#075: Targeting Grammar Goals with Literacy-Based Therapy: Early Elementary

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Today’s Topic: Literacy-Based Therapy Plans for Early Elementary

This week’s episode of the podcast is all about targeting early elementary grammar goals with literacy-based therapy. 🤓

Before diving into this week’s book (Spring is Here, a really cute story about a hibernating bear who lives with a mole!), we’ll review some of the goals that we’ll be targeting — specifically irregular and regular plural nouns, as well as irregular and past tense verbs.

Remember: The goal of the literacy-based framework is to help familiarize our kiddos with the concepts they’ll be learning about, and expose them to the target structure before we expect them to produce it.

Throughout all of the pre-story knowledge activities — whether we’re doing the book walk, a virtual field trip, or filling in the graphic organizer — we want to model or highlight the targets naturally in conversation, priming our students for reproduction and modification as necessary. 💪

Here is a great 5 Step Cheat Sheet for Grammar Intervention.

Here’s what we discussed:

[2:39] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[7:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[7:23] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[8:08] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[11:34] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

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

Links Mentioned

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The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
SLP Now Membership
Spring Is Here by Will Hillenbrand
– Connell, P. J. (1982). On training language rules. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 13, 231-240.

Other Mentions

– Grammar Bootcamp (Included in the SLP Now Membership Academy): This course will help you identify relevant grammar targets and effectively address these targets in therapy. You’ll get a quick overview of the evidence and practical demonstrations of how to implement evidence-based strategies when targeting grammar goals.

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Thanks so much!


Speaker 1: Okay, so now let's dive into some therapy plans for early elementary, and before we dive into the book and sample activities, I'm just going to share some ideas for sample goals, and you can find a list of the goals that I mentioned if you want to refer back to it in the show notes, as well as any other resources that we mentioned. But the typical goals that we see for this age group are four specific grammar targets. And this is definitely not a comprehensive list. We just did a brainstorm of all the potential grammar targets and split them up between preschool, early elementary, later elementary and secondary. If you're not hearing any of your goal targets in this list, definitely check out the other episodes.
But we're talking about irregular and regular plural nouns, as well as irregular and regular past tense verbs. And the book that we're targeting in this unit is Spring is Here, and it's a very cute story about a hibernating bear who happens to live with a mole, and the mole tries all sorts of things to wake up the bear, and he finally finds the perfect solution to wake up the bear. It's got really great graphics, lots of great actions in here. It's great for targeting those verbs. There's a number of regular and irregular verbs as well as a bunch of narrow targets as well.
Let's dive into the actual therapy plan. Again, just to recap, we're using the text, Spring is Here, and we're targeting plural nouns and past tense verbs. And again, we're using the framework, the literacy-based therapy framework developed by Dr. Ukrainetz, and the first step is pre-story knowledge activation. I always like to start with a book walk. We look at the front and the back cover of the book. We flip through some of the pages and we talk about what we see, and this is a really great way for me to see how much the students know about the topics. What are they telling me? What are they pointing out? Are they having any naming errors or is it clear that they're missing a lot of context? And then if that's the case, I like to dive into a virtual field trip.
An example of something we could do for this story, because it's about hibernation, if they're just really confused about, "Why is the bear sleeping and why won't he wake up?" and they think that maybe he just stayed up too late and they don't understand hibernation and how all of that works, it might be a very difficult story for them to really participate in. I might go to Edpuzzle and pull a video that explains why bears hibernate or just giving more details about bears, like a video about bears or a video about moles, and just to give them a little bit more context, and there isn't a hard and fast rule for what type of field trip we want to use. It just really depends on where the students demonstrate a need.
But if the students demonstrate adequate knowledge, then I might just skip that field trip and dive into the graphic organizer. This is a really great way to target a variety of skills. We're primarily focusing on grammar here today. And I know that if you want a more general overview of all of these steps, definitely go ahead and check out last month's episodes. But if we are targeting grammar, in the story grammar activity, I would just take a blank story grammar organizer and I would have the students fill it in and just after doing the book walk, we would make an educated guess about who the characters are and the cover makes that pretty clear. There's a bear and a mole on the cover, so those are our characters.
We can write in the graphic organizer. We can just do bear and mole. If we're doing teletherapy, we could take a screenshot and put the screenshot of the bear and the mole in the organizer as well, and then we would then fill in the rest of the organizers. We would make a guess about what the setting is, like when and where does the story happen? What's the problem? How does the character feel? What's the plan? And we would just move through the graphic organizer and fill that in. It's a really great inferencing activity, but it's also a great opportunity to model and recast our grammar targets.
When we're looking at the grammar research literature, one consistent thing that I found is that we want to provide students with ... We want to expose them to the target structure before we expect them to produce it. Throughout all of the pre-story knowledge activities, whether we're doing the book walk, we're doing a virtual field trip, we're filling in the organizer, these are all language activities that the students should all be producing language and then we're producing language too, so we can provide models or highlight the features naturally in conversation.
If a student is working on past tense verbs, if we use the past tense verb, we can just emphasize it a little bit and provide that model, or we can recast or we can correct what the child says. If we're talking about what happened in the story, and then, "He sleep," we could say, "Yeah, he was sleeping," and then modify that or correct what they said to work on that target structure. And we can also modify the modality, so if the student has a goal to produce questions, we can take a statement and turn it into a question. And then that's another way to recast.
Like I said, this is a pre-story knowledge activation. It might sound like a lot of fluff, but we can be really strategic in providing the student plenty of opportunities. And if they've been in speech therapy for a while, they've been working on this specific goal for a long time, we can then expect them to start producing it. It's just an embedded activity where we can have them produce the target structure.
Then for step two, we read the story. This is pretty short and simple. We just read it. We might emphasize if there are past tense verbs. Another strategy that we can use is to kind of change up the story a little bit. For example, if it's written in the present tense and we really want to work on past tense, we can just modify the verbs and give them more exposure there.
Then for step three, story comprehension, we can use our question cards or we can just ask questions. I happen to make question cards to scaffold this skill for students, but then if they're responding to questions, I might recast their responses to produce the correct structure, or the same thing with story grammar. I really like pulling out the story grammar organizer and asking questions about the different story grammar elements, so, "Who was the story about? When did it happen? Where did it happen?" And that'll also elicit language, which we can then recast and correct the student structures or we can use it as an opportunity to have other students or the therapist can model those structures as well.
Then diving into step four, the focus skill activities, we would then introduce the skills. I have different visuals that I like to use to introduce ... Especially at this level, I like to print out or pull up my little noun summary sheet, my verb summary sheet, and just teach them what the noun is and what that looks like, just give a mini lesson explaining what it is. And if you want more detail on this, I have a grammar course in the SLP Now Academy that dives into more detail and give some examples of these mini lessons, but that's one thing that we like to do.
And then the next step would be to dive into some structured practice. And there's one evidence-based strategy that is particularly helpful for these types of structures. Modeling combined with production is helpful and that's something that we've been doing, but results in limited generalization. I think it's an important precursor, at least depends based on what I've read in the literature and what I've seen, but it's not going to get us to generalization and having students produce these targets.
However, imitating contrasting sentences is a great drill-based activity that can give us a lot of bang for our buck. And I'm just going to give a super quick overview, but if you want more detail on this approach, there's an article by Connell, which was published in 1982, that includes a whole step-by-step training procedure, so you can check out that article. I also detail it a little bit in that grammar course that I mentioned that's in the SLP Now Academy if you just want layman's terms, quick access to the training procedure, but the Connell article does a really great job of breaking it down.
But for example, if we're working on past tense verbs, I would give the student two pictures, one of a student, a boy or a character who is eating and then one that's finished eating, and you can do this in the context of the book. There's a lot of actions and we can have the before and after. We can get strategic with how we set this up. But for the example that I gave with the boy who's eating and finished eating, you can say, "He is eating," and, "He ate," and then the Connell article walks through how to structure this and progressing from having the student imitate the pairs of sentences and increasing their independence with that. And it's very structured, very step-by-step, and that's a great way to move them towards embedded practice, which we want ... like I said, we want to do that as quickly as possible.
With the embedded practice, we can do that in the focus skill activity in step four of the framework. Inevitably, we have other students in the group who are working on different types of goals. This is anything language-based. Whether we're having students define vocabulary words or retell the story or whatever it may be, that all involves language and any language activity related to the book requires students to produce utterances that include grammatical concepts. If we're having students do a describing activity, we can just structure it in a way that elicits their target structure. That's what we've got there.
And then for step five, we dive into the parallel story, which is where we have the student create a story related to the story that we read. For Spring is Here, we might do a story about another animal that hibernates and create a story about that or we might ... Yeah, so that would be an example, just picking a story about a different animal that hibernates and putting that together, or they can make an alternate story if the bear didn't wake up, because if the mole was trying to wake up the bear in January, that might not work out so well.
That's what we've got for the parallel story, and I would again use the story grammar organizer, have students create sentences using their target structures, and we can structure the story again in a way that elicits their target structures. If we want them to work on past tense verbs, we can have them tell the story in the past tense. If we want them to work on auxiliary verbs, we can tell it in the present tense. If we want them to use irregular plural nouns, we can pick characters that require the use of those irregular plural nouns, whether it's characters or items in the story.
And so we can be very strategic with how we put that together and we can really create a very fun, engaging, effective unit with just very few materials. We have the book, we have some visuals and maybe some question cards, and then the parallel story. We provide some templates in the SLP Now membership to help students structure this and we also provide the story grammar organizer, but it's absolutely not necessary. A lot of these things can be done with very minimal materials. So yeah, that's what we've got for our early language unit for Spring is Here with a focus on those grammar goals.


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.

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