Written by Rebecca Nash

The developmental learning class (DLC) has a new theater opportunity for their students this year! The students meet on Monday’s only to work on developing their social and acting skills. Ms. Sabine, the theater teacher here at West, took up the opportunity to teach the class and is excited for the future of the program. Ms. Sabine has always wanted to create a DLC theater class and this year her efforts paid off. She’s been looking to develop the theater program and feels that the DLC program lacks electives, so she decided to hit two birds with one stone.  

When I first visited the class, everyone grabbed name tags and music started playing. Students and the helpers started dancing as they warmed up. Once everyone had arrived, they reached out their arms to distance themselves from everyone else and followed the choreographed moves. As soon as the warm up was completed, they assigned the students a number. Each group had different activities to socialize and learn names.

The major objective for the classes is to develop their socialization skills. The important elements of socialization that the class will focus on is “being comfortable talking about what they need from other people in terms of personal issues,” as Sabine puts it. Everyone needs to be able to express their frustrations and dissatisfactions with interactions, which can be a struggle for some of them. Sabine thinks the explanation for this comes from the fact that if “they are home, they have all of their parents attention. While they’re here, they have to share that.” The students might not be used to being in a larger environment, so the students need to vocalize when they’re upset, otherwise it may go unnoticed and the problem unresolved.

Another aspect of social skills that they will be working on is accepting others and patience outside of the classroom. “In their own classroom, they’ve established norms for the past couple of years, and in here it’s a little bit different because there are 38 more students. It’s a large class and so it’s more difficult, but it’s real world. I think it will help them in the long run adjust better to larger environments, to more people in the environment.” Everyone gets used to doing things a certain way, so change isn’t always easy to adjust to. In the same way, students in the class will work on interacting with others when more people are involved. Working on these social skills will benefit them in the future.  

In order to work on developing these goals, the class has planned a lot of different activities. To address the social goals, Sabine says that “there are a lot of getting-to-know-you games, a lot of being able to look somebody in the eye and say your name, or just to look someone in the eye and tell them what you’re feeling or tell them what you’re thinking.” Names and eye contact are very important parts of social interactions and communication. Challenging the students on these specific skills isn’t common, but it is helpful.  

In class, “students will work with scripts and show empathy through playing a different person.” The activities emphasize showing emotion and relating to others. “Through music, through a lot of physicalization of images, taking artwork, and creating images on stage of what that art represents, what it feels like.” No matter what the kids are doing in the class, the end goal of improving social interactions is evident.

As this is a theater class, a question comes to mind; is there going to be a production at the end? Sabine explains that it’s the students goal, not hers, for there to be a show. She feels that it’s “a little big” for now. Sabine says that, in terms of a production, “I would like to be able to see that, but whatever it is, even if it turns out to be just small little scenes where they have taken from the beginning of the year and we go watch them grow into something that’s so much bigger that it was in the beginning of the year. That’s really what I want to see, just that growth.”

“But to be able to see their comfort level increase, being on stage and presenting in front of someone else, is a big deal.”

Being able to run a show takes a lot of organization and practice, just being able to see the students skills develop is enough for Sabine. “But to be able to see their comfort level increase, being on stage and presenting in front of someone else, is a big deal.” So, we are most likely not going to see a show this year, but it’s good to keep an eye out for one in the future.

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