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This Week’s Episode: How to Use Curriculum in Literacy-Based Therapy

I cannot tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this month of content, because we’re diving into all things curriculum-based therapy! 🤓

The goals we’re going to target in this unit with our preschoolers are: answering questions about a story, identifying basic concepts, and producing three-word sentences that are grammatically correct. We’ve got a good mix of targets with some language comprehension, some vocabulary, and some grammar. 💪

What we’re really aiming to do with this month’s learning series is take those literacy-based therapy strategies that we’ve been talking about, and embed the strategy into the classroom by applying it to materials from the curriculum.

The more that I read the research, the more that I see the importance of contextualized intervention.

Let’s get to it!

Strategies + Tips Discussed

– Contrastive Imitation + Drill-Based Activities
– Focused Stimulation + Frequent Modeling/Recasting


Fey, Cleave, & Long (1997) describe a treatment approach in a preschool classroom. The therapists selected several grammar targets and cycled through the targets (a week for each). They used contrastive imitation and focused stimulation. Contrastive imitation was a drill-based activity, while focused stimulation included frequent models and recasts in a variety of activities (e.g., play, snack, and other common preschool activities).

Here’s what we discussed:

[7:30] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[8:53] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[10:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[11:24] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)

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

Links Mentioned

June Therapy Materials
The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
Wheels on The Bus by Anthony Lewis
SLP Now Membership (WH Questions activities are included in the membership!)

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Speaker 1: Hey there, SLP. I cannot tell you how much I've been looking forward to this month of content. We are diving into all things curriculum-based therapy, and we're getting started with a group of preschoolers. So the goals that we are going to be targeting in this unit are answering questions about a story, identifying basic concepts. So spatial temporal, qualitative, quantitative, and we'll also be chatting about producing three-word sentences that are grammatically correct. So I wanted to include a combination of different goals. So we've got some language comprehension, some vocabulary and some grammar. So hopefully that's a good mix. And hopefully it'll be a really good way to give you some ideas to step up all of the literacy-based therapy strategies that we've been talking about, but starting to embed them into the classroom and, or like pulling more from the curriculum. And I think this is especially important because the more that I read the research, the more that I see the importance of contextualize intervention. There's also a lot of talk about least restrictive environment and just getting creative with service delivery.
There's some really cool studies out there. I just read one about narrative intervention and they talked about having a whole unit in the classroom, a nine week structured unit, and this was one of the ASHA EBP briefs articles. So it was just kind of integrating a bunch of different articles to try and solve a clinical problem. And then the speech therapist ended up deciding, she decided to put together a nine week narrative instruction unit within the classroom. So she did it twice a week for 30 minutes and I've just been reading more of this kind of staff and it's just really interesting to think about how we can change up what we're doing and move away from sticking with 30 minutes once or twice a week in the speech room. That's our default, that's what we kind of stick with and having very little variation.
And I think the more that we learn, the better that we can kind of customize each student's service delivery and just how we put together their IEP and have it truly be individualized. So I'm really excited to start exploring this topic. This is something that I definitely still have room for growth in. I did a little bit of intervention in the classrooms and I have implemented some alternative service delivery in terms of like getting creative with the minutes and just moving away from the 30 minutes once or twice a week model. But I definitely still have room for growth. So I'm excited to continue diving into the research and experimenting as I figure things out. But with my preschoolers, I've actually done a lot in the classroom. And so that's what I'll focus on today. So the book that we're using is Wheels On The Bus, and it's a song that...
This is something that they use, I think pretty much every preschool classroom that I've been in sings Wheels On The Bus. They watched the YouTube video for it. And so I thought it would be a fun way to target some of our speech and language goals, provide some visual supports and then just target our skills in a meaningful way. And if I'm able to do this in the classroom, model it for the teachers and the assistants. It's also a really meaningful context for the students, because if I teach them some strategies or whatnot, they'll be able to... It'll be really easy for them to generalize because I taught them in that original context. So it's just really cool. I've been able to take books into the classroom, and then I've found that the teachers end up using them, especially if we collaborate on the book selection.
And then it just really benefits everyone because I teach them some new strategies and we really get to collaborate and find ways to really impact our students. So let's figure out what this would look like using a literacy-based therapy framework. And I use a planner to map out my units, it's just a one-page sheet. So I just put in the texts, so we're using Wheels On The Bus and I write the goals at the top of the page. So that for this hypothetical group, we're working on answering questions, identifying basic concepts, and then producing three-word sentences or three-word utterances that are grammatically correct. And yeah, so we're going to be... Oh, and if you want a copy of this planner, you can head to to fill this in, just like put in the ideas that I have share or think of your own group and jot down some of their goals and see how you can implement this, and just adjust my ideas to make it work for your students' goals.
But when I think of a preschool classroom, I think of their day usually consists of play centers, having rotations, they have snack, they have circle time where they sing music. So these are all different types of activities that we can support and help students use their language. And one study, Fey, Cleave, Long in 1997 describes the treatment approach in a preschool classroom, which I think is a really good example to pull from. But the therapist in the study selected, and this was focused on grammar. So we have one grammar goal, but I think we can look at some other options and get creative and use this kind of model and implement all of the other evidence back strategies that we've used and that we've discussed over the last several months on the podcast and we can kind of integrate all of that together.
But in this particular study, they selected several grammar targets that their students needed to work on and they cycled through the targets. So they spent one week on each of the targets and they use contrast of imitation and focus stimulation. So definitely head back to the preschool grammar episode, if you want a refresher on that. But they did contrast of imitation as a drill based activity. And then they use focused stimulation in all of the different types of activities that I listed like play, snack, circle time, all of that good stuff. So this is something that we could easily embed within the classroom. And when we talked about vocabulary, there's another similar study that describes a treatment approach used in a preschool classroom and it has like a very structured example of how they implemented it.
So I think we can draw some really cool ideas from both of those studies. So when it comes to pre-story knowledge, so step one of Dr. [Yukarance's 00:08:50] framework. We can do a book walk and we can look at the pictures and we can see if the students are able to identify the bus or the people or the different actions. And this is a little different where this is not of the most developed story in the world. We're focusing more on basic grammar and vocabulary than story retell and all of that. But I think this is a great introductory activity, especially if it's a song that they're going to use throughout the year. And then we can talk about like if the students ride the bus to school, we can talk about what they do with that.
And maybe I could even meet them at the bus and we could talk about like the wheels and "Oh, here's the driver and here are the people," and just kind of connect what we're reading in the book to what we're doing there. If we could actually listen to the song on the bus, that would be pretty epic. So I don't know. We could get creative here, but those are just some options. If we want to like take a field trip or I think a play-based activity would be super fun. I feel like every preschool classroom has one of those play buses. And so as they're playing with the bus, we can do some different language activities, as like a pre-story knowledge activity or later in the unit. So those are just some ideas for what we would do for step one. For step two, we would read the text.
And I've worked in a variety of preschools, so for some of the classrooms, the students really benefited. It was difficult just to get them to attend to the story, but as they got familiar with it, they were much more willing to participate. So the first time we did a reading was always a little bit rough and we would just work really hard to keep them engaged in the story, but then over... I would read on Monday and then the teacher during circle time, she would continue to read the story. And so I would just have to be there on Monday during circle time, and then I could come in during other parts of the days, once she had like seen me read, saw of my different models, and we discussed the strategies that we want to use. Then she continued it for me so I could jump in at different points in the school day to help with the more of that contrast of imitation, like doing that drill based activity as well as focused stimulation during different activities as well.
So then for story comprehension, we have some very simple WH question cards. So I think those are a great approach for the types of students we would be working on this with. So it has simple like who and what questions, for example, and they're leveled as well. And I would use different cards depending on the study students' needs, but some of them they're just learning the meaning of the different question words. So we might just, if I ask them a who question, the visual choices might only include people and that's a way to include some of that errorless learning. But then if they're starting to understand the meaning of the different question words, I might give them a question with like a who question with a person, a location, and another answer as well, so that they actually have to understand.
So that's a good way to scaffold the comprehension piece. And we have visual choices, so it's easy to... Even if a student isn't at the level of producing a response independently, we can scaffold them and maybe we can even make it a field of two choices, or we can make it errorless and help them identify it. And if they're using an AAC device, we can help them find the answer on their device and so on and so forth. So there's lots of ways to scaffold that and set students up for success there. Then when we dive into step four for the focus skill activities, this would be like following Fey et al. model. It would just be jumping in with the students in the classroom in a variety of activities, whether they're doing play centers, or during snack time, or whatever it may be, I would embed the different skills that we've been working on in those meaningful contexts.
And so maybe we can do like a best craft, or maybe we can play with the toy bus, or maybe we can take a cardboard box and pretend we're going on the bus. Then we can use that as an opportunity to use our basic concepts because that's one of the goals that we had or to produce a three-word utterances. I would be modeling that and recasting and using all of those in a meaningful context. And so, hopefully that's a helpful recap of some of the different strategies that we can use for the students. And then next up is early elementary.


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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