I’m so excited about this series–Mixing Up Speech Therapy! I’ll be sharing a roundup of activities targeting a variety of skills using BOOKS. After all, we know the value of using books in therapy, but it can be challenging to come up with fun, engaging activities–especially when SLP overwhelm sets in. I’m hoping that this series will give you a few ideas for activities to use in your speech room right away! This week we’ll chat about using books to target basic concepts.

If you have any ideas to share, please feel free to post a comment with some of your favorite activities!

Teaching and Modeling

Of course, we want to teach a concept to a student before we expect them to use it. I like using the cards included in my Basic Concepts packet as an initial visual. I’ll model the concept and identify examples in the “real world.” It won’t work for all concepts, but it’s really fun to get the kids up and moving. We might even sit ON or UNDER the table (gasp!).

If you work with preschoolers, then circle time is a great opportunity to include some basic concepts teaching. Seifert & Schwarz (1991) include some ideas (and evidence) for this approach in this article. They also share suggestions for selecting which concepts to target.

Once you’ve done some of that initial teaching, the fun with books can begin!

Use the Book

The books we use in therapy are filled with basic concepts. You can target virtually any concept using the pictures in a book.

  • Students enjoy doing a “scavenger hunt” for concepts in a book (e.g., finding all of the characters that are boys). I like using visuals to help scaffold this skill.
  • You can have students point, draw, and/or take pictures (if you have a tablet or phone) to identify exemplars. They can then be used for additional practice in future sessions.
  • Students can also play “I Spy” (alternating both expressive and receptive skills). They can “spy” a target concept (e.g., “I spy something BIG!”), and the remaining groups members can identify the picture(s) that matches that concept.

Fun with Pictures

Some of my students struggle initially to identify or label concepts in the book. They may benefit from a reduced field of choices and/or the opportunity to physically manipulate the items. This is where pictures come in! By using clip art images (or images from the book), we have more control over the field of choices and can strategically choose items. Students can also manipulate the pictures for more hands-on learning. They might move the pictures around to show location or sort them to show the distinction between concepts.

For example, when reading Bear Snores On, we cut out the pictures and used a paper bag to make a cave. This was an easy way to target positional concepts. We could also practice quantitative/qualitative concepts by sorting (e.g., big vs. little) or temporal concepts by organizing the picture to show a sequence of events. These types of activities make the book more interactive and provide the students opportunities to practice these concepts in a more embedded activity (versus simply moving the picture to practice these concepts in isolation).

The Evidence

Check out these articles to see how other SLPs/researchers approach basic concepts.

Effectiveness of a Collaborative Consultation Approach to Basic Concept Instruction With Kindergarten Children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, January 1995, Vol. 26, 69-74. doi:10.1044/0161-1461.2601.69

Rate and Sequence of Positive and Negative Poles in Basic Concept Acquisition. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 1988, Vol. 19, 410-417. doi:10.1044/0161-1461.1904.410

Feel free to share your own ideas for using books to target basic concepts in the comments below!


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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