Sunday, February 2, 2014

Speechy Sunday: Valentine's Day Language and Literacy Activity

If you know me, you know that I'm a speech therapist, and that I really love working with kids.  On Sundays, I'm going to share some of my speech therapy tips and ideas.  Hope they're helpful!  

It's February!  Last month, in my speech sessions, I focused on a winter theme, and now I'm so excited that it's February, so I can start a Valentine's Day theme.  I usually anchor everything in my speech sessions for a month around one main book that we read over and over until my students know it inside and out.  It might seem like that would bore kids, but on the contrary--they love being able to tell me the story by the end of the month.  

This week, for Speechy Sunday, I want to share a Valentine's Day activity that will help you foster language and literacy with children.  You could use it with your students, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.  I think it's great fun!  Here's how it works.  

First, I find a story book about Valentine's Day that I enjoy (one that tells a story and isn't just a picture or rhyming book).  I chose "The Biggest Valentine Ever" by Steven Kroll, because I think it works for a large age range (and I work with kids ages 4 to 11 right now).  Other good options are "Mouse's First Valentine" by Lauren Thompson (for younger kids - ages 1 to 4, or kiddos with special needs) or "The Day it Rained Hearts" by Felicia Bond for preschool age up.  

Then, I read the book by myself first and try to find words in the book that I think my kiddos won't know.  I look for words in the text, or even add in some of my own if I don't see any good ones.  Next, I underline words I want to teach (yes, I actually write in my book so I won't forget!) and think about how I will quickly teach them as we read.  For "The Biggest Valentine Ever" book, I picked these vocabulary words:  

surprise, together, decorate, glare, create, satisfied, plan, cooperate, 
delighted, different, same, edge

After that, I think about questions I can embed into the story as I read.  Usually, I include easy questions like, "What's that?, Where's the mouse?, What are they doing?  How do they feel?" as well as harder questions like, "How is that different than before?, What just happened?  What do you think will happen next? and Why did he do that?"  If I write out my questions ahead of time and use post-its to put them on the exact pages I choose, I do a much better job of matching the right level of question to the right kiddo during my speech sessions (a.k.a. differentiating) than if I am trying to come up with questions on the fly.  

Next, I come up with 2-step directions to throw in for kids working on listening skills, and make a list of words that might be difficult to pronounce (often /r/ and /s/ words, depending on the students) for my articulation students so that I can embed articulation practice (working on certain speech sounds) into my session for them, as well.  (This is optional if your kiddo doesn't need help with following directions or articulation).

Finally, I find an engaging activity that goes with the story (a craft or game related to the story), and voila! I am ready for a month of speech language sessions anchored by a story.  

For this book, I chose to cut out hearts of all different sizes so that my students could glue them together to create a mouse-shaped valentine just like the boys in the story did.  (The first session, we'll create the Valentine by gluing the hearts together, and the next session, we'll decorate it with glitter and glue.) I tried this with my daughter first to see if we could fit the story and craft in one 30 minute session, and, hooray, we could.  Fun!  

If you try this activity, let me know how it goes!  I'd love to hear what words your kiddos learned from you and what questions they were able to answer with your help!

What great Valentine's Day activity do you like to do with the children in your life?  Link to it or tell me about it below!  (Also, if you'd like the list of questions and directions I used with this book, leave me a comment and I'll send it to you.)

Flanna's mouse Valentine.  Cute!


  1. Love this lesson! Have a Happy One filled with much love.

  2. TJ,
    Always have loved reading your blog! We sure do miss you in Chapel Hill! If it's not to much trouble, I would love the questions and directions you used for this activity:

  3. Thanks, Beverly! And Jen, just sent them! Thanks for commenting, guys! :)