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Monday, June 9, 2014

Are You Using Stories to Increase Langue Skills?

Story books are fabulous for building children’s language skills.  
Last week I talked a little about infusing your child’s play with language, no matter where they are in their language development. Modeling language constantly and consistently is key.  If your child is a picture based communicator, this is even more crucial. Using Aided Language Stimulation - or modeling -  is how they see others using pictures to communicate effectively, how they see which words to use in what contexts, and how to find the words they need for given messages.

For children who may be understanding or using a bit more language, I use a lot of stories in play.  My intervention has always been literature based, and I have long based my language activities around stories and story grammar.  

Acting out stories to retell them is valuable practice for building children’s language.  Carol Westby has done considerable research into how children’s story telling and retelling builds social language and conversational skills, as well as important literacy skills.  
Typical children use multiple opportunities to retell stories to their stuffed animals and dolls, to re-enact them with their dolls or action figures, and to “read” the stories to themselves long before they can actually read them.

However, many children with disabilities do not get these same opportunities for vital language practice.  They may not be read to often enough to learn the stories.  They often don’t interact with their toys in the same way.  They don’t get the same opportunities in the community to build background knowledge.  
So, we need to make sure that we give them as many opportunities to interact with stories as possible.

I try to provide props - even if they are just pictures - in my sequencing and retelling activities.  Copy  images from the book (this is allowed if you have purchased the book and are using the copies to provide access to a child who has difficulty accessing print). Laminate the images (the characters, pictures of setting, events) and staple them to popsicle sticks or tongue depressors.  These can then be used for children to respond during the story reading to a specific question, to let you know they’ve recognized a word or phrase, or to retell the story.  Who was in it, where were they, what did they do?

When possible, provide more 3-dimensional props.  Dig through the toy box, hit the 99 cent store, or check out the on-line novelty stores for small figures. You can create story kits that include the book and all the props, so that they can be used over and over again.

I’ve shared my thoughts on using guided and shared reading on other posts. You may want to refer back to them here and here.

 How do you share stories with your kids?

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