It is the integrated use of an interesting book, holiday, season, or topic of interest in a planned speech and language therapy session. It allows for the cohesion of a variety of targeted speech, language, and literacy goals during one or several different speech therapy sessions. It is similar to the integrated teaching curriculum approach that early childhood educators have used for years to teach their children a variety of skills. In fact, “teachers have used children's books, topics that interest children and projects to motivate them and to teach them the necessary skills and concepts to be successful in school and life since the early onset of classroom teaching” (Benson 2013).
1) Themes provide a functional foundation for learning and that equals good carryover beyond the therapy room.
2) Themes help children relate to real-life experiences and build on what they know because a lot of independent experiences are brought up by the students and then reinforced by the activities and therapist.
3) Thematic units help to make connections to transfer knowledge they learn and apply it in a meaningful way. This is seen with the completion of a project or recipe that represents the theme being focused on.
4) Themes help to teach facts to children in a fun way. Facts presented randomly would probably be harder to grasp and uninteresting to the student.
5) Themes help the student to become physically involved with learning. This is something that is especially important for the children we see who have ADD, Autism, or SI disorders and who actually have to move in order to stimulate their brains for learning. Some children are truly kinesthetic learners and sitting for long periods of time is not the best way for them to learn.
6) Themes help the therapist to target a lot of individual student needs and goals. Every child has a wide variety of goals that we are usually targeting at one time and that is why when we are planning on doing a themed unit we will make a variety of activities available for the taking! For example, a sequencing activity, a listening for detail activity, a social pragmatic goal, an articulation activity, a literacy and number activity, a concept and preposition activity, a grammar activity, and more…
7) Themes are motivating and relevant to the child. We know this to be true because the students at the clinic ask what the theme will be each week and look forward to coming. We’ve been told by more than one child that they would rather come to speech therapy than do anything else. They have fun experiencing the themes and they learn at the same time!
8) Mostly, themes are fun and make therapy interesting and new each session for the children! That is why we enjoy providing themed speech and language units!!
What are some examples of thematic speech therapy sessions?
Examples of thematic units that we have used at our clinic include: dinosaurs, space, wild animals/zoo, pets, ocean, camping, Cinco De Mayo, fire station, transportation, super hero, snowmen, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and so many more! The list of possible themes is quite large. We found this wonderful freebie to a calendar listing a variety of different thematic speech therapy unit ideas. Take a look. It supplies a substantial amount of theme ideas and we love it! Speech Therapy Theme Calendar
Where do you get your ideas and supplies for your themed speech therapy units?
We gather information and supplies from a variety of sources. To start, we often make our own themed speech; language and literacy units with cute clip art obtained at places like Scrappin Doodles, Clips by Jenn, or Graphics From the Pond, and will use that material during or themed speech therapy sessions. Please click on our themed speech and language units tab at our blog, Twin Sisters Speech & Language Therapy, to see what we have made.
We also look for a different materials made by fellow speech language pathologists on TpT, Pinterest, Speech Therapy Ideas website, or Facebook. We go to on-line teaching sources like Ed Helper, Free Printables, Enchanted Learning, and Education.com. And because we are providing a FREE themed document for Memorial Day at the end of this post, we have included links to that subject matter for you at the last four mentioned on-line source sites.
Our favorite place to buy crafts at a reasonable price is Oriental Trading Company.
Our favorite maker of puzzles, educational toys, and sticker scenes is Mellissa and Doug.
We also hit up our local Dollar Store, Wal-Mart, Target, or grocery store to buy needed items to finish off our units.
Why don't you give the idea of incorporating a theme to your therapy room a try? We think that it will be a lot of fun for you and we're betting that your student's will find it fun and beneficial too!