How I Use Books To Target A Variety of Speech Therapy Goals

Do you ever feel stuck when trying to include books and themes in therapy? If you didn’t know, I am lucky enough to work in a pediatric clinic with kids with a wide variety of ages and abilities. While this is super awesome, I did find it challenging at first to know how to incorporate books and stay on a theme with all of my kids, while still keeping therapy and activities relevant. What I’ve discovered is that the most important part of using books is to make activities fun and functional for each age group and ability. I want to share some of the ways I use one book for a variety of ages and goals. I will use the book we are reading this week, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Chick, but these strategies can apply to many books! I made a book companion for this, so definitely check it out if you’re looking for materials! I also made a freebie that you can use with any book, so keep reading for a link!

1) Early Language: For my early language kids, I typically make adapted versions of the books we are going to read, as well as incorporate interactive pieces and props. There are so many goals you can target with a few interactive pieces and a book! First, simple syntax. I love to pick one sentence that will repeat for the entire book. Even if it isn’t written in the book by the author, I will pick a sentence that summarizes that story and is useful for my kids. For the Old Lady book, I chose the sentences “She eats ___”, “Eat the ___”, and “Eat ___” depending on my goals (pronouns, verbs, 2- to 3-word utterances). I have the child imitate that line on each page as well as use some kind of interactive prop. For the Old Lady book, I cut out a piece of Old Lady clip art, cut out the mouth, and taped it on an empty tissue box. The kids practiced following directions by putting each piece from the book in the box. They LOVED getting to feed her! I also always try to have my kids request to “turn the page” to target more sentences and early sounds.

2) Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): With my AAC users, I try to pick a core word to match the book. For our Old Lady book, we used the words “eat” and “she”. For my kids using AAC and making sentences, we practiced present progressive -ing by saying “She is eating” on each page. I also use the interactive pieces to practice our core words “put in”. I like to use my Old Lady interactive book in my companion, as well as my AAC core boards with fringe vocabulary.

3) Articulation: For my older kids targeting articulation goals, I gave a piece of note paper and talked about what sound we were looking for. We practiced phonemic awareness by finding our sounds in each sentence. We then wrote the words on the notebook page and practiced putting them in our own sentences. For my kids working on articulation generalization, I printed pictures of each step in the book and had them sequence the story and retell it using accurate articulation. I sent home a “book report”-type paper for homework with our word list and instructions for parents to have my students retell the story at home. For my younger kids targeting articulation, we practiced simple sentences as mentioned above and practiced our sounds. I also printed pictures of each item in the story and wrote their target words on the paper for them to color at home.

4) Sequencing and Syntax: When I prep for a book week in speech, I like to print out pictures to represent the major events in the book. For the Old Lady book series, that is usually a bunch of objects that she eats (you can definitely do this with any book, though this series is great for sequencing!). After the story is completed, I mix up the cards (usually up to 10) and have the students put the cards in order. We also work on asking for help if they don’t remember the order of events. Then I have them retell the story using the pictures as a guideline. This is great for targeting syntax and using temporal language (first, then, next, last, etc.). You can even remove the picture cues for an extra challenge.

5) Wh- Questions: I like to target asking and answering wh- questions when I use books. For some of my kids, I will ask a variety of questions on each page so that they are engaged and I can make sure they are following the story. I also will ask questions at the end of the story to see if we can recall details from the story. In my Old Lady book companion, I have included wh- question cards if you want some help thinking of questions! I can also target ASKING questions by having my kids ask me, “What will happen next?” or “What did she eat?”. I also love to target predicting and inferencing while asking questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” and “How do you think she feels?”. This is a great way to have my kids think critically about our books.

6) Body Language and Whole Body Listening: Before reading books with my kids, I like to run through how we can show that we are listening when someone is reading to us. We talk about where we should be looking, what our ears, voice, hands, and feet should be doing, and which way we turn our body. I also like to go over perspectives and emotions this way by asking how they might feel if I demonstrated good listening skills while they read or if I showed that I wasn’t paying attention. This is a good way to prep your students to be engaged in the story and prepared for the comprehension questions ahead. I love to use my conversational skills rainbow for this portion of our book activities, but you can also have the kids write out their listening skills and discuss them with the group.

7) Describing and Comparing/Contrasting (And MORE Syntax): I love to work on describing during speech therapy, and picture books are a great way to target this skill and work on comparing and contrasting and understanding same/different. After we read, I like to take two pictures from the book and work on naming at least two descriptors per picture. If the students are having a hard time coming up with descriptive words, I will use a visual to prompt them. Then we will put our describing words in a Venn diagram and talk about which describing words are the same for the pictures and which words are different. I like to have my kids form complete sentences by saying, “They are the same because…” and “They are different because…”.

8) Making Appropriate Comments: When targeting comments, I like to go over how to make comments before we start reading. Then, as I read, I will stop after each page and ask what kind of comment we could make. I may even have the students write examples together so we can pull from those comments during the story. We also talk about whether that comment is appropriate and on topic. If this is too difficult, I might provide two choices for comments and have them choose the answer.

So, you might be wondering how these skills can carry over into the home! During my therapy sessions with older kids, I like to fill out and send home little “book report” pages for articulation and/or language. I use these (FREE!!!) pages that work for any book!

I hope this helped you find some fun ways to target a variety of skills with one book! What are your favorite books to use in therapy?