How to Use Adapted Books and Play For More Effective Therapy

How to Use Adapted Books and Play.

Do you ever finish reading a blog post and wonder, “The idea sounds good, but how do I make it work for me?” It is easy to make your therapy sessions more effective by combining books with play. And it is easy, too! Read on for 3 concrete, practical tips for combining adapted books and play that you can put to use immediately!

Step 1: Choose a theme for books and play!

How about a picnic theme? It is lots of fun and has so many options. Themes allow you to:

  • Make groups work when you have to switch your students around for make-up sessions.
  • Coordinate with the theme being used in a pre-K or K classroom.
  • Get out a limited set of toys, books and craft activities for the time you are using the theme.
  • Start collecting fun toys to play with, adapted books, and engaging activities to expand your theme for next year.

picnic themed books, YouTube links, speech therapy

Step 2: Choose and adapt a book!

There are so many choices!

  • Start by looking at what you already have around or can get inexpensively. Plan ahead and look at the Scholastic Book club choices for savings on books.  It also lets parents get the same book for home carryover.
  • Try to have higher and lower-level books for your theme, so you can develop a cohesive set of follow-up activities for everyone.
  • Look at the pictures in the book. Does the text talk about what is happening in the picture? Or can you adapt the text easily so that they match? Our students need to have this visual connection to make sense of the language in the text.
  • Adapt the book so that your lower-level students can fill in the vocabulary words while your higher-level students can complete the sentences. This can be done easily if you have more than one place with a hook and loop spot to add the missing symbols. Just choose which set of symbols to remove depending on the needs of each student or group.
  • Choose books that let you meet most of the goals you are working on. Since that can change from year to year, it is nice to have a variety of books.

play, speech therapy, picnic toys

Step 3: Choose your follow-up activities for play!

Your activities should reinforce the language and skills you elicited while reading the book.  Read the entire book with the students before you decide the best follow up activities.

1. Start with the object vocabulary in the book.

Find toys or bring in the real items to elicit the labels. How about a picnic basket filled with the items you are talking about? Students can take turns putting their hand in the basket without peeking and pull out an item to label.

2.  Re-enact the plot sequence by doing the activity in play.

Playing out the story plot has many benefits for your students.

  • It lets them experience the situation and fills in knowledge gaps.
  • It’s a great way to practice the object labels and introduce the verbs that go with them.
  • Acting out the plot reinforces story comprehension.
  • It makes it easier for students to make personal connections to the story.

If your students can handle it, go outside to an enclosed area and have a picnic with their favorite snack and drink.

Do you have students who run away? Then have a picnic on your therapy room floor with the door closed.

Still doesn’t work? Put a plastic tablecloth or red bulletin board paper over your table and have your picnic there while your student is in the accustomed seating.

picnic theme online free resources, speech therapy

3. Now that your students have some experience with a picnic, go back to your adapted or picture book and see how successful they are at completing it.

Note their errors to choose which follow up activities to use:
  • Play having a picnic with toys.
  • Do a craft to make/decorate/color the vocabulary items.
  • Play a game with pictures of the activities involved in the theme.
  • Watch a You-tube video associated with the theme.
  • Use an interactive activity on your iPad for the theme. BOOM Cards are great for this!
  • Make a flipbook activity for forming sentences.
  • Adapt a picture worksheet to make an interactive activity, or have your higher-level students just complete the worksheet.
  • Have students fill in more of the symbols in your adapted book, or use additional books to expand their language for the theme.

adapted books, picnic theme, speech therapy

Of course, you can always make life easier for yourself and check this out at my store!

Here are the picnic-themed YouTube links:

It has sentence building games and activities, photos, and adapted books at different levels to meet the needs of diverse groups.



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I’m Linda, an SLP who loves helping you build effective communication skills for your students using strategies and visuals. Pictures are time consuming, so let me make your life easier!

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