Welcome to our first Activity of the Week! This is where I’ll showcase something I’ve worked on this week. Most of my sessions center around a storybook, as storybooks are an effective way to teach vocabulary, grammar, narrative structure, inferencing, and more. It also keeps my kids engaged! AND, I just love books, so any excuse to read them works for me!
For those kids that have a bit more trouble sitting through a book, sometimes I will make modifications, such as reading the book while sitting on a platform swing, reading the book one page at a time and acting out whatever action is happening while we read, or giving the kids manipulables or small figurines that go along with the book and letting them play with those while we read.
A little disclaimer, obviously not ALL clients are right for this activity. Be sure to match your book and activity choice to your client’s interests and abilities. That said, I’ve been able to use kids picture books with a lot of my older clients as well and, to be honest, they have loved it! I think a lot of “big kids” actually miss having picture books read to them (that’s not research-based, just my own experience!). I often tell my older kids, “We’re going to learn older kid skills but with a younger kid book,” and they don’t mind at all. I’m just always sure to extend their learning with another “older kid” activity after. I may pair the picture book with a related article from ReadWorks or may tack on a writing activity on a topic from the book. For my book this week, The Mitten, I often use the Winter Is Coming article, which often segues into a nice discussion about why some of the animals would probably not be wandering around in mid-winter to find the mitten!
But now, without further ado, my activity this week! Last week we experienced a massive snow-dump here in Vancouver. (Well, massive for Vancouver!) So my book choices have been all snow themed. (Stay tuned in the future for a list of some of my favourite kids’ books organized by theme!) This week we did The Mitten by Jan Brett. This book has so many amazing teaching possibilities, I just love it. Here is a sample session with The Mitten:
First we read the book. With any kid above Kindergarten level, I let them help with some of the reading. Depending on the child’s literacy skills, they may read the whole book, do one page here and there, or at least help with a word or two on each page. This book has some words that are repeated and fairly easy to sound out, like “Baba,” “snow,” “mitten,” and more. Most kids, even those with reading difficulties, can at least get those words and then feel some success in the book reading part.
Then, I usually prime them with some questions about the narrative elements. I use the Story Grammar Marker format from MindWing for this. Studies have shown that asking children questions about narrative structure can increase their success in including the components in their retell. I also love to use manipulatives to go along with the story. I have a little snow-white mitten myself and I made a few paper animals to go in it. We use some dolls from the dollhouse for Nicki and Baba.
After the retell, with the story fresh (and then re-freshed!) in our minds, I often jump into some inferencing questions. Depending on my client’s goals, this may be a larger part of our session. If the child is working on anything social-learning related, I will really increase the amount of time and discussion we spend on inferences and emotions in books. The Mitten, along with most of Jan Brett’s books, often include some excellent pictures for inferencing. It’s so nice how she includes a little clue about the following page on the current page, so the kids can guess what might happen next.
Here are some questions I may ask about The Mitten:
I also love using books to teach vocabulary. I use a vocabulary chart that I found through a presentation by Jennifer Schultz, MA, CCC-SLP called “Building Vocabulary Through Children’s Picture Books” on Northern Speech Services. I will include my vocabulary chart for The Mitten in another post. [Also, if you are interested in using picture books to teach vocabulary, I found this presentation full of great ideas and information!]
To teach the vocabulary in my session, I usually pick 2-4 words from my list that the child didn’t appear too familiar with. We write them on cards, along with a friendly definition. I often use ELL dictionaries to find the definitions as they’re written in plainer English. Then I have the child draw a representation of the word. We may act out the word then, or go through the book and find other places where that word applies. (for example, in The Mitten, if the word is “Burrow,” we might look through and see which other animals burrow.) I’ll often try to find some synonyms for the word. We use the words in sentences. I try to make a few funny and ridiculous sentences as I have found when I get the kids laughing, they remember things better! :) We keep these vocabulary cards in clear plastic pages (I use baseball card pages) in a vocabulary journal. As we amass more words, we sometimes take the cards out for a variety of activities, but that’s a post for another time. ;)
The final activity I may do after a book read is a related story. Together with the child, we tell the story, but change a few elements. I wish I had snapped a photo of the latest one I did for The Mitten with a little friend of mine! We created a comic-style story about a fisherman who lost his boot in the water. As the boot drifted down, all sorts of sea critters crammed their way in, until finally a great blue whale squashed in. Suddenly, he blew air out of his spout, sending all the animals in all directions, and the boot right back into the old fisherman’s boat.
It’s rare that I will do all of these activities with one child. When I do, it is obviously over the course of a few sessions. However, I often do cycle through different activities with different kids. For example, in one day this week, I used the book for vocabulary with one child, for a story retell and narrative practice with another, for attention and simple sentence structure with another, and inferencing with another. Lots of birds with one stone — err, I mean book. :)
I hope you enjoyed this Activity of the Week! Stay tuned for more next week!
Feel free to leave pictures and descriptions of what you have done with this book in the comments!!
Thanks for reading,
Carla Monteleone & Deborah Carter own and operate Grow Speech and Language Therapy in Vancouver, BC