Summer Speech Therapy- Don’t Forget the Academics
I am one of the odd ones when it comes to working in the summer. I actually really, really enjoy it. The kids come in excited and refreshed. They didn't just get done with a full day of school so they're eager to work, or "play" as we often call it.
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One of my most favorite age groups to work with are the kids that are just about to enter kindergarten. I love working on letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and fine motor skills. I wanted to be a teacher before I learned about speech language pathology, so the way I geek out over activities that work on more that speech and language doesn't surprise me.
I frequently ask teachers what they would ideally would love for their students to know or be able to do when they walk into their classroom on the first day. I use the skills they mention and try to add them into my therapy activities. I am listing some of my favorite activities here. Most of these activities, or something similar, can be done by parents as well as therapists.
Read! When reading books with your kids, talk about the cover before you even open it. Point out the title, the author, and the illustrator. These are skills that the kids should have in kindergarten. Discuss what the author and illustrator's jobs entail. Later, let them draw a picture of the best part of the book and explain that they are being an illustrator! If your child is working on articulation skills, point out words that have the target sound in them when reading. Depending on your child's age/ability, say the words wrong on purpose and have them "teach" you the correct production. They usually enjoy this and think it's pretty hilarious. Of course when reading you can also work on answering questions, labeling, and story grammar (characters, setting, problem, solution, etc)
You can also check out Vooks and StorylineOnline for fun, online versions of stories.
Calendar Skills! When my students come in the room, the first thing we talk about is the calendar. Understanding how a calendar works is a great life skill and something they will use in school. We name the days of the week and the month (there are great youtube songs to help teach this!) This is a great way to also work on number recognition and counting. Talk about what day it is today, what day tomorrow will be, and what day was yesterday. Any special events coming up? Make those down, too! I bought this pocket chart calendar from amazon.
Fine Motor! Writing and cutting are important skills your students and children should have when entering kindergarten. Have your student practice writing his/her name. If you're working on a specific speech sound, have them practice writing that letter. (I like to use a yellow highlighter and have the child trace over what I wrote for practice in the beginning.)Talk about the letters and what sounds they make. Cutting and ripping paper are also good motor skills.
Following Directions! Play fun games with your kids to work on following directions, like Simon Says. Being able to follow directions is a big deal in kindergarten. If kids don’t quite understand what their teachers are asking them to do, it can affect their participation, their learning, and their success in the classroom. In a 2018 study, researchers noticed the importance of instructional verbs and wanted to see if the verbs could be learned during interactive shared reading experiences. Five kindergarten teachers selected 12 verbs that they believed children should know by the end of the kindergarten school year: identify, predict, match, sort, create, select, illustrate, locate, describe, discuss, respond, and demonstrate. Try using those verbs during speech activities to help better prepare your kids for school!
Counting! Number identification, naming, and one to one correspondence are all important skills. For example, a child should know what the number 3 looks like, be able to say the number when he/she sees it, and count 3 objects. I use any opportunity I can to count objects. Last week we made pizzas out of play doh and counted how many toppings were on each one. We also tied in receptive and expressive language, role playing, symbolic play, requesting, and asking questions. Probably the most requested activity that I get to address counting with is with Easter eggs. Who cares if it's July, your students will almost aways be down for an egg hunt. Any small items work, but I love using the colored counting bears to stuff the eggs. You can also target naming colors and sorting with them, too! Here are some options to purchase on amazon. I put a certain number of counting bears in the eggs, hid them, then let my student find the eggs. This was a great opportunity to work on spatial skills (I found the egg UNDER the chair!) When all the eggs are found, we open them up one by one and count them. I use a sheet that has the numbers we are working with and the matching number of dots under the written one for a little extra help.
Pro tip: Assess their number knowledge first. If your student counts like, "One, two, three, fourteen, eleven....." only focus on numbers 0-5 so you don't over whelm them. Set them up for success. If they are being asked to count to multiple numbers they don't know, they will just get frustrated.
When my students get tired of practicing articulation words, I pull out the nerf guns! I use a binder clip on the bottom of flash cards and let them shoot away. They have to tell me the word they are trying to get first, then say the word(s) that they knocked down. If they're more advanced, we make a sentence for the words. This would work great with flashcards for colors, shapes, sight words, math problems, vocabulary... anything.
There are tons of fun and free activities you can find on Pinterest that can target these skills in a fun way. I am a huge fan of themes and love reading books and completing activities that go along with a theme. My entire Pinterest board is organized by theme. You can check it out, here.
These are a few more great websites I like to use:
Starfall.com (I love this for preschool skills- lots of letters, counting songs, and more)
Pinkcatgames.com (tons of academic games that let you filter by age, grade, and subject)
Research study mentioned for following directions: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1525740117745639?journalCode=cdqc