The holidays can bring complications for SLPs. Particularly in a professional setting, they may find it challenging to navigate the religious components of the season, the variety of holidays observed and the diverse ways of observing the same holiday, and to respect that some people do not observe a specific tradition during this time of year. However, the high-interest, high-context (and omnipresent) nature of the holidays makes them difficult to resist as the topic of intervention for kids. I want to share some ideas for addressing the season with clients from different cultural backgrounds, including some telepractice-friendly resources.
First, SLPs should find out how their school or employer handles the season. To avoid issues altogether, some schools and facilities take a “hands-off” policy when it comes to any non-government holidays. Others may stipulate that faculty or staff approach holidays in a general way. Learn your employer’s policy before planning any holiday-themed intervention or activities.
Categorize, compare and contrast
Many countries and cultures celebrate something this time of year—especially around the winter solstice. Christmas is the most apparent in the United States, but even that holiday is celebrated in many different ways. Prepare to talk about various holidays by looking at a world holiday calendar. You can also perform some pre-teaching with your students on winter holidays. PBS Kids offers a variety of activities inclusive of common traditions as well characters who create their own. After pre-teaching, you might engage younger students in a “wh” question checklist. Additionally, you can target different semantic categories that aren’t specific to one tradition (such as types of food, music, games). With older students you might practice using graphic organizers to compare and contrast different holidays. Scholastic has a worksheet specific to winter celebrations. You can also create your own activity using ReadWriteThink’s online Venn diagram, word matrix and compare/contrast tool.
Values and vocabulary
People often use winter holidays as a time to express personal and community values. Many of these become shared across cultures. They also generate great vocabulary lessons. For example, each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a different principle (Nguzo Saba). These are:
- collective work and responsibility
- cooperative economics
Obviously, some of these concepts are complex. With younger students, however, you can approach them through terms they already know, such as “sharing” or “responsibility.” For older students, take advantage of this opportunity to practice vocabulary-learning strategies, such as LINCS or the Frayer Model. You might also incorporate morphology using tools like word matrices. For students of all ages, use those seven values as the basis for pragmatic language activities, such as turn-taking, and perspective-taking.
Traditions and holidays connect us to our families and communities. They mark the passage of time while somehow transcending it. These qualities, and the fact that almost everyone has some sort of tradition, means they are great for analyzing and generating language.
Whatever your traditions are, may your winter season be warm and happy.
Nate Cornish, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual (English/Spanish) clinician and clinical director for VocoVision and Bilingual Therapies. He is the professional development manager for ASHA Special Interest Group 18, Telepractice; a member of ASHA’s Multicultural Issues Board; and a past president of ASHA’s Hispanic Caucus. Cornish provides clinical support to monolingual and bilingual telepractitioners around the country. He also organizes and presents at various continuing education events, including an annual symposium on bilingualism. Nathan.Cornish@Bilingualtherapies.com