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Four Activities for Parents to do in the Summer to Help with Speech and Language Skills

It's that time of year when many students are either finished, or school is wrapping up.  Parents start to ask, "What can we do over the summer?"  While sending home a packet of worksheets is one option, I prefer to give parents some concrete suggestions that they can do with their child that are low cost or free and that don't require a significant amount of prep.  Here are four ideas:

1. Read books and check out your local library.  Reading books is a great way to work on speech and language skills.   Local libraries often have great programs for preschoolers and older children and they are often free.  Even if you don't go to the library programs, you are able to pick out a wide variety of books.  Even better, have your child pick out books they might like. Look for books that contain your child's goals.  For example, books on spiders are a great way to work on s-blends.  There are many excellent books that talk about emotions. For a link to a post on the benefits of reading go here.  If you want suggestions on how to read to children, go here.

2. Make memory books.  Children love to read books with themselves as the main character.  Take pictures or have your child take pictures of your outings over the summer.  This can be during a vacation, camping trip, going to the zoo/science centre/amusement park, visiting family or even just going to the park or the grocery store. Take pictures based on what your child is working on.  If your child is working on increasing the number of verbs they use, then take pictures of them sliding, climbing, eating, chasing, leaping, etc...  Memory books are also a great way to work on personal narratives, such as being able to answer, "What did you do over the summer?" If your child is working on their pronunciation, take pictures with objects that contain their sounds.

Make a small book by printing off the pictures and write sentences or have your child write sentences under the pictures. If you have access to Powerpoint or Keynote, put the pictures in the Powerpoint file along with typing out the sentences and print off the book.  If you make it into a PDF, then your child can look at on a smartphone or tablet.  Read the book with your child and show it to other adults in their life.  

3. Cook with your child.  Cooking can work on so many language skills such as sequencing, building vocabulary, and describing.  You can also work in pronunciation goals while cooking too. Find a recipe that has your child's sound in them.  For example, if you are working on "ch," then find a recipe with chocolate.  If you are working on s-blends, then use words such as "spatula," "stir," and "spread."  Make sure that you do any steps of the recipe that you deem to be unsafe for your child.  Cooking with your child also teaches essential life skills.  

4.  Draw with your child.  Draw with your child, have them tell you about their drawing and you talk about what you drew. It can be as simple as them scribbling on the page or making a face/person.  It can be as complicated as drawing a whole scene.  If your child needs help with deciding what to draw, start with a character and talk about the adventures they may go on.   If your child is working on pronunciation, then have them draw pictures with their words in them. 

If you would like more ideas for preschoolers through to grade one on what to do over the summer, here is a freebie that you can download.  I would like to thank the Frenzied Speechies for hosting this linky party that shares amazing ideas for speech and language carry over for the summer.  

Bringing Lit into Speech Therapy with "Oh No!"

As you know, I am a strong believer in reading to children and using books in therapy.  One book that I have been loving of late, is called, "Oh No!" by Patrick George.  It is a wordless book that shows a variety of situations, such as a boy climbing a tree to get his kite and then what could happen.  There is a transparent page that when you turn it, shows what happened.

The pictures are cute but would still be appropriate for children up to about grade three.  Here are five ideas on how you could use this book in therapy:

1.  Answering questions.  This book lends itself well to working on questions.  You can target, "where" questions, "why" questions, "What is he/she/it doing?," "What do think will happen?,"  "How did X happen?," "Why did X happen?" and "What happened?" 

2.  Describing a scene. These pictures are simple enough to not be overwhelming but have enough detail that they would be good for children to describe them.

3.  Sequencing.  These are two picture scenes that could work well on, "First X happens, then Y happens."

4.  Narratives.  This piggybacks on working on sequencing.  Because there are only pictures and each vignette is two pages long, they are great for working on developing a story.

5. Inferencing.  You don't see everying part of the scene.  For example, when the boy is climbing the tree, you only see part of the kite or when the boy is kicking a ball, you don't see the ball.  The children have to infere part of the scene to fully understand it.  

Have you used this book in therapy? And do you have other suggestions on how to use it?

Seven Ways to Use Matman in Language Therapy

Matman is a part of the Handwriting Without Tears program that Occupational Therapists and teachers use to teach children how to write. One of the first steps they use is to introduce children to Matman.  Children are encouraged to make Matman with lines and curves.  Eventually, children will draw Matman.  As usual, I have no affiliation with the Handwriting Without Tears program other than they are used in the classrooms I have worked in. 

Here are seven ways to use Matman:

1. Teach body parts.  There is a song to help teach how to make Matman.  It is excellent for working on body parts.  Once the children are more familiar with the song and body parts, I will draw the body parts in the wrong location, or I will miss drawing a part of Matman.  The children then tell me what I have done wrong and help me fix it.   When Matman "has to leave,"  I will erase body parts, or the children will tell me what to erase, or they will close their eyes and tell me which body part I have erased.

2.  Greetings. Because Matman is a frequent visitor, I will have the children greet him at circle time or during centres and then say, "bye" when he has to leave.  It's a fun way to practice this skill.  

3. Teach emotions.  One of my favourite activities is to make Matman look happy, sad, mad, scare and calm.  I with either have the children identify the emotion that I have drawn or tell me which emotion I should draw.  When they are able, I have them draw the feeling. We practice sentences such as, "Matman feels scared today." 

Later I tell a short story about Matman's day.  For example, "Matman's favourite toy broke."  The children then tell me how Matman feels.  Reversely, I have the children tell me about Matman's day and how he feels.

4.  Working on action words.  I will draw Matman doing an action.  The children would then tell me what Matman was doing.  Versly, the children would tell me what Matman was doing and I would draw it.  

5. Working on associative vocabulary.  Matman loves to take trips.  The students help plan the clothes and equipment he needs to bring as he goes to the desert, or the ocean, or the Arctic.  Matman also likes to go to work.  The students help tell me what Matman needs when he is a policeman, firefighter, chef, etc...

6. Working on He, She and They. Drawing Matman and Matgirl is a great way to work on "he," "she," and "they." This works great when doing activities with associative vocabulary or when making a story.  E.g. "Matman is a fireman.  He needs a firetruck." or "Matgirl is a doctor.  She needs band-aids."

7. Narrative language. A teacher I used to work with had "Adventures of Matman" centre time in her class every day.  This was where the children practiced drawing Matman, and then a staff member would transcribe a sentence.  As the year goes on the children, start making up stories about what Matman is doing. 

Do you use Matman in therapy?