4 Ways To Help Students Through Fun & Unstructured Activities

Have you ever planned fun activities or days for your class that were anything but??  Instead of being fun, it was chaotic and full of behaviors! Not fun!! Here are some tips for helping students cope and enjoy less structured, fun based times.


4 ways to help students cope and self-regulate during fun and unstructured activities or days. These ideas are especially helpful for special education classrooms, students with autism and self-contained programs.


Many of our students crave days full of routines, sameness, repetition. The idea of holidays are exciting, but many of my kiddos have trouble with all of the novelty. Here is what has helped in my classroom:

Keep Visual Schedules

On typical days, students often have visual schedules (pictures or text). Don't take that support away. Telling them that it is just going to be a fun day can instantly trigger anxiety and worry. This puts them on the defensive and less likely to use coping and self-regulation skills. 

4 ways to help students cope and self-regulate during fun and unstructured activities or days. These ideas are especially helpful for special education classrooms, students with autism and self-contained programs.

Review Expectations or Social Stories

Students haven't always had a lot of practice being able to self-regulate and cope during less structured times. Maybe they haven't had a lot of SUCCESSFUL practice. Knowing this, we need to be preemptive and teach students what is expected, how they need to act, etc. BEFORE the party, fun day or whatever.


Add Themes & Vocabulary Into Routines

Add themed visuals and vocabulary into the activities students do on a daily basis. This will help take some of the novelty away (creating known) and help students understand concepts, vocabulary, etc. Here are some examples of how integrating fun themes into our regular tasks and lessons. We do this for every theme and major holiday. 

Here are some examples of how we add Halloween into our daily tasks and lessons. We target vocabulary, reading and math in our Halloween Unit. We also use Halloween interactive books to work on receptive and expressive language, matching, ordinal position, sequencing and more. 



Build Tolerance 

If students have never been able to get through a day of "fun", then we need to start small. I like to start with an hour. For example, on Halloween we might do an hour of Halloween fun and in the middle of our regular schedule. This allows my kiddos to be successful in enjoying the fun time. As students are successful, we add in more less structured activities. Just like anything, we take baby steps towards success and mastery.
4 ways to help students cope and self-regulate during fun and unstructured activities or days. These ideas are especially helpful for special education classrooms, students with autism and self-contained programs.


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