Social language and Literacy (part 1)

books-series-cover-1

I love to read.  My  perfect day would be spending it in a library filled to the 3rd floor with real books, comfy reading nooks, unlimited coffee, tea, and hot cocoa,  and with a librarian that looks like George Clooney…ahhh.  So it is no surprise that I use books often in speech therapy, particularly social language therapy with my kids.  There are many options for younger students, such as picture books ,Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge series,  or any of Peter Brown’s books  (You Will Be My Friend is one of my favorites) that align beautifully with social language concepts!  I have a Pinterest board for stories HERE that you are welcome to peruse.

The social language concepts of prediction, inferencing, point of view and emotions are embedded in stories.  What does this look like?  Let’s start with the covers.  Having our students make what Michelle Garcia Winner refers to as a “smart guess” based on a title or picture, is the first step.   Helping our kids look for clues in pictures or words, “think with their eyes”, and then making a leap to guess what the story might be about is hard work for those with social language impairments.  Don’t gloss over this step, remember our students are not incidental learners!

The next step is to read through the story together, stopping to make a guess about what might happen next.  Prediction and listening comprehension go hand in hand.  If there is novel vocabulary, pause the story and talk about what they think those words might mean (hello context clues!).  You might ask your older students keep a personal dictionary, like this freebie from Natalie Snyders,  as we read to help them in discussions along the way. Your younger students can use a composition notebook to journal pictures of story vocabulary if they are not yet strong writers.

I laminate a large heart, thought bubble and word bubble to use with our story too.  We use these templates to talk about what a character might be thinking, feeling or saying in the story. With my older elementary students, you can compare and contrast character’s emotions and expand the conversation into point of view. Venn Diagrams are great for this!  We talk about identifying the problem and possible solutions in the story (there might be more than one), and can extend this skill to explaining which one would be the best solution.These skills are embedded in the Common Core curriculum from K on up, by the way (take a look at the ELA standards for literacy).

With my younger students, we draw pictures to sequence and re-tell the story.  They love to act out the stories and what a great opportunity this is for learning to work in a group, negotiating, sharing personal space and turn taking!  We also brainstorm after we read the story, and talk about what expected or unexpected situations occurred.  Did the characters act in predictable or unpredictable ways in response to these situations?  This provides an opportunity to talk about expected/unexpected behaviors and help our students connect their personal experiences to the characters.

This is not a one time lesson.  I use stories over several sessions, and can extend the social language concepts over a month of speech.  These are great lessons to use during push in groups or whole class lessons as well. Pre-teaching these skills before you take them into a whole class will give your students the vocabulary and practice to participate in whole group instruction more successfully too.  I created a packet of ten templates that you can use with any story to work on these concepts HERE in my TPT store.

What stories or author’s do you love to use in therapy?  Share here!

How wild is too wild???

tiger

 

Well, New Year’s has come and gone but wild times are still here, just ask any teacher the first week back to school!  Looking for a social language activity on matching our behavior to our environments?  You have come to the right place!  “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”, by Peter Brown, is a great book to start your lesson.  This story follows the theme, “There is a time and place for everything-even going wild.”   But how wild is too wild?

This is a hard concept, particularly for our younger kids with sensory issues.  Their engines rev up way too high or too quickly and it’s difficult for them to calm back down.  For our older students, sometimes the function of their “wildness” is attention, so we need to be cautious that we don’t feed that monster 🙂  The book tells a lovely story about a tiger who is tired of being proper and wants to revert to his wild, non-clothes-wearing, roaring on all four paws behavior.  His very proper friends are upset by this change and the story goes on to tell of how they all compromise to feel free to be themselves (within reason).

I have created 9 cut apart cards with 12 social language questions to delve into MGW’s social thinking concepts such as expected/unexpected behaviors, rules that change depending on the setting and considering the feelings of those around us.  I also made a printable mini-poster for students to ask questions regarding people, place and timing for being “wild”.  You can find them both here at TPT.

It would be a wonderful companion lesson to create a calm down kit for younger kids to use after a wild time- it could include a weighted vest, a special spot in the room to calm down, breathing techniques, fidgets or squishy toys, a cup to get a drink of water or some soft music to listen to, for a few minutes.  This is a good example from Pinterest or this one .   Talk to your amazing OT friends and get their suggestions too (particularly if the students are using the program, How Does Your Engine Run?).

And last but not least, don’t forget to define what WILD looks like- it can mean vastly different things to different people!!  That might be a fun art project to draw or cut pictures out from magazines to show what the concept of wild means to each student.  You could cut out tiger shaped masks and glue/draw the pictures on them for your younger students or brainstorm ideas with your older kids.

This cute video clip can help illustrate it too and lead to a great discussion on when it’s okay to be wild, and when it’s not. Here’s to having a time and place for everything, even being wild!

You WILL Be My Friend….or else

Peter Brown's book on friendship

Peter Brown’s book on friendship

 

The Scholastic Book Fair rolled into my school this week for the last hurrah before summer.   I strolled through the aisles looking for this and that when I found the book, “You Will Be My Friend” by Peter Brown.   I read the title first as “Will You Be My Friend?” but when I looked again, sure enough the title was a command not a request!   This book illustrates the difficulties of figuring out how to make friends, whether you are a beast or a boy.  For a lot of my students with social language weakness, friendship is tricky!

One of my favorite students started a conversation with a new classmate this year.  She recounted that she wanted to be friends with the new girl, so she told her, ” I am just going to warn you, you don’t want to make me mad.”  She felt that she was offering good insight on how to be her friend, just don’t make me mad.  She didn’t consider that starting off a friendship with a perceived threat was not a great first impression.  Yikes.

Lucy, the main character of our story, heads out on a mission one morning to find a new friend in the forest.   She bumbles her way into frog ponds, a giraffe’s breakfast and invades the personal space of a local ostrich.     Lucy’s intentions are good, but she struggles on her quest to find a friend.     The illustrations are beautiful and offer great clues on reading body language, emotion and what other’s might be thinking in the story.   It is filled with fantastic opportunities to talk about social language concepts such as whole body listening, personal space, talking too much and being yourself around others!

I have created a three page activity to go along with the story (factual questions and social thinking questions) here

What books have you used for friendship?