change a bit. Max has a hard time handling all of the changes and in turn, overreacts and gets sent to the office.
I checked in with my students about whether or not they could relate to Max. Most of the classroom raised their hand. “Substitutes are the worst,” one of the students said. “Yeah, I hate it when they change everything. They never know what to do,” another student shared. After allowing the conversation to continue, most of the kids didn’t like how things were different when their teacher was gone. But, they didn’t know how to relax their minds and bodies and go with the flow.
After reading the book, we spent a lot of time talking about strategies that Max used and which ones worked for them. Self-talk was one of the most popular strategies. The kids were able to tell me that they would tell themselves things like, “oh well, maybe next time” or “it’s not what I wanted but it isn’t a big deal.” This can still be a big concept for many kids so we decided to write comic strips together.
All of the students got to draw a comic of when something was changed that they didn’t like. They drew what would happen if they acted like Max when he got upset, and then they drew a second comic of them using a strategy. Having them actually draw and fill in a thought bubble was very effective because they could see the self talk. The kids shared out their comics and the next day, we actually role played the comics that they wrote. I gave them a picture of a thought bubble to put over their head filled in with self talk, so we could see what they were thinking.
Overall, this lesson was lots of fun, very engaging, and a good practical learning experience for my students. Even I practiced it that evening when I went home and saw that my husband had cooked something I wasn’t expecting. “It’s not a big deal,” I said to myself, smiling. “I can have pizza tomorrow.”
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