Each teacher chose a partner sitting beside them. One partner wrote her name several times on a piece of paper. The other partner bumped the writer's arm several times as she was writing. The bumping needed to vary in pressure and timing so that the writer could not predict when it would happen or how it would feel. Teachers were laughing, talking, and grumbling about messy writing....the first objective of the afternoon had been accomplished - they were engaged.
Facilitated discussion followed: how did they like the writing? How did their fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders or any other parts of their body react to being bumped? How did they respond emotionally... any anticipation anxiety? Did they try prepare for the bumping?
This activity elicits physical tension in the fingers and hands of the writer. People tend to grip their pencils more tightly in anticipation of and in reaction to being bumped. They feel a range of emotions: annoyance, frustration, loss of control. One writer spontaneously grumbled, "I give up." I wondered – give up what? Trying to write smoothly or to write at all?
In the 10 minutes reserved for questions, someone asked, "What can teachers do to help a child who stutters?" and I knew I had missed an important objective. The next presentation must include copies of Straight Talk for Teachers from the Stuttering Foundation of America for every teacher. We all still want a "How to..." list of directions. Please visit http://www.stutteringhelp.org/ for specific tips for the classroom.