Speech Bubbles is a drama intervention that supports children in KS1 with communication needs. Most of the referred children wouldn’t be considered at a high enough level of need to access local Speech and Language Therapy services, however they are still struggling academically and with social interaction.

Our small group approach is centred on the telling and acting out of each child’s own imagined story supported by focussed creative activities. The emphasis is on whole body communication, gesture, sound making, interaction, imagination and enjoyment. The pleasure that comes with sharing your story, with connecting with one another, with being playful – this is serious messing about!

During the first lockdown we had to put the programme on pause. We were aware that not only had the issues for the children not gone away but in many cases they were intensified. We wanted to do something, and we wanted to do something that felt safe. So we created three booklets of drama activities that were directly influenced by Speech Bubbles activities and support children’s creative communication. Two of the booklets are designed for children to use at home, maybe on their own, maybe with a sibling or a cousin, or maybe with a willing grown up. The third booklet is for use in school and has been designed for teachers working in small bubbles with vulnerable children or children from key worker families. The link for the booklets is at the end of this article – please download and share widely!

Here are three activities, from the booklets you can try in school or share with your parents:

From Drama at Home – THIS IS NOT A SPOON, IT IS A …

Pick any household object. Pretend it is something else and act it out. So a spoon could become a telephone! See how many different ideas you can come up with. Pick another object and try again! Play by yourself or with any number of people, taking turns to come up with ideas.

From Drama at School – NAMES IN A BUCKET

This activity can be used to practise names and to build confidence speaking aloud. Tell the children that you have placed the bucket somewhere in the room and you need to collect it. This is an imaginary bucket so you can play around with the size and the weight when you pick it up and place it in the middle of the circle.

Tell the children that we are going to take it in turns to throw our names into the bucket. The adult models this first and then you go round the circle with each child having a go. You can do this multiple times and each round the way you throw the name in the bucket can be changed. For example; quiet, loud, like a superhero, like a dog etc.

Once you have finished you can ask a child to place the bucket somewhere in the room for next time and the other children must remember as you can ask them to collect next time you play the game.

From Drama at School – MIRRORING

This game is played in pairs. Each pair of children stand facing each other (2 metres apart). Get the participants to label themselves ‘A’ and ‘B’. Person ‘A’ will start a gentle movement and person ‘B’ must copy their moves as if they are a mirror. It helps to keep good eye contact. Play the game again but swap over, so that ‘B’ gets to move and ‘A’ copy.

To add an element of performance you can ask the pairs to choose who will lead and who will follow. Give them 10 seconds to do this and make sure they don’t share their decision with the group. You can then spotlight certain pairs to complete the game, whilst other members in the group form an audience to watch and guess who they believe is leading and who is copying in each pair.

Speech Bubbles has been the subject of several qualitative and quantitative research programmes1 with reported benefits such as:

  • Improved confidence and self esteem

And measurable improvements in:

  • Understanding spoken language
  • Storytelling and narrative
  • Social interaction

Earlier last year Dr Jonathan Barnes interviewed a small group of year 5 and 6 children who took part in Speech Bubbles four years ago His paper, published by the Royal Society of Public Health,2 included the following self-reported benefits:

“… at first I wasn’t really listening, It felt like it was going to take years to get to my turn, but … I realised that everyone was listening to me so that I should listen back to them because they’re giving me their time and attention and I am giving them mine.”

“I didn’t actually like it – I loved it, because we could explain our ideas and make up our own stories and express ourselves.”

“I upgraded myself to be confident in class and out of class. When I am doing a question I [now] can get up in front of the whole class and answer it without thinking ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ it made me understand and speak out.”

As this article is written, we are in the midst of a second lockdown and schools are open to all children. Speech Bubbles is back and our drama practitioners are working face to face with the children in a Covid-secure way. The stories from the children remain as glorious and diverse as ever with tales of dragons, dinosaurs, superpowers, and trips to the park with friends and cousins. In a few notable instances the stories have been directly influenced by the pandemic. In one story a dragon roared at everybody but really they just wanted to visit their friends and in another story a prince wore a face mask as part of his party costume – ‘just like me’ said the child story teller pulling his mask from his pocket!

The impact of the pandemic on individuals, on families, on school populations and on whole communities will be felt for many years to come. Being back in schools and talking to staff, we can see a growing and immediate need for social and emotional support for many children. With thanks to Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we will be offering a Speech Bubbles recovery model this spring and summer term; a shorter programme aimed at supporting children that schools identify as being adversely affected in their communication and social interaction. This adapted version of Speech Bubbles will maintain all the practical and creative activity, the games, the stories, the moving and chanting. It will provide children with a creative, enjoyable low pressure space to tell the stories that they want to tell and to act them out.

Of course it’s not just about the children. The drama activities in the booklet give adults a chance to interact with the children in low pressure, imaginative and creative ways and enjoy the opportunity to connect and communicate!

Have fun and let us know how you get on.

Download Drama Activity Booklets


Get in touch: adam@londonbubble.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter: @SpeechBubbles20 #Speechbubbles #SpeechBubblesRecoveryModel

All Speech Bubbles research papers available at https://www.londonbubble.org.uk/parent_project/speech-bubbles/reports-research-writing/ – ‘Perspectives in Public Health’ September 2020 Vol 140 No 5

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