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Bringing Therapy Outside the Therapy: Part One Why?

Speech and language therapy can happen just about anywhere, and in some cases unfortunately does. We have all either heard or experienced having to do therapy in closets, in the hall or some other challenging part of a school.  Given all that,  I'm a big fan of switching up therapy and taking it out of the therapy room or the classroom.  Some people may be reading this and thinking, I can't do that.  It can sometimes take more planning.  It can make working on goals harder.  What if what you are targeting you can't find while out of the class/therapy room?  How do you take data?  Are you allowed to leave the building?  What about confidentiality?  I will admit that these can be challenges but with some problem solving, it can be a fantastic experience for you and your students.

Why do I like mixing up where I do therapy?  There are a few answers.  

1. Generalization

You probably have had a student that can perform a skill when they are with you, and in the therapy room, but the minute you change something up, it's like they have never done it before.  It like taking a test, if you take an exam in the room that you learned the material, you are statistically likely to do better than if you took the test in another place.  Changing up therapy will allow children to work on skills in other environments with supports and hopefully lessen the effects of the therapy room. 

2. Makes the Activities More Difficult

Aside from generalization, it will make the activity harder.  Odds are the places you may go for therapy may provide more visual or auditory stimulation.  This makes the task even ones the children are very familiar with more challenging.  

3. Boredom

I will admit that I sometimes get bored working in the same room all the time and to be honest sometimes my students do too.  

4.  Therapy can look different when you are outside the therapy room

You may be moving around or don't have access to your therapy materials.  When I mix it up, I'm working on functional skills in more real-world situations. 

5. It can provide some form of exercise

Depending on what you are doing, it can provide some form of exercise.  I am a big fan of being outside when you can.  Taking nature walks or walks around the neighbourhood, also allow children to get some exercise and move around which helps some children concentrate not only during your session but when they go back to class.

Next blog post will be about how to do therapy outside the therapy room, and the next one will be about where you do therapy.

Bring Children's Lit into Therapy with "The Apple Pie Tree"

Zoe Hall's book, "The Apple Pie Tree" is a story that talks about what happens to and around an apple tree throughout the year and ends with the children baking an apple pie.  It is also a great book to work on a variety of speech and language skills.  Here are some ideas to use it in therapy.


1. /p/ sound:  pie, petals, papa, peel, picked, pan, pile, apple(s), open, top

2. /b/ sound: bare, bee, but, building, buds, baby, birds,  big, bend, basket, Robin(s),

3. Blends: grow, brown, spring, branch, tree, flower, break, blossoms, breeze, blow, ground, fly, strong, small, brim, sprinkle, smells, taste,


1. Plurals: There are many opportunities to work on plurals. E.g., Robin/Robins  Looking at the illustrations and talking about the pictures to work on plurals.  

2. Verbs and verb tenses: grow, watch, build, chirp, guard, open, break, cover, blow, fall, teach, fly, rain, visit, bend, cover, pick, help, cut, pile, sprinkle, cook, eat, smell, and taste. Ask what is happening in the story or have the children act it out in play to build understanding and use of verbs. 

3. Describing the illustrations:  Many of the pictures include items/ideas that are not talked about explicitly in the text.  For example, they talk about summer and show children playing in a sprinkler.   This would also be great to start to work on inferencing.

4. Sequencing: There are many great opportunities to describe sequences.  The book talks about the change in seasons.  It talks about the life cycle of Robins.  It talks about the life cycle of an apple, and it also shares a recipe for how to make apple pie.  Additionally, the back of the book has a section where they talk about how bees pollinate flowers. 

Supplemental Activities

1. Sensory Bins:  Make a sensory bin out of oats, flour, apple pie spice, cinnamon sticks,  and real/fake/counting apples.  Add in measuring cups, measuring spoons, muffins tins, and spoons.  Have children pretend to make apple pie.  Use some of the vocabulary from the book.  Note: if you have students that are gluten-free or are allergic to any ingredients from the sensory bin, please do not add them. 

2. Make Apple Pie: There is an apple pie recipe at the back of the book that you can make with the students.  You can also use tart shells so that everyone's dietary restrictions can be accommodated.  Talk about the steps you need to do to make the pie.  Focus on verbs, use many that are in the story.  When the pies are done, talk about the pie's smell and the pie's taste. 

3. Make a large apple tree out of paper:  Hang it up on a wall and add apples for the children to pick.  Add different colour and size apples for children to work on following directions. Alternatively, go through the year with the tree starting with snow, then flowers, then leaves, then apples, then leaves falling.  

4. Have children sort objects by seasons.  Sort a variety of objects by when you see them/use them during the different seasons.  For a season sorting file folder and class activity visit here.

5. Watch videos with time-lapsed video of a life cycle of an apple tree. Talk about what the children see.  Have the children answer questions about the video.

6. Have children plant apple seeds in a clear cup.  Have the take of their plants.  Have them make observations on regular intervals.

These are some of my ideas.  How would you use this book?

Five Favourite SLP Preschool Circle Activities

Coming up with whole group/circle time activities can be challenging.  Here are five activities that children love, and you will be able to target a variety of language skills.  If you would like some tips to thrive during whole group activities, go here.

1.  “Where Did my Shoes Go?” 

Targets: Prepositions, Ask and Answer Where Questions
Materials Needed: Shoes, chair, “Where did my Shoes go” from Talk it Rock it (optional), Visuals

How to Play: Take off your shoes and place them under, beside, on, in front, or behind the chair (depending on the prepositions you are working on) and sit down. If you are using the song, “Where did my Shoes go?” play it first.  It is quite long so I usually on play part of it.  When the song is done, look down and pretend to be surprised/sad/confused and point out that your shoes are missing.  Ask the children for help.  The children will often point and say, “there.”  Point the visuals as you look around for your shoes.  When you find your shoes, reinforce where you found them. Have the children close their eyes and hide your shoes again. You can go through this a couple of rounds.

2. Introducing He and She pronouns

Targets: he, she, categorization of boys and girls
Materials needed: visuals of a boy and girl

Note: I realize that teaching male and female pronouns can be controversial.  I will honour a families wish not to work directly on this goal with their child. However, I also recognize that other children and adults can get offended if they are referred to by the wrong gender pronoun.

How to play:  I also introduce he and she in a preschool class by working on identifying if a child is a boy or a girl. I will have each child come up and say their name along with the close-ended phrase where the other children will identify the child as a boy or a girl. Then I will say, “name is a s/he.” The whole interaction goes like this. “Johnny, your turn.”  Johnny comes up.  I say to the rest of circle, “Johnny is a …” the class responds, “boy.”  I say, “Johnny is a he.”    

3. Feed the Puppets

Targets: he and she, categorization
Materials needed: a male and a female puppet, two categories of food.

How to play:  Put a puppet on each hand.  Have the food in a large basket or spread out over the floor.  Talk about how the puppets are hungry and need help to eat. Tell the children what food to pick up and which puppet to feed.  E.g., “She wants a fruit.”  The child would then pick up an apple and feed the female puppet.  Have the puppets pretend to eat the food if the child gives you the correct food.  Pretend that the puppet loves it and thank the child.  If the child picks food from the wrong category, have the puppet overreact that they don’t want to eat that food.  E.g., “No, No, No!  I don’t like …”  I will also have the puppet close its mouth and turn away from the child.  Encourage the child to pick food from the correct category.

4. Matman

Targets: identifying and naming body parts.
Materials needed: whiteboard, dry erase markers, eraser, visuals “Matman” song (optional)

How to play:  there are two basic games I will describe here.  For more ideas on how to use Matman go here.  Game 1: Draw a person on the whiteboard.  Have the children come up and tell them what body part to erase. When they wipe the body part, redraw that body part. Game 2: Have the children close their eyes. Erase a part of the body.  Have the children identify what body part you erased. For more ideas on how to use Matman in group therapy, go here

5. Action Spinner

Targets: Identifying and naming actions
Materials needed: Cards with different actions on it, “All Turn it Spinner” and a switch (optional), materials to help do the actions (e.g., if you have an open card, have a box with a lid).  

How to play: If you are using a spinner and a switch, place the cards around the spinner. Have the children come up one at a time and push the switch.  The child then names and/or acts out the action on the picture of the card. Depending on the actions chosen, I will have the children also act out the actions.  Alternatively, if you don’t have a spinner then have them pull some cards from your hand and then complete the activity as above.

Here are just five effective activities that you can do at circle. Click here for lesson plans. What are your favourite whole group activities?