Cooler weather, colorful leaves and pumpkins are here! Students should be settling into the new school routine and many classrooms are focusing on fall-themed activities. For O&Ms, the initial rush of teaching school/class schedule orientation is over – how do you motivate your students for O&M lessons?
One of my favorite fall O&M activities is Trick-or-Treat Orientation lessons, especially fun with those preschool, kindergarten and early elementary students! This is a wonderful motivating orientation activityto review/practice all the school routes – often requiring the student to figure out a new route to navigate to a destination when starting for a different location.
Practice Trick-or-Treating Skills
Every year, I observe parents who are excited about their child’s costume and trick-or-treating only to be disappointment when the child is overwhelmed and scared on Halloween night. For many young students – especially those students who are visually impaired – trick-or-treating in the neighborhood can be daunting with all the scary costumes, haunting sounds, and in the dark of night. Being able to ‘trick-or-treat’ around the familiar and safe environment, dressed in a cute costume and without all the distractions will often pave the way for kids to enjoy the real trick-or-treating.
School Trick-or-Treat O&M Activity
Ideally, the student should know the school’s layout and routes to the various rooms and areas around his school. Really young students in a new school may know specific routes to key areas but may not yet know all the “shortcuts” or various routes to each destination.
- The O&M should provide simple costumes that do not impede the student’s ability to walk and use a cane.
- Do not recommend costumes that require the student to carry props.
- Some students may not like a full costume – prefering a simple wig and witch’s hat instead of the full witch outfit.
- Some students enjoy decorating their cane or simply pretending the cane is part of the costume.
Even my pickiest student loved wearing the child-size witch’s hair and hat and pretended that his/her cane was the witch’s broom!
- Note: Some schools/families prefer to dress up as their favorite book character a favorite person in history – be aware that a witch outfit may no longer be ‘politically’ appropriate!
- Two Small Halloween bags with handles or strap to carry candy (one for student and one for O&M)
Individually wrapped small pieces of Halloween candy
- Make sure student can have candy and does not have food allergies!
Either confirm that the student knows what trick-or-treat is or read a book about trick-or-treating before doing the activity.
- (A fun book is Trick-or-Treat! A Halloween Shapes Book. This book talks about various shapes – perfect for preschool/kindergarten students. I combine that with various types of candy that are in each shape discussed in the book.)
- Several lessons in advance, tell the student that he/she will be trick-or-treating in the school during O&M. (This also helps motivate the student to practice/improve routes prior to trick-or-treating and can be used to encouraged students to walk faster on these routes!)
- Discuss the student’s character and pretend to be that character - make sounds, talk like the character, move like the character, etc. The student should be able to talk about his character to people when he/she trick-or-treats! Be sure to discuss the costume itself and if the student is particular, try the costume on!
- Practice knocking and saying, “Trick-or-Treat” and reach out for the candy. The student should practice saying, “thank you” and placing the candy in the bag. I tell the student he can choose one piece of candy at the end of the lesson and the rest goes home.
Explain the activity to teachers/adults that are in each location (the secretary in the office, cafeteria worker in the cafeteria, librarian in the library, etc.)
- If not, be prepared to sneak a piece of candy to the adult – to give to the student – during the actual activity!
- Determine the destinations and routes ahead of time. Challenge the student by including unusual destinations or to determine a route that has not specifically been taught (different starting point).
Once the student is dressed and has his empty candy bag, give the student his first destination. (Depending on the student’s level, you can tell the student the destination, give him a brailled card with the destination, or use a tactile symbol to represent the destination.) Encourage the student to travel quickly and efficiently with good cane skills so that he has time to get to as many destinations as possible! Do not prompt the student during the route – the goal is travel independently.
Once the student arrives at the destination, he should initiate the trick-or-treating by knocking and saying Trick-or-Treat! If necessary, prompt the adult to hand out the candy; the student should be prepared to say, ‘thank you’ and place the candy in his bag. (You’d be surprised how often the adults need prompting!) Encourage a speedy exit and quickly move on to the next destination; giving the student the next destination is a good prompt for the adults too!
Hint: I, the O&M, carry a similar candy bag with candy and destination cards (organized in order). I’m prepared to sneak a piece of candy to the adult at the destination and prompt (by gestures) to give the candy to the student.
The better the cane skills, the faster the travel, the more destinations – and the more candy the student receives!
Trick-or-Treating with Older Students
Older students are motivated by candy too! Modify the “trick-or-treating” to whatever activity the student is currently working on. Example: The student says “trick-or-treat” after each good street crossing (and receives a piece of candy). Working on cardinal directions of specific intersections? A piece of candy is available at the north west corner of Main and Oak streets. Working on orientation to departments in a store? A piece of candy is available at the pharmacy desk!