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A bear, a gorilla, and new friends!

One of my favorite teaching tools (other than music and play) are books! Books are great to develop children's literacy skills, to teach them new vocabulary and sentence structures, to improve their attention span, and to stimulate their imagination. Here I'll share some of my favorites books, and how I use them in therapy.

1. Brown Bear 

speech therapy activities

This is my favorite book to use with small children and non-verbal children. It consists of pictures of animals in different colors, and a very simple and repetitive text. I never READ the book, I just label the animals and make the animals sounds. I also try to give each animal a movement or tactile cue. For example, for the frog, I move the book up and down (simulating jumping), as I say "ribit, ribit." For the cat, I stroke the child's forearm, as I say "miau." With Brown Bear I target the following goals:

Sound Imitation: Since several animals sounds include early developing sounds (i.e. baa, nee, miau, woof) they are great to encourage first imitations. Some children may need to see this book several times before they finally begin to imitate the sounds, so be patient! The key is repetition, repetition, repetition! 

Identify/label body parts: With this picture I label all basic body parts (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, head), and then I ask the child to point to his/her body parts.

speech therapy activities

Count 1 to 10: Using the picture below, I point to each child as I count them. My patient is always number 10. To make it fun, I always tickle them as I say "10!" This creates a fun factor and expectation. Kids just love it! I always ask the child to count with me, and when needed, I use hand over hand instruction to point to the children on the book.

speech therapy activities

Identify/label colors and animals: With this final picture I ask the child to point to different animals or different colors, by saying something like "Which animal is blue?" or "Show me the dog." To target labeling, I point to a picture and ask "What color is this bird?" or "What animal is this?"



 2. Good Night Gorilla 

speech therapy activities

This is pretty much a wordless book. It shows how a Gorilla follows the zookeeper on his rounds and let all of the other animals out of their cages. It is great to use with children that are working on action words, and wh-questions (who? what? where?).

Label action words: This book is filled with actions. You can have the child label the actions by asking him/her to be the "teacher" and tell you the story. If more prompting is needed you can go through the pictures and say something like "Oh! Look here! "What is x doing?" I'm attaching a document with a lesson plan to target actions. It includes a list of all the action words you can find in this book.


Irregular past tense: This is a great book to work on irregular past tense. First, I tell the story by describing the pictures using present progressive-ing. Then, before flipping the page I ask the child the question "What did x do?" For example: "Oh oh! The Gorilla is taking the zookeeper's keys! And look! Here is a mouse holding a balloon!" Then I point to the Gorilla and ask the child "What did he do?" If the child says "he is taking the keys" I prompt him/her to use the past tense by saying "he did it already!" (he took the keys). 

speech therapy activities

Answer wh-questions: To target "who," "what," "where," I describe the pictures to the child and then I ask the questions. For example, using the picture below I say: "Here the girl is sleeping on the bed, and the zookeeper is taking his shoes off. He is getting ready to go to bed! The Gorilla is yawning, because he is very tired too! And look! The other animals are sleeping on the floor" Then I ask: "Who is yawning?" "What is the zookeeper doing?" "Where are the animals sleeping?" Depending on how much prompting the child needs, I can point to the pictures as I ask the questions, or I give them part of the answer (i.e "Where are the animals sleeping?" -"On the...").

speech therapy activities

Also, I always use this last picture to encourage inferencing by asking "Who do you think ate the banana?" And "why do you think that?"

speech therapy activities


3. Learning with Yaya Opposites 

speech therapy activities

This "sing along" book includes a variety of descriptive concepts (i.e. slow/fast, hot/cold, quiet/loud, clean/dirty), that have been associated with familiar objects and situations that children can relate to. You can target 24 descriptive concepts with this book.

I usually play the song first, and then look at the book.  When I only use the book to teach the concepts I always make sure to emphasize the target words by adding an action to it. For example, for "fast" I move my arms as if I was running, for "quiet" I place my index finger in front of my mouth and say "shh," for "heavy" I  pick up my bag and pretend it is really heavy.

Here is the song:

Identify descriptive concepts: To work on identification, I just show the book to the child and ask him/her to point to the pictures by saying something like "Here we have soup (point) and ice cream (point). Which one is cold?" 

Use descriptive concepts: The song/book was written with this goal in mind. The target words are always at the end of the sentence and they are repeated 3 times. This way is easy to encourage children to use/imitate the words. To work on labeling, I just sing the song, using the book (without music, and taking my time with each concept), and let the child "fill in the blanks." For example: "Tigers and bunnies are...." if the child needs more prompting I say "fast..." and wait for the child to finish the sentence (fast, fast). 

speech therapy activities     

At the end of the book there is a section that shows what each character likes and why, followed by a "complete in the blank" page. To complete this page I simply ask the child "What do you like?" and "Why do you like x?" If the child doesn't have the language to complete the sentence, I select something I know he/she likes and provide modeling by saying something like "I think you like puppies! You can say I like puppies because they are soft."


If you liked what you read, join us in our Facebook group: Resources for bilingual children with speech delays, where we will be sharing activities and materials to promote speech and language development.

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Yael Herszkopf Mayer MS, CCC-SLP is a pediatric, bilingual (English/Spanish) Speech and Language Pathologist and the creator of Learning with Yaya. She received her Masters of Science degree in Speech and Language Pathology- Bilingual Extension from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Clinical Psychology from Universidad de Iberoamérica in Costa Rica. 


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