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yes-no-signs

Answering yes/no questions is a very important skill, especially for children with limited verbal skills. If a child can answer yes/no questions, it expands how much they can tell an adult or caregiver almost exponentially. Yes and No are so powerful!

Yes/No are also ideal target words because they can be expressed simply, with or without verbal words. Children can nod, vocalize, or look happy to express “yes.” They can shake their head, look unhappy, or push away to express “no.” Yes/no questions can apply across many different settings, from snack time (do you want a cracker?) to recess (do you want the ball?) to bedtime (do you want your red pajamas?). They allow parents and caregivers to offer choices, and children to have more control over their lives by expressing opinions. Being able to answer yes/no questions can reduce frustration for both children and parents, especially for children with communication difficulties.

Using gestures or facial expressions is often how children start expressing their preferences. Sometimes making a face is enough, but sometimes the rejection can be pushing or throwing, which we don’t want! Starting with what we know the child wants to tell us, we can build those preferences into more conventional ways to indicate yes/no. If a child is using a push-away to express rejection, we can pair that with a sign or word to help them learn more socially acceptable ways to get their message across. Adults modeling yes/no in situations that children are currently in is very important for emerging communicators to learn how to use yes/no themselves.

There are different kinds of yes/no questions, also. Yes/no questions that are preference-based (example: Do you want a cookie?) are easier than fact-based yes/no questions (example: Is this a cookie?). Students typically master preference-based yes/no questions before they can answer fact-based yes/no questions.
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Using visual supports is essential for students who have difficulty with yes/no. The graphic above is one I use every day. I have two cards – one with “yes” and one with “no.” When I ask a student a question, I hold up the cards so they can see their options for answering. It helps cue students who may not remember the words independently, but can point to the answer they mean with the visual support. This can reduce the amount of echolalia that students may use (repeating the question instead of answering it). A student can say Yes/No, point to the word they want, or even look at the word that they mean.

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This month we are reading Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman during circle time. Each time the baby bird meets a new creature, I ask the question “Is the [cat/dog/cow/boat] his mother?” The board gives visual supports, along with pictures for the “yes” and “no” for modeling and pointing.

Are you my mother

Other books ideal for working on yes/no:

Additional resources:

Lastly, here is a video with a catchy song about yes/no, made by an SLP working on a kickstarter project. There are words that pop on the screen about their project, which is a bit annoying, but the song is pretty fun and could be engaging for a student who doesn’t mind the words, but enjoys music and puppets.

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We have been exploring Pete the Cat books in teacher Norma’s classroom the past few weeks. This month we are reading Old MacDonald Had a Farm, featuring Pete the Cat.

I love this book/song for how versatile it is. Students at many different levels can interact with the book in different ways.

Emerging language: Students in the beginning stages of language can practice using “more” to continue the song, or to turn the page. Some students are working on the sign for “more”, while others are using switches or words. This works well for students who are motivated by music or interaction with adults. Pause the song in the middle or end of a verse, and wait expectantly for the student to request “more.” If they are still learning “more,” they may need you to model using it (“Let’s do MORE”, accompanied by helping with the sign, or pushing the switch with the child) and then continue.

Imitation: The repeating refrain “E-I-E-I-O” is great for imitation of speech sounds. I have a few students who are in the babbling/imitation stage of learning language, and they love to sing along and practice different sounds.

Labeling: Students who are beginning to use words can label the different animals in the song or book. Farm animals are fun to label, especially when paired with their funny sounds. I sing the song, and pause when we get to the animal to let the student fill-in the animal themselves. If the student does not know the word yet, I point to it, label it, and then look at them to see if they will label it with me.

Answering questions: Students who are using longer word combinations can start to answer questions about the pictures in the book. Questions starting with “what,” “where,” or “who” are the easiest ones to start with. Talk about what is on each page, and ask questions starting with wh-words to engage more advanced students.

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Where is the turtle? Where is the pig? Who is in the truck? What does a cat say?

You can find Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm at the Sno-Isle library, on BetterWorldBooks.com, or you can read it free on YouTube!

This month we have been talking about shapes in Teacher Norma’s classroom! Some students are at the level of exploring physical shapes with their hands, and other students have begun to label shapes verbally. There are many, many ways to play with shapes that can be done at home.

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The book we have been reading together in class is called Shape Capers. You can get it at the library, or on BetterWorldBooks.com. The book introduces shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and semi-circles, and then uses the shapes to create fun pictures of different objects (a race car, a rocket, a dinosaur…). The students enjoyed touching each shape, and matching the shape they were holding to the picture in the book.

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I made puffy fabric shapes that velcro onto a display board, which we used as we read the book. Each student got a shape to hold and explore, and when their shape came up in the book, they added their shape to the board. It gave students a chance to learn new words, as well as listen for their shape to be called. And the students enjoyed the texture and squishability of the fabric shapes!

At home, playing with Play-Doh can be one way to learn more about shapes. You can download Play-Doh shape mats here, which you can use while playing with Play-Doh to create and reinforce different shapes.

Flash cards and sorting is another way to learn about shapes. Here is a shape activity with cards of objects that are naturally circles, triangles, squares, etc. Cut them out, and have students label the shapes they see, or sort them into groups based on shape. If your student is not able to label yet, then you can do it with them and model the words as you look at the cards.

Happy Holidays everyone! Stay safe and warm, and I’ll see you in January 2016!

 

 

I love books.

I love books to read at home. I love reading books at school. I love using books with my students to introduce language concepts. And I LOVE using the same books repeatedly, especially with my students who need many repetitions to learn a new idea or concept.

Over the summer I was assigned to a new school, with students at different levels than I worked with last year. This has given me an opportunity to develop MORE book activities!

In teacher Norma’s room we are reading the book “In the Small, Small Pond” by Denise Flemming during circle time in November. It’s a fun book featuring many different pond animals. Students with higher vocabulary skills are exposed to many fun animals in the book – there are water beetles, herons, swallows, minnows, tadpoles, and muskrats! – and other students are working on the word “in”. My book poster (see below) has each animal OUT of the pond, and on their turn, each student puts an animal IN the pond.

A great way to solidify learning is to do the same activities at home as at school. In the Small, Small Pond is available at the Sno-Isle Library, or on Better World Books.