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A ‘who’ question is asking about a person. I usually work on ‘who’ questions after students become good at answering ‘what’ questions. Giving an answer that is a person is still very concrete, and students can learn that when the question begins with “who?”, the answer must be a person.

Students in my intensive support classrooms often need visual supports to be successful answering questions, so having picture choices for answers helps them both to figure out how to answer, and to show us what they know.

I made a Boardmaker Online WHO question activity with visual answers, similar to the one I made for WHAT questions, which has been getting lots of use in the intensive support classrooms this month. To access this activity for free, you will need a Boardmaker Online subscription. You can search for it in the community activities, or find it in the Ms Petersen SLP group.

If you do not have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can find a printable version of the WHO questions with visual answers on Teachers Pay Teachers.


(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very helpful).



A ‘what’ question is asking about a thing or an action. Typically developing children learn to answer simple ‘what’ questions by around age 3 (example: “What is your name?”). However, students with language disorders can struggle with answering questions. For students who are “emerging communicators” (just beginning to use words or pictures to communicate), learning to answer questions can be very, very difficult!

I have several students this year who are ready to work on answering WHAT questions, and who are just learning to use words (verbal or pictured) to communicate. For these students, the typical WH-question materials that I have used in the past are too complicated, and do not give them enough support. I needed to make more materials, which could give my students more clues to help them learn to answer questions.

Boardmaker Online is a resource I have been learning to use. I finally got my district to pay for a subscription this year, and have been loving it! It replaces the old Boardmaker disks that I have been using (last updated in 2006!). The most useful feature is that when you create interactive activities, they can be played on a FREE iPad app, so that students can use the activities over and over!


My first activity was for WHAT questions, with visual answers that students can chose from. This allows them to show me if they know the answer, and also supports students who are learning to answer these questions, because there are only 3 options to chose from. If they chose the wrong answer the app tells them that it was wrong, and gives them another chance to find the right answer. It has been working FABULOUSLY for many of my students who love using iPads.

Another neat thing about Boardmaker Online is that you can search for activities that other people have made, and save them for your own use. I made the WHAT interactive activity public, and put it in a Ms Petersen SLP group to make it easy to find. If you have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can add it to your activities and use it for free!

Some of my students do better with low-tech paper materials instead of using the iPad, so I also made a printable version of the same questions, which I laminated and bound into a book for the teachers of those students. I wanted to give away the book as a freebie, but one of the restrictions of using Boardmaker Online is that I am not supposed to give away PDF versions of materials that I create using the Boardmaker symbols, because of the copyright laws. However, I am allowed to sell materials, so long as I credit Mayer-Johnson as the source of the graphics.

In order to respect the law 🙂 and also share what I’ve made, I have two versions of the printable WHAT questions. If you have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can download the printable version for free off of the Boardmaker Online website. When you logon, search for “Ms Petersen SLP” in the groups, and when you join, you will find all of the activities I’ve made so far to share.

If you do not have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can still get the printable version of WHAT questions with visual answers for emerging communicators from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


Further reading:

(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very useful).

To wrap up the unit on wh-questions, this week we did books and activities which feature ALL of the wh-questions mixed together. It is important to make sure that students understand each of the wh-questions separately before mixing them altogether, but once you have checked or taught each of the wh-questions, it’s time to bring on the challenge!

My theme this week was Robert Munsch books. His books were some of my favorites when I was a child, and I love sharing favorite books with my students today. Munsch books are always a hit with the students, who love the silly themes and ridiculous (but *almost* realistic) reactions of the characters.

Our first book was “Purple, Green and Yellow”, about a girl who begs for her mother to buy her markers, and ends up coloring herself all over with “super-indelible-never-come-off-til-you’re-dead-and-maybe-even-later” coloring markers. The opportunities for wh-questions are almost endless: Who was in the story? What did Brigid want from her mom? Why did Brigid color herself? Who did mom call to help? Etc.

After the story the students took a quiz of wh-questions, and did a coloring activity based on the book.

CLICK HERE for the wh-quiz and activity.

CLICK HERE to listen to Robert Munsch reading Purple, green, and yellow.

Our second book was Thomas’ Snowsuit – a silly story about a boy who does *not* want to wear a snowsuit outside. He ends up getting it on both his teacher AND his principal, and then back onto himself, before he runs out to play. Our activities and questions were very similar to the day before, so I won’t post them here, but  CLICK HERE to listen to Robert Munsch reading Thomas’ Snowsuit.

WHAT are you doing this summer?
WHERE are you going?
WHO is going with you?
WHEN are you going?
Are you excited for your plans? WHY or WHY NOT?

Because she is the sort of woman I hope to become.

WHY questions are tricky. I do a unit on WHY questions almost every year in the primary intensive support classroom, because a) they are more abstract, which makes them harder to answer, and b) they are so incredibly FUNCTIONAL. Students need to be able to answer ‘why’ questions on a daily basis, particularly at school. Starting with themselves, students are regularly asked to explain their actions (“Why are you late to school?”) and their feelings (“Why are you upset?”). WHY questions are also imbedded in classroom curriculum EVERYWHERE. (“Why did the plant grow? Why did you chose that answer? Why did the character in the book do _______?”). Asking and answering questions is also imbedded in the Common Core Standards.

You can find my previous post on WHY questions HERE.

This year I added the book “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney. I loved this book when I was growing up. It follows a girl named Alice as she learns about life from her grandfather. His most important piece of advice to her in the book is “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Alice grows up, does many things, and eventually decides to plant lupines as her piece of beauty.

WHY questions to ask while reading this book:

  • Why did Alice’s grandpa come to America?
  • Why did Alice want to travel when she grew up?
  • Why did people start calling her Miss Rumphius?
  • Why did the grown-up Miss Rumphius have to stay in bed for so long?
  • Why did Miss Rumphius decide to plant lupines?
  • Why did her hair turn white?
  • Why were lupines growing all over the headlands at the end of the book?

After reading the book, we made a poster of what we could each do to make the world a more beautiful place. We used tempera paint to make thumb print lupines up the side of our posters. I found the activity on this blog, and the worksheet is located HERE.

Miss Rumphius writing activity

You can listen and watch Miss Rumphius being read aloud on YouTube, if you cannot find a copy of the book at your local library.

Continuing our work on wh-questions, this week we finished up working on WHERE questions. WHERE questions are asking about a place. Often students will answer WHERE questions with an associated object or a person instead of with a place (eg: “Where do you keep eggs?” “Chicken!”).

I’ve previously worked on WHERE questions, so check out the other post here.

This unit I added a new book, by Eric Litwin & James Dean.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes – by Eric Litwin & James Dean

I had never read Pete the Cat books until a teacher friend pointed them out to me last year. This particular book is fantastic for asking WHERE questions! Pete the Cat is traveling around the school, and the book asks “Where is Pete going?” on almost every page. It is fun, and the kids love the song Pete sings throughout the book.

CLICK HERE for a Pete the Cat MAZE!

Here is the Pete the Cat song!

And here is a great video of the whole story!

What have we been working on in the primary intensive support classroom?

Answering WHAT questions!

Many kids with receptive language deficits have difficulty answering wh-questions: questions starting with what, who, where, when, and why. My students usually understand question/answer format, but they have difficulty listening to the specific question, and understanding what kind of answer they need to give. So, we work on each question type individually. We have spent the past two weeks working on answering questions starting with ‘what.’

WHAT questions are asking about things, or things that happen.

What’s Under My Bed? By James Stevenson

What’s Under My Bed? By James Stevenson

This is a book I remember from my childhood. Two kids are visiting their grandpa, and they get scared by a scary story and run to their grandpa for comfort. Grandpa tells them of the time he was visiting his grandparents, and all of the things he [thought] he saw under his bed! The book is full of opportunities to ask and answer ‘what’ questions. What was under his bed? What did he think was under his bed? What did he do when he was scared? What did his grandparents do to make him feel better?

After reading the book, we did a coloring page where the students had to think of one thing that was scary, and one thing that was not scary. Then, they decided which thing they wanted to imagine under their bed.

CLICK HERE for the directions. CLICK HERE for the activity page.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback

This delightful book has a song that goes with it! The story is about a man who has an overcoat that gets worn out. When it has too many holes to use, he makes a jacket out of it. Then when the jacket gets too many holes, he makes a vest. He goes through a whole series of smaller and smaller items, until he is left with nothing.

WHAT questions for this book focused on the items. What did Joseph make first? What did he make after that? What did he make third?

Our activity page had pictures of all of the items from the book, and the kids had to sort them into the correct order. It was nice for the group leaders, because we only had to remember one question: What did Joseph make next?

CLICK HERE for the directions. CLICK HERE for the activity page.

Today is a happy day!

WHY is it a happy day?


When you ask a ‘why’ question, you have to answer with a reason. Answers to ‘why’ questions often begin with the word “because” or “so that…” Our last unit in the primary intensive support classroom focused on answering ‘why’ questions. The kids did so well! ‘Why’ questions are the trickiest, because they are the most abstract. They are important for school, though, because how else do you figure out how things work, or the reason things happen?

We focused on several books, one of which I found for FREE on the internet!

My Father, the Dog – by Elizabeth Bluemle & Randy Cecil

I found this wonderful book in our school library. Each page details one way that the girl in the story knows that her father is really a dog. They both scratch in the morning, they both play tug of war, they both pee in the bushes… Every page gives you the opportunity to ask the same question: WHY does the girl think her dad is a dog?

After reading this book, we made comparisons between ourselves and other animals.
I am like a dog because I like running. I am like a frog because I jump! I am like a rhino because I’m sometimes grumpy.

CLICK HERE for activity. CLICK HERE for directions.

Animals should definitely not wear clothing – by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett

I remember reading this book when I was a kid. Each page features a different animal trying to wear clothes, and showing the disastrous results!
Why should a porcupine not wear clothes?
Why should a kangaroo not wear clothes?
Why should a camel not wear clothes?

After the bookwe made a picture showing another animal, and explaining why it should not wear clothes. So fun!

CLICK HERE for directions. CLICK HERE for the activity.

Why, Monkey, Why? – by Jamie Sue Austin

This book was written and self-published by Jamie Sue Austin, who I’ve never met. Every page has Monkey doing something, and a brief explanation of what Monkey needs, and why. “Monkey needs soap. Why does Monkey need soap? Because he is washing his hands.” Each page is missing the object Monkey needs, which is printed on a separate page so that the kids can add it to the picture. I printed the pages of the book, laminated the objects, and we did it as a group activity before having a muffin party on the last day of speech. You can print it to use at home, too!

CLICK HERE for the book.

Moving right along… WHEN questions! A when question is asking about time. You can answer a when question with a specific time (3:15pm), a descriptive time (morning, lunchtime), a prepositional time (after we finish reading) or a situational time (when I’m hungry).

Today is Monday, by Eric Carle.

Everyone loves food! This book is particularly good for asking when questions because each page has a small number of words, and includes the name of the food and the day of the week. We read through the book and asked questions about which food was eaten on each day.

When did they eat string beans? On Monday! When did they eat spaghetti? On Tuesday! When did they eat soup? On Wednesday!

There is a song to go with the book (or is the book to go with the song?). It would be a great way to review the book at home!

Caps, Hats, Socks, and Mittens, by Louise Borden and Lillian Hoban.

Caps, Hats, Socks, and Mittens

This book focuses on the seasons, which is an easy way to talk about time. We started by reviewing each of the seasons, and then while reading through the book I asked questions about the activities or objects that were in the pictures.

When do the leaves fall of the trees? When do we celebrate Halloween? When does it get cold? When do you make snowballs? When do flowers bloom? When do we celebrate the 4th of July?

In small groups we practiced by making seasons posters. I glued pictures of the seasons in the four corners of a large piece of paper, and the students each got a set of small pictures showing different objects or activities. They colored their pictures, and then sorted and glued them near the appropriate season.

CLICK HERE for the poster activity.

I also found a BINGO game on in the materials exchange. It’s the same as the ‘where’ Bingo game, but with ‘when’ questions instead. Fun!

CLICK HERE for the Bingo boards. CLICK HERE for the Bingo cards.

The last part of the WHEN unit we haven’t even done yet! I made an interactive quiz to get some data on how much my students have learned in our WHEN unit. For the speech therapists who have Boardmaker Plus, you can find my when quiz HERE on

When will it be summer break? SOON!

We worked on WHO questions last month, and worked on WHERE questions this month.

A WHERE question is asking about a PLACE. They are trickier than WHO or WHAT questions because the answers are not always as obvious. Often students associate people or things with places, and will answer questions with the person or thing instead.

Example: Where do you check out books? Answer: Mr. Tschacher! (the librarian).
No, Mr. Tschacher is a person. I need you to tell me a PLACE. Where do you check out books?
Answer: In the LIBRARY!

I used the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, adapted from the chant. Each time the family gets to a new section of the story, they are in a new place.

WHERE are they now? In the forest. WHERE are they now? In the field. WHERE are they now? In the cave.

After reading the book, we played a board game (made with Boardmaker) based on the book. The students answered WHERE questions as they moved around the board.

CLICK HERE to download the board game (2 pages).

On another day we played BINGO! The same basic BINGO rules, with 3×3 boards. I found the BINGO game on one of my favorite speech therapy websites,, on their materials exchange.

CLICK HERE for the BINGO boards
CLICK HERE for the BINGO cards

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been working on several new things, including orienting a graduate student intern who is working with me this quarter, developing some new materials, and spring break! I have to catch up on what we’ve been doing in the primary intensive support classroom – WH- QUESTIONS!

For review, the wh-questions are:

  • who – asking about a person, character in a book, or named animal
  • what – asking about a thing or event
  • where – asking about a place
  • when – asking about something time related
  • why – asking for a reason

I target wh-questions multiple times per year, with many of the students on my caseload, because problems with these questions are so common, and understanding these questions is so important! I can’t tell you how many times I ask a student “who is your friend?” and they respond “recess!”

We have been focusing on WHO questions in the primary intensive support classroom for the past few weeks, of course using books!!

The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza – By Philemon Sturges

This adaption of the classic Little Red Hen story is both engaging and funny. The little red hen is making a pizza, but doesn’t have the ingredients! Who will help her? Each page is full of opportunities to ask WHO questions: Who will go to the store to buy flour? Who will help her roll out the dough? Who will help her put on toppings? Who will help her eat the pizza?

After the story, we did a worksheet where the kids answered questions about the story, and either wrote or drew their answers.

Click here for the worksheet. Click here for the directions.

The Tortoise and the Hare – adapted by Janet Stevens

This retelling of a classic fable was another perfect opportunity to ask WHO questions, since most of the questions have only two possible answers – it’s either the turtle or the rabbit! I used a simple visual of a turtle and a rabbit to help cue the students in to possible answers for my questions (Who ran fast? Who ran slow? Who was rude? Who won the race?). After the story we made masks of either a tortoise or a hare, with the students choosing WHO they wanted to be! The mask was a paper plate with the center cut out, colored either a turtle color or a rabbit color, with ears glued on. So easy! But the kids loved the activity, and it got them answering WHO questions!

(Please don’t judge me for my turtle ears… They don’t actually have external ears, but it made for such a good activity!)

Click here for the tortoise/hare visual. Click here for the activity directions. Click here for the rabbit ear and turtle ear templates.

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Spring break!

Spring break!March 30th, 2018
spring break!

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