Extending Activities Across Multiple Sessions

Monday, January 16, 2017

As speech language pathologists, we encourage teachers and parents to read the same book repeatedly, each time diving deeper into the plot, vocabulary, character analysis, inferencing what may happen next or alternate endings, etc. [Learn more about research that supports repeated book reading here]. Yet, when it comes to our own practice, we do not always apply the same principles. We may limit activities to one therapy session with a designated starting and end point. We do so with the best intentions. Not to mention that we have [crazy busy] schedules to adhere to. Hear me out though.... by changing our thinking we can actually save ourselves time in planning (gasp!) while helping our students dive deeper into the linguistic complexity of our materials and allowing them to access them from altering learning styles. 

Chances are you have a bunch of materials that you could adapt to this philosophy, digging a bit deeper each subsequent session, adapting to meet varying learning styles along the way. I am going to walk you through how I spread out an activity to go with 5 Little Penguins over several sessions, differentiating within mixed groups. As you are reading through, think how you can use your materials to extend across multiple sessions.

Read, read, read. I used a simple story that I wrote about 5 Little Penguins Sitting on the Sled. You will likely recognize the predictable tune and format. In the book, the penguins perform various actions on the sled and then one inevitably falls off (poor little guy). I use this as an opportunity to REVIEW: Review what the student's goals are and determine how they are addressing them that day. Are they working on verb tenses, identifying words with their target sound, pacing, identifying pictured objects, identifying actions in pictures, sequencing, increasing MLU by filling in predictable words in the story, etc.  EXPLORE: What do you think this story will be about? What pictures do you see on the cover? What is same/different about the penguins? ADVENTURE: Every book opens up a new world to adventure. Engage in the adventure of learning as you read the book together. DIALOGUE: The format of predictable books naturally lends itself to student participation. Have students take turns acting out who is mama (or they can pretend it is papa penguin). Introduce new vocabulary. I work with a low SES population so introducing new vocabulary whenever I can is important. The last little penguin is surfing on the sled which led to a whole discussion (and a comical demonstration by yours truly) on what surfing is. The majority of this lesson played to my auditory and visual learners. Each student also took home their own mini book that they could read at home. While I recognize that you may not have a mini book of the book that you read, do you have a related stamp, sticker, paper bracelet, brag tag, etc. that you could offer your students to encourage them to talk about the story outside of the session?

Play! What do you have that you can use to create a structured play environment that targets student goals? Do you have a sensory bin that you can set up with thematic items or task cards that review the story that you read last time? We used penguins that were differentiated by target goal to act out the story. The students had fun acting out the song with our penguins that displayed their "name" on the card. For example, "Kite fell off and bumped his head!" We used binder clips or clothes pins to make our penguins stand up on the sled and dramatically bump their heads as they fell off. It was a great opportunity to capture data at the word and sentence level for articulation goals and allowed for descriptive language practice as the green turtle or yellow sun penguins fell off. We were also able to interact targeting prepositional concepts (put the kite next to the key) and temporal concepts (the kite fell off before the key).  By allowing students to PRETEND, they LEARN how to incorporate their targeted skills into their play. Allow students to ACT out their own pretend play with the penguins. I learned how creative some of my students can be! Learning through play, makes your students YEARN for more! When students ask to bring the manipulative home (and they will, believe me) you  can assure them that they will get their own set as we move to session three...

Make! Now truth be told, as fun as craftivities can be, they would likely make me pull my hair out if I did them every session. What I love about using craftivities when extending activities across sessions is that it feels more doable. The vocabulary has been introduced, we are simply interacting with it in a another way to make it more salient. MAXIMIZE: The penguin creativity rides on the coat tails of the last session's interactive play. Students follow directions as they color and cut out their penguins before gluing them onto folded index cards. AID: They now have their very own set of visual aids to KEEP for practice at home! I also included a quick parent note with a quick tip to EMPOWER them to help with home practice and keep the lines of communication open. One of my favorite things about a craftivity is that while I drill one student's goal, the other students have a productive activity to keep them busy learning.

STEAM based learning, while it is currently the big buzz word around town in the world of education, it really is intuitive for many of us as we often try to tie a hand-on learning approach to the curriculum to best serve our students. When I ask students, teachers and parents to describe a student's learning style, more often than not, the answer is either "hands-on" or "a combination of seeing, hearing and hands-on learning." A couple months ago, I let my students try their hand at a Candy Corn Challenge and they were hooked. I loved the language opportunities that were naturally embedded into the activity as we planned out the challenge, compared/contrasted outcomes, described our creations, etc. For the Penguin Sled Challenge, I wanted to provide an engaging language opportunity that also rewarded their hard work. Students have to earn their materials by working on their target goals (sneaky, sneaky I know...). For example, for every language task correctly complete or 5-10 correct articulation productions, the student will earn a popsicle stick. To take it a step further, students targeting articulation can generate their own target words, increasing phonological awareness, and then write the word on their popsicle stick. Once a student earns their materials, he/she will complete the challenge to build a sled (using popsicle sticks and play dough) that will hold 5 penguins. Once they complete the challenge, they will then complete a written language task (masked as a reflection) to provide even more language opportunities! I incorporate technology by having students take a photo of their creation and upload it to their SeeSaw profile. We can then incorporate descriptive concepts as we compare/contrast photos of sleds created by different students.

I hope that this got you thinking on how you can use materials that you have to extend speech/language opportunities across multiple sessions. You don't need to necessarily complete the same sequence of exploration or the same activities, but essentially give yourself grace to continue on with a set activity in the next session. For me, it helped me relax my thinking from having to complete a set # of tasks in a session and allowed me to enjoy the experience in a natural succession, lending to authentic learning that didn't feel rushed. Here is a link to the activity that I used as an example if you would like a Grab n' Go way to try it out. I'd love to hear what ideas you all come up with. Leave a comment below or email me with your adaptations!

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