Spring is a time of growth and new beginnings – a great time to try something different in your school-based therapy classroom. Children fresh from spring break can have a renewed energy—the end of the year is fast approaching, after all—and something new and exciting in the classroom can inspire them to make progress like never before. Whether you are an elementary school therapist or have an early intervention therapist job…here are seven spring activities for school-based therapists to help spark your creativity, and get the new season off to a great start.
Speech Sound Match-up
Thanks to Jenn for this idea, which is one of our favorite spring activities for school-based therapists, specifically speech-language pathologists. Make assessments easy by having children go through magazines, newspapers, articles – whatever – to find images that contain a specific speech sound. For added fun, cut out a large version of the speech sound they’ll be using (rolls of paper work great here) and have them glue or tape the images they find to these letters. So, for example, if your student was working on the ‘k’ sound, you’d cut out a large k to which your student would then attach her pictures. Simple, fun, and effective – the best of all worlds.
Spring-Themed Sensory Bin
Thanks to Claudia for sharing the details of this spring-themed sensory bin, which she uses with her pre-k to 3rd-grade students. She fills a bin with small pots, dirt, flowers (plastic or real), plants, rocks, stuffed baby animals, plastic galoshes, gardening tools, and anything else she can think of that makes her ‘think spring.’ She finds that the spring theme gets students excited to dig in and work on such skills as turn-taking, pretend play, sequencing, joint attention, and describing by attributes. They can even have fun planting and growing flowers for the remainder of the school year. This is a great way to get your occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy students talking about what they are feeling—both in their heads and with their hands.
An egg hunt isn’t just for Easter! This is a simple and effective way to get students working on such areas as attributes, comparatives, basic concepts, categories, and prepositions (to name just a few). This part can take a bit of initial prep on your part, but can be used time and time again in your therapy job.
Look around your school-based therapy classroom and come up with places where you can hide those plastic eggs. Then write clues that lead your students to those places. Clues such as, “Look for an egg below something soft,” “Look for an egg behind an educational object,” and, “Look for an egg between two tools,” work great and can get children thinking. Use your imagination and be creative with your hiding places. Once you’ve written the clues, put them in the eggs and hide them where appropriate. You might want to hold one clue back for each student to get them started. Alternatively, you could give them an egg with a clue (and a small treat?) already in it.
Lego Listening Game
Legos can be a useful addition to any school-based therapy classroom, whether for play or instruction. This Lego listening game can be a great way to do both at the same time. To avoid confusion, give players identical sets of blocks (as it applies to size, shape, color, number of pieces, etc.). They’ll also need a flat Lego plate on which to put the pieces. The goal of this exercise is for students to place their Legos on the sheet in exactly the same way based on nothing but verbal instruction.
If you want to work specifically on listening and following instructions (along with the inherent math and fine motor skills), you can describe where to put the Legos. Alternatively, you can designate a player to give the instructions. This is a great way to engage language and social skills simultaneously. Keep in mind that it helps if students can’t see the other’s board(s) so dividers may need to be erected. To get in a spring frame of mind, try finding a pastel-colored set of Legos, incorporating Lego flowers into the design, or constructing a flower during the task.
Things (as in Seuss)
The goal of this project is to make Things from the Dr. Seuss book The Cat In The Hat. First, get white construction paper (enough for each student to have two pieces). Then, have them trace their hands (the same hand or the opposite, it doesn’t matter), cut them out, and assemble the hands so that the fingers point away from each other. For the bottom half of the body, you’ll have to cut off on of the fingers. Decorate to your delight and, voila, your very own Thing.
You can then write speech words—opposites, rhyming words, verbs, etc.—from The Cat In The Hat on the legs, arms, and hair of your newly-created Things. Oh, the fun you’ll have!
Thanks again to Jenn, for this picture:
Action Figure Assist
Thanks to Kim at Activity Tailor for this cool idea, which just might get your speech-language pathology students talking (or at least, controlling their speech). Here’s what Kim writes:
I have one kiddo that really improves his articulation productions when he’s speaking for the action figure. The fact that he slows his speech rate certainly helps, but the authoritative tone that superheroes apparently require is a big part too. Using action figures is also a great way to break the ice with a quiet child who might be more willing to speak for someone other than himself. And while eye contact is ideal, the honest truth is that eye contact can be sensory overload for some kids. Providing an object for joint attention can be a happy compromise.
Kim goes on to suggest that you could bring in a variety of action figure or dolls (if you have access to them) from which the students can choose. Alternatively, you could have them bring their favorite from home. Work through what they love, or at least identify with, and you’ll touch both their hearts and their minds.
Making use of a pinboard is a simple, quick, and effective way to get students involved in their therapy. You’ll need the pinboard (obviously) and some common objects that fit within the board. There are so many ways to use this board to stimulate such skills as articulation, language, and memory. For example, to work on language, you might put your object on/in the pinboard and then have the student guess the object using a complete question (e.g., “Is the pencil behind the pinboard?”). To work on articulation, use objects that all contain the target sound and then have the student identify the item behind the pins.
So there you have it – 7 simple spring activities for school-based therapists perfect for any classroom. Just as April showers are to May flowers can these spring ideas and activities be to your students’ growth. Enjoy!
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