What the lesson is about
Based on the book Odyssey Now, by Keith Park and Nichola Grove, the lesson uses music, games and slides to help teach communication to children with profound and multiple learning difficulties.
You will need a large sheet, or similar piece of material, preferably blue, small water sprays, a hand-held fan, pictures of Odysseus and his boat, a drum and a balloon. Put them in a large box with a lid so the pupils cannot see what is in it. You will also need a music player and suitable music, including a track to begin the lesson (preferably a sound of the sea), one for preparing the boat (such as Sailing by Rod Stewart) and one for winding down (such as Albatross by Fleetwood Mac).
Pupils sit in a circle to begin. Play the first track and open the box. Take out each item in turn and explain what it is. For example: "This is a sheet. We are going to pretend it is the sea. This is a fan. We are going to pretend it is the wind."
Tell the children you are going to act out a story about a man called Odysseus. Show them his picture. Tell them he is about to set off on his journey home. Play the preparation track and mime getting into the boat. Use the water sprays and fan and waft the sheet up and down to create the illusion of being out at sea.
Nominate one pupil as the captain and ask them to tell the other pupils when to row and when to stop. Ask the pupils to mime rowing, with one pupil playing the drum to beat time for the rowers.
Sing Blow the Man Down to encourage the children to row. Waft the blue sheet over the pupils' heads to mime the sea getting rough. Produce the blown-up balloon - tied by an easy-release clip - from under the sheet and stop waving the sheet. Tell them the sea has calmed down and the balloon is a present from the "gods" but they must not touch the clip.
Move the pupils into a circle and play pass the parcel with the balloon. When the music stops, the holder must decide whether or not to remove the clip. If they do, mime the return of the storm until the balloon has been blown up again, to illustrate the gods putting the winds into a sack to help Odysseus get home, as in the original poem by Homer.
Repeat until all the children have had a turn at deciding whether to unclip the balloon. When the balloon is back with you, tell the pupils you are sailing back to school.
Taking it further
Tell the pupils you have now returned to school and it is time to stop. Get them in a circle and give them time to relax. Ask them to ask each other about what they have just done and what they enjoyed most.