Bowling in the hallway

School was almost over and the annual field trip was around the corner. This year, the class was going to the bowling alley. Several grades were going to bowling and Room 623 was one of the classes lucky enough to go. Yet, the teacher knew that most of the children had never bowled in their life. She decided to practice ahead of time and the hallway was a perfect place.

So, to the children’s delight, a bowling lane right was set up next to her door which ended at the glass doors. Fortunately, the teacher had obtained a rubber bowling ball and 10 plastic bowling pins. She was also able to find a special metal ball holder to help the children learn how to aim at the pins.

Right after lunch one day, the children walked to the room to discover a bowling alley waiting for them. The paraprofessionals lined up the children according to grade which ranged from fifth to first. The older children were to be models for the younger ones. Brett was the first in line.

The staff modeled how to actually bowl but the children did not yet have the ability to follow through correctly. So Brett learned how to swing the ball with both hands without slamming the bowling ball on the “alley.” As Brett’s ball slowly moved towards the pins, you could hear Brett wishing the ball to knock the pins down. His first ball ended up being a gutter ball. The next time Brett tried it, four pins fell and you would have thought it was a strike. The boy then had to go down the alley and count the pins. Brett had to state the equation, ten minus four equals six.

The next child to go was Alice, she was nonverbal but knew her numbers. She ended up knocking down one pin and helped put it back in its place. Gradually each child went up trying to roll the ball to the pins. More often than not, gutter balls occurred. So out came the bowling ball holder. This metal object was perfect for the kids. They could aim the holder towards the pins more readily.

Brett started out and went down on the floor. He was intent on knocking all ten pins down. The teacher and staff laughed at how serious Brett was. To their surprise, Brett’s efforts paid off. He made the first strike and was an excellent example for the children to follow.

One by one, the children moved the metal frame around. Some still ended up with gutter balls, but several ended up with strikes and spares. The subtraction equations were fun for the children as they meant something real.

One day, while at practice, two fifth grade girls happened down the hallway. The teacher knew they would be going to the bowling alley with her students. She invited them to try. Like most of her students, the girls had obviously never gone bowling before.

The teacher showed them how to hold the ball and walk. The girls had difficulty following the steps but tried just as hard as her own students. Both times, the balls ended up in the gutter. Yet, the fun the girls generated made it great for all of the children to see.

For several mornings, one boy would run up to the teacher and ask, “Bowling?” “Bowling, what?” responded the teacher. Ricky knew that the teacher expected him to use more than one word sentences with her. Ricky corrected himself and said, “I want bowling.” “Okay, said the teacher. “We will practice at 1:00.” This went on until one Friday when Ricky asked the same question. The teacher answered, “We are going to the bowling alley today Ricky. Remember the calendar?” All the children lined up and went to the real bowling alley. They were very ready, more so than the rest of the school’s children and it showed!

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at