I enjoy using interactive activities to help my students learn language. I work with many emergent communicators—children relying on speech-generating devices (SGDs) and other methods of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to communicate. I model and teach them how to use core vocabulary (the most frequently used words in conversation) during interactive movement.
Here are some ways I integrate core vocabulary into movement activities that you can try, too:
Singing and dancing
Sing the “Hokey-Pokey” to your student. Place a hula hoop or box on the ground or hold it in the air. Help your student say the words “in” and “out” each time he or she places a hand, foot, shoulder or elbow inside the hula hoop or takes it out.
Sing “Ring around the Rosie” to your student. While singing “We all fall,” pause and help your student select “down” on his or her method of AAC before sitting down on the floor. Likewise, target “up” when you stand back up together.
No matter what song you sing, your student can request “more” or to “stop.”
Indoor movement and play
If you’re stuck indoors, get moving by marching around the room together. Target words such as “go” and “stop” while doing so.
If your student walks on a balance beam, talk about how he or she gets “on” and “off” the beam. When your students make a “turn,” discuss it. If you don’t own a beam, put a line of tape on the floor and walk it while trying to stay “on” the line. You can also practice “go” and “stop” and “fast” and “slow” with this activity.
Sometimes, just keep it simple. Do things such as jumping “up” and “down” together. Hide “under” a table together. Walk around and play “I Spy” and tell your student to “look” at each item while describing if it’s “big” or “small.” “Open” and “close” boxes and cabinets together, while finding hidden items “in” the box. Toss a beanbag “on” to a table or “in” a box.
Outdoor movement and play
When you head outside, head for the swings. Talk about how you “help” your student “on” the swing. Say, “Ready, set…” and then help your student say, “Go!” via his or her AAC method.
Kick or roll a ball back and forth. Tell your student how fun it is to “play” together, and make the ball “stop” and “go.” Bounce a ball “in” or “out” of items.
Ride a bike or scooter with your student. Talk about how you will get “on” the bike. “Help” your student put a helmet “on.” Explain to your student that he or she needs to keep his or her hands “on” the handlebars. Make sure to model vocabulary such as “go,” “stop,” “fast,” “slow” and “turn” for your student.
No matter what activity you try throughout the day, some sort of movement will probably happen. Make sure to talk about what you and your student do all day long. Repeat vocabulary over and over again. Hop, skip, jump, play, sing and dance together—and talk about it as you do!
Karen Krogg, MS, CCC-SLP, a clinician for Tecumseh Local Schools in New Carlisle, Ohio, has experience in schools and in outpatient settings. She also creates treatment materials and shares treatment ideas on her blog, The Pedi Speechie. firstname.lastname@example.org