I’ve been reading a lot of research articles lately that keep saying over and over: Kids learn best when they’re moving. It makes sense to me. We all know the benefits of exercising, and I notice a huge difference in engagement and motivation when I incorporate movement into my speech-language sessions.
The good news is that adding physical activity into your sessions doesn’t necessarily mean extra prep time for you. In fact, it could mean less—and you might get a break from some of those board games you play 20 times a day. (If there’s ever a Connect Four Vegas-style tournament in the future, I feel very confident in my abilities to come out as a top contender.)
Here are seven fun and easy ways to incorporate movement into sessions:
- Tape worksheets to the wall and ask your students to stand while completing them. For extra fun, they can complete a designated number of squats or toe-touches after finishing a problem. If you want students seated at a table while focusing on a particular target, let them take breaks between questions with chair squats.
- Pair a movement with a language target. For example, lay out singular and plural picture cards. If the goal is to label regular plural objects, your student can say the /s/ ending and simultaneously perform a stretch like a seated twist or arm stretches. Work on verb tense by simply acting out the targets—run, march, jump, twist—then talk about the tense.
- Connect sentences using conjunctions, where students “act” out the conjunction instead of just writing or saying it. For example, I print out pictures of exercises, then write conjunction choices on sticky notes placed on each exercise. Your student might jump for “and” or complete a lunge to represent “nor.” Use this same concept to match answers with a specific movement. Depending on the answer, your student can hop, march, jump or lunge a picture to the correct answer choice taped to the wall.
- Likewise, your students can follow directions while completing exercises: “Before you hop on one foot three times, do two squats.” Or sequence the steps to a movement activity: “First, we hold a jump rope handle in each hand. Next .…”
- Are you working on figurative language? Take a walk around the school. Discuss idioms such as “speaking out of turn,” “turning heads” or “turning over a new leaf,” while physically turning as you walk. You could also explain the meaning of figurative language such as “watch your step,” “step aside” or “step-by-step.”
- For phonological awareness goals, ask your student to complete one repetition of an exercise for each syllable in a word. A three-syllable word means three push-ups. You can also tape a smile sticky-note on one shoe and a frown on the other. (I know, we love those visuals!) Ask for toe touches to the correct answer choice when determining if a word rhymes or not.
- Pair speech sounds with movements, exercises or yoga poses. If you’re working on /m/, have your students march in place. If you’re working on the /ch/ sound, the child’s pose is wonderful to complete after saying the target word a specified number of times. Tape articulation cards on the wall just above a child’s reach. Ask your student to jump and tap the target card.
Once you get started with incorporating movement-based activities into sessions, more ideas will flow—and I’d love to hear what’s worked best for you in the comments section below!
Karen Krogg, MS, CCC-SLP, a clinician for Tecumseh Local Schools in New Carlisle, Ohio, has experience in schools and outpatient settings. She also creates treatment materials and shares treatment ideas on her blog, The Pedi Speechie. firstname.lastname@example.org