#074: Targeting Grammar Goals with Literacy-Based Therapy: Preschool

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

The goal of last month’s learning series about literacy-based therapy plans was to provide a general overview of Dr. Ukrainetz’s 5-step framework so that we can continue to build on those strategies in super specific, tactical, and research-based ways.

This month we build on our 5 step framework as Marisha shares therapy plans for a group of preK students. After introducing the group, Marisha breaks down her planning process and shares practical and engaging therapy activities to target grammar goals.

Let’s start by diving into preschool therapy plans!

With our youngest kiddos, it can be tough to find that sweet spot for targeting grammar goals — we want to make sure we’re giving the students exposure, without turning the session into pure drill activities. Luckily, that’s what we’re going to talk about today!

In this episode of the podcast, we’re going to focus on basic MLU goals using the book Just a Duck. It’s such a sweet story with beautiful graphics, and some great opportunities to target a variety of goals.

🐥Ready to start planning? Let’s get quackin’ 🐥

Here’s what we discussed:

[3:30] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[7:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[8:30] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[12:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[16:30] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

Want to hear more about this topic? Click here to see this month’s content!

Links Mentioned

Add links (set to open in new tab)
The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
SLP Now Membership
Just a Duck by Carin Bramsen

Subscribe & Review in iTunes

Are you subscribed to the podcast? If you’re not, subscribe today to get the latest episodes sent directly to you! Click here to make your listening experience auto-magic and as easy as possible.

Bonus points if you leave us a review over on iTunes → Those reviews help other SLPs find the podcast, and I love reading your feedback! Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews,” “Write a Review,” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is.

Thanks so much!


Speaker 1: Let's dive into some preschool therapy plans. So the first thing that we want to talk about is just the types of goals that we'll be targeting in this unit. So like I said, we're really focusing on grammar just so we can get super specific, super tactical and talk a little bit about the research based strategies that we can implement versus the approach that we took last month, which was very general. Do check out the show notes for this episode for specific types of goals. But the things that we'll be focusing on are basic MLU goals. So for this age group, some of the most common goals that we see are two to four MLU, and then obviously beyond that too, depending on the student's level. And then also some specific grammar targets potentially, like subject pronouns, possessive pronouns, helping verbs. And this definitely is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully that'll give us a little bit of, just that it'll help us get a little bit more specific as we're talking about these strategies.
And the book that we're using this month is Just a Duck?, and it's a story about two characters, Duck and Cat. And Duck tells Cat that he's a cat. So the duck thinks that he's a cat. And Cat points out that the duck does not look like him. And this is a great opportunity to incorporate some vocabulary targets as well, because for example, they talk about the fact that the duck doesn't have ears and the cat does. And so it's a way to incorporate some of those body parts and they also incorporate a number of actions, because Duck tries to do a bunch of cat things like climbing trees, running at leaves, but he obviously has trouble because they are different. And at the end of the story, the duck realizes that he is a duck. And so it's a really sweet story. It's got beautiful graphics and it has some really nice targets for a variety of goals.
So without further ado, let's dive into the actual plan. So, like I said, we're focusing on Just a Duck?, focusing on the goals of the two to four MLU pronouns, helping verbs, all of that good stuff. And we're using the literacy-based therapy framework from Dr. Ukrainetz. And then I'm also going to be referencing a number of research articles that focus on grammar intervention strategies. So we're going to be merging a bunch of different research and trying to make it as practical as possible. So in just the general framework, the first step for literacy-based therapy is pre-story knowledge activation. So this is where we are priming the pump, so to speak, and helping our students build the background knowledge that they need to be able to really understand the story and really apply all of their skills, because if they don't understand what's happening in the story, they are definitely going to have a hard time producing their target structures and can making progress towards any of their other goals.
So the first thing that I like to do is just to take a book walk. So we'll look at the front and back covers. We'll look at some of the pictures and this helps me get an idea of how much the students know about the topic and just about the story in general, like can they identify the animals? Do they know that vocabulary? And if they can do that, do they know anything about these animals? Do they know anything about the farm or what a farm is, what it looks like, what we can find there. And so doing the book walk gives me a really good idea of where students are. And if they are identifying the animals and clearly understand what a farm is, they live on a farm so they know all of these things, then we're good to go and just start reading the story.
But more often than not, our students struggle with this activity. A lot of times it's pretty quiet and they might be mislabeling things or whatever that might look like. So then if that's the case, I like to dive into a virtual field trip. So I love using Edpuzzle and I pull videos to kind of fill in the gaps that the students demonstrate. So if they have difficulty with the farm animal vocabulary, we might watch a video about farm animals or about a farm. And I just use my clinical judgment to decide which type of video would be the most helpful and which one will get the students the knowledge that they need to really participate in this story.
And then throughout this whole activity, I am still using evidence-based strategies. It's not just a fluffy activity. The whole time, I'm being very strategic and I'm modeling the target structures. So if I want my students to use two to four MLU, I'm modeling that for them. If they produce an utterance, I might recast it. Like if they say, "Duck," and I want them to produce two word phrases, I would say "Yellow duck," and then recast that to help build that grammar. And the research also shows that we want to give students multiple exposures to a target, a grammatical structure before we have them produce it. So this is a really great opportunity to prime the pump for those grammatical structures, give them lots of exposure. And I really like, if possible, I encourage my parents and my teachers, well the students' parents and teachers, to implement this in the classroom as well, because if they're on board as well, like I typically present this at an IEP meeting, it's a really great strategy and it just makes grammar intervention go that much more smoothly.
And then onto number two. We focus in on, we actually read this story. So the strategies here are the same, we're continuing to model and contrast. And then we also use strategies to maintain student engagement. This is a pretty simple activity, it typically just takes a couple of minutes. We read through the story and I just want to make sure that the students stay engaged, especially with preschoolers, I might give them, if we're in person, it's not uncommon for me to give them a sit spot, somewhere where it's their job to stay there. I might have behavioral reinforcers, like catching the students being good. I'll give the students who are sitting a token to reinforce because it's hard for a preschooler to sit and listen.
And I keep it as short and sweet as possible. Make it really easy for them to sit and attend to the story. I might incorporate some little puppets or something to act it out as well. But that's on a as needed basis. I just keep it simple. That's the main strategy there and just get through the story and make sure the students are engaged. And then if I can model or highlight a feature that we're targeting, then that is awesome too.
Then onto step three. We're they're doing some story comprehension. So again, it depends on where the students are. So I'm going to present two different scenarios. So if this is a newer structure, they haven't had a lot of practice, they're not producing it independently just yet, then I will keep it pretty simple. So I really like using a set of question cards that I created, and they're very simple. They're in the farm animals early language unit, but it includes question cards.
And there's a set of who questions, a set of what questions. And there's also when and where. But if the students are working on very early language goals, I'd probably stick with who and what. But I might pick different questions depending on the student's target. So if they're working on prepositions for example, or whatever their MLU goal is, or if they have a specific structure, I might select a different question type, or I might mix in a bunch of question types just depending on the inventory of goals in the group. But I like this activity because it can be modified. So if the students aren't quite at the level, they're just being introduced to the target, we're still in model recast land, then I would ask them the question. And the cool thing with these question cards is that they have three multiple choice options.
So for example, the first question is, who saved the cat? And then it has the answer choices, dog, cat, duck with the pictures associated with it. So I can ask the student that question and give them the answer choices. They can respond verbally, or they can point to the answer depending on their level. And then I could model or recast that appropriate structure. So if we're working on adjective, noun kind of structure, like the two MLU, if the student responds "Duck," I can say, "Yeah, yellow deck." And then that would be a way of expanding their production and modeling where we want to go. And if they're working on a specific grammatical structure, that same principle would apply. But if the student said, "What is the duck doing?" And if he said "He jumping," then I could say "He is jumping."
So that would be an example of how we can target that grammar goal without it being a pure drill activity. We're just giving the student exposure. But if they've been introduced to this target and they're starting, like if I'm giving these models and recasts, and they are repeating them back to me, that's often an indicator that they're ready for that embedded practice. And then I also just check in, and this is purely clinical judgment, there's not a hard and fast rule. But if you've given the student a number of exposures, you sometimes just get that feeling like, okay, based on the student's level, they should be ready to start producing it now. So even if they're not doing it independently, we can use our clinical judgment to decide when we expect them to start producing that structure.
Which brings us to step four of the literacy-based therapy framework, where we focus on the focused skill activities. I also want to say that this is not linear. So it might make the most sense to introduce the skill at the very beginning of the unit. Again, we use our clinical judgment to decide which order makes the most sense. There are no hard and fast rules. This framework is simply meant to help us organize our thinking so that we can use our clinical judgment to decide how we switch things up. It just makes it a little bit easier to navigate. So one of the strategies that we can use is just to introduce the skill. When I am modeling and recasting, especially for MLU goals, I really like using a sentence pack. I feel like that makes it very easy. And a lot of times, a lot of language for these students won't be helpful. So if I had a whole visual explaining what action is, that wouldn't be helpful for these students.
I like to keep it simple. I create a sentence pack and it has tabs. It's like a little laminated book with tabs for all the different parts of speech. And then it also has accompanying sentence strips for all of the different types of phrases. And it has a little cheat sheet that shows what's expected at which age, and then they're all leveled. So it's really easy to put together appropriate targets. And each tab has a bunch of icons that you can move and put onto the sentence strip. So if the students need more support, as I'm modeling or recasting, I'll just quickly put together the sentence strips and give them a visual support as well. So instead of just saying yellow duck, I would put together that sentence strip and I would pull the color from the adjective page and then I would pull the noun, like duck, from the noun page. And then we would just be good to go.
And the sentence pack doesn't have all of the words that we might target. So if it doesn't have some of the specific vocabulary that we're working on, a lot of times, those vocabulary cards are included in the unit as well. And if you don't have access to this specific sentence pack or the icons that I'm talking about, it's really easy to just, you can draw your own pictures and make your own sentence strip on a piece of paper. But just having that visual support can be really helpful, especially if students aren't starting to produce things on their own and they're really struggling. So that's something that I like to do with those early MLU goals. And next time, I'll talk a little bit more about, because I know we have some pronoun and verb goals listed here.
And if you want more strategies for that, tune in next week to our picture book unit for early elementary students, because I'll talk more about the evidence-based strategies there. I just want to make sure we stick to our time. And then some other options, if the students are producing their targets, especially with preschoolers, I like doing a lot of play-based activities. So we might just pick out, we might play with a farm and create some utterances around the animals in the farm. And that's a really great opportunity to do, prepositions and target the vocabulary. So it's a great way to incorporate multiple goals. We have a cheat sheet with a bunch of play-based therapy ideas in our early language. And it's all leveled out. It has lots of different ideas on how to play with different farm and animal toys and different songs and just a bunch of fun ideas to work on these goals with the students in a fun and engaging way.
And then we can wrap up the unit with a parallel story. So if it's appropriate for the students, I might use the story grammar organizer, but sometimes it's just a little bit too much and not quite at their level. So if that's the case, we have a simple book for this unit where it incorporates core vocabulary and much shorter utterances. And I think that might be a better way, especially for really focusing in on early MLU goals. That might be a little bit more functional activity and a little bit more accessible for our students. And then this way, if they're not producing it yet, it's a great way to model it. And if they are producing it, they can select the icons and still have some support as they put together the story. So this is just a simple interactive book that the students get to build, and it includes different icons that they can add to their story. And then they can take their lovely book home for some really great practice.
So that wraps up our first literacy-based therapy unit, focusing in on grammar targets for the book, Just a Duck?, which is great for our preschoolers. And just one other thing that I wanted to point out. A really great study by Fey, Cleave and Long published in 1997, describes how they did grammar intervention in a preschool classroom. So if you're looking for more ideas, they did a really nice job of structuring, they selected their grammar targets and cycled through one target a week and they used the strategies that we'll dive into next time, like contrast of imitation and focused stimulation. So definitely tune in to hear more about that. But they describe how they use this in a variety of activities, especially play-based activities. And then just through other common pre-school activities, like snack and just all of the routine based activities. So definitely check that out. I'll add a link in the show notes for details there. And that's a wrap. Thank you for tuning in and we'll see you next week when we talk about early elementary plans.


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *