An Interview with Rebecca Eisenberg and Rynetter Kjesbo: Cool In School?

Dec 9, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) First of all, who came up with this idea for COOL IN SCHOOL?

The idea was created by me (Rebecca) and the editors at Super Duper Publications. In my experience, I always found photographs to be very motivating, powerful, and concrete. We really wanted this game to incorporate large photos so that the children can relate to the children in the photos. Once we decided to use photos, we then began discussing the game aspect to it and how to incorporate receptive and expressive language goals that were clear and easy for teachers, therapists, and parents to follow. Additionally, we wanted a game that students with varying cognitive and physical disabilities could play.

2) Now, can you give us an Introduction (perhaps from the Inside of the box )?

Cool in School is a receptive and expressive language game for students in grades PreK-8. It uses color photos to teach basic and advanced communication skills that students use every day in twelve areas of school—Art Room, Cafeteria, Classroom, computer Lab, Media Center, Music Room, Nurse’s office, Office, Physical Education, Playground, Restroom, Therapy Room.

3) What exactly does this game contain?

The game contains 144 large (5” x 7”) color-coded cards, six giant magnetic pawns (for students with limited motor abilities), six standard pawns (for older students), a double-sided colorful game board, 65 “Cool Tokens,” and an electronic spinner.

4) What are these cards all about and what locations in the school do they focus on?

The cards reinforce social interaction skills and turn taking while students participate in two receptive language activities—following directions and answering questions—and four expressive language activities—defining, describing, inferencing, and discussing. There are twelve subject areas covered—Art Room, Cafeteria, Classroom, computer Lab, Media Center, Music Room, Nurse’s office, Office, Physical Education, Playground, Restroom, Therapy Room, and there are twelve cards per subject area. On one side of the card is the actual photograph of the child or children in a scene—for example, a boy washing his hands—and then on the other side are the questions related to the photograph.

5) What exactly is the object of this game?

The object of the game is for the players to collect Cool Tokens as they move around the game board and answer questions. Teachers can target just receptive language activities by reading the prompts in red or expressive language activities by reading the prompts in blue. At the end of the game, the player with the most Cool Tokens wins.

6) I see that there is an EASY GAME BOARD and an ADVANCED GAME BOARD- what is the difference?

The easy game board provides a distraction-free playing surface for students who have more significant cognitive difficulties. It is also a great board to use when students are first learning how to play board games because it allows students to focus on basic rules of game play such as spinning the spinner and moving their pawn the correct number of spaces. The advanced board throws in a few twists such as moving ahead/back two spaces or taking extra tokens. The advanced board is a great motivator for older elementary and middle school students. The two boards give teachers some flexibility and a way to increase or decrease the level of difficulty of game play. A teacher, therapist, or parent can work towards using the more advanced game board as the child begins to improve with their skills using the game board.

7) What are some additional game options? There are so many different ways to play.

For a quick game or to focus on a specific area, students can play using just the cards and tokens without the game board. The players can earn the tokens and whoever gets the most tokens wins. Another way is for each player to start off with a set amount of Cool Tokens. Then as the game progresses, instead of earning tokens, players return their cool tokens to the bank. The first player to run out of tokens wins. You can also adapt the game to play with children who are nonverbal and minimally verbal by using the cards to elicit conversation with their communication books and devices. My students are very motivated by the colorful cards and they are an excellent tool for starting conversations.

8) I see you are trying to encourage both expressive and receptive language- how does this game help?

This game directly targets both receptive and expressive language skills. Carl and Cate, the Cool in School Penguins, guide the activities by providing receptive and expressive prompts for each picture scene. You can focus on receptive skills by reading Carl’s prompts in red and target expressive language skill in blue. The prompt for the receptive section sets the scene for the card. The prompt for the expressive section provides a cue for the rest of the questions.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

I think a good question to ask would be “How does this game compare itself to other games?” This game is very different from other games because it can be played with students with varying cognitive abilities as well as physical disabilities. I (Rebecca) play this game with my typical 3.5 year-old daughter as well as my students who have multiple disabilities. The pawns are easy for young children to use, motivating for older students, and easy to grasp and move for children with difficulties with fine motor movement. The large photographs can be used in a variety of ways and the receptive and expressive prompts make it very user friendly for anyone to use.

10) Where can readers get more information?

There are several other game suggestions in the instruction booklet that comes with the game. If you want to look at sample cards or watch a video about the game, you can go to superduperinc.com and type “Cool in School” into the search bar. For additional information about communication and communication disorders, Super Duper Publications provides free online informational newsletters called Handy Handouts for teachers and parents. You can download and print them from their website at superduperinc.com. They have handouts on a variety of subjects including strategies for teaching children how to play board games, encouraging students to use good social skills, early language development, and more.

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