I love incorporating books into speech therapy. It is the easiest way for me to teach themed vocabulary without having to prep anything! Summer books are filled with picture scenes that have summer vocabulary to teach. I don’t think I could ever have enough books to teach summer vocabulary! #professionalbookhoarder
This blog post will walk you through the benefits of teaching vocabulary using summer-themed books and strategies for building better vocabulary with your students!
Why Using Summer-Themed Vocabulary Is Beneficial for Language Therapy
When working with students to improve their vocabulary, the research shows that focusing on building a deep vocabulary will help students learn new words because they can add those new words into a system or category a child knows well. There is also research that shows that students with language impairments need up to 36 engagements with a word before they learn it. So, as clinicians, implementing themed therapy can be a great approach to building a depth of knowledge for vocabulary. This gives us permission to use a summer theme for longer than a week because the more engagements with words, the better our students will learn a deep knowledge of that vocabulary.
Furthermore, if your teachers are also incorporating summer-themed books into their curriculum and daily class readings, we are helping to give more exposure and discussion with those words when our students come to the speech room. Plus, most students have experienced a summer season. By picking a theme that is relatable, it will help your students draw from their own experiences with the summer concepts and vocabulary.
You can see some of the research articles at the end of this blog post that specifically look at vocabulary intervention.
Books also provide way more opportunities for you to target other language skills, such as inference, predicting, grammar, articulation practice and carryover, story retell, and narrative comprehension.
The cool thing about using a summer theme to plan therapy is that you can incorporate a new summer-themed book every 1-2 weeks. You will keep students engaged by reading a new story while still choosing a book that builds off of previously taught vocabulary.
Strategies on How to Teach Vocabulary with Literature
To help your students build stronger vocabularies, here are some strategies you can use to teach vocabulary with literature:
Provide multiple exposures to words while reading the book and in activities. One study found that just hearing the target words helped build vocabulary.
Give explicit information about the words in the book or give kid-friendly definitions of unknown words. Picking out Tier II vocabulary words has been shown as the best way to build vocabulary. Bringing Words to Life is a great resource to learn more about Tier II vocabulary. You can use the story pictures to also show the vocabulary words.
Focus on teaching words and how they relate thematically, such as a word map, naming word associations, or talking about a word in a taxonomy. For example, when teaching a word thematically, such as with the word “beach,” you can word map clothes you bring, activities you enjoy at the beach, food you eat, things you see, how beach items feel/look, etc.
More Tips for Teaching Vocabulary
When building depth of knowledge using a taxonomy approach, you are deconstructing a word by category, sub-category, function, location, size, shape, texture, parts, etc. For example, with the word “popsicle,” you could explain that it is a food and/or that it is a type of cold dessert. A popsicle can be eaten, it melts, and it often comes on a stick. A popsicle is made up of ingredients that are blended together and frozen. You keep popsicles in a freezer until you want to eat one.
As you are reading the book, you can use dialogic reading techniques to facilitate language discussion around the words. After reading the book, you can set up play activities that are related to the book’s concepts and/or theme to encourage students to act out the concepts from the book. Sensory bins, pretend play, toys, or props for story retell can work great to engage your students.
Summer Sub-Themes to Incorporate in Speech Therapy
When we think of summer, there are probably a variety of words and experiences you associate with that word. And, that might be different for you based on where you live in the world and what your students’ cultural values are surrounding summer.
Since I live in California, going to rivers, lakes, beaches, and/or swimming pools are activities many kids in my community enjoy on hot days. So, finding books with these topics are very relevant to my caseload. Other summer themes that resonate with students can be camping, Fourth of July, summer weather, going on vacation, ice cream, popsicles, lemonade stands, BBQs, nature hikes, bugs, ocean animals, waterslides, or just everyday summer activities, such as water balloons and bike rides. What other summer themes do you love to target?
If you need resources that help you plan extension activities with a summer theme, check these out from my blog and Teachers Pay Teachers store:
Books to Teach Summer Vocabulary for Camping
I have been so thankful to find resources on social media that share book recommendations and specifically diverse book recommendations. If you need some accounts to follow for books, I highly recommend following @havingoursay @diversereads
They have top-notch recommendations and I got Jabari Reads from @diversereads
The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann
Ernestine is invited to go on her very first camping trip. Although she is excited and packed thoroughly for camping, Ernestine has to learn how to set up a tent and what it is like to be out in the wilderness. This is a great story about a little girl who has to navigate a new environment that brings challenges. Even though camping is, at times, uncomfortable for Ernestine, she learns how to make lasting memor
A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chronicle Books
Camping is a favorite pastime for a lot of people during the summer months! A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee is a great book to teach about all those camping vocabulary words. It has fun, vivid pictures; a bear; a camper; Mr. Magee; and his cute dog, Dee.
If you need camping resources to pair with this book, I have some fun camping activities, including a S’mores craftivity, in my Summer Craftivity Set! You can also make a fun lantern craft. Check out my tutorial for how to make a lantern by clicking the YouTube video (I know it is for Chinese New Year, but I use that craft for camping lanterns, too).
Books to Teach Summer Vocabulary at the Beach
When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore
I love using When a Dragon Moves In to teach beach-themed vocabulary, to work on inferencing, and to work on perspective-taking. This book is all about a boy who is pretending that his sandcastle has a dragon inside it. He talks all about the things he does at the beach with the dragon. The boy’s family doesn’t seem to believe him when he tells them that it is the dragon who is eating the brownies and spraying sand at his sister. The pictures are very colorful, and it is a great book to discuss pretend versus real.
The Sandcastle Contest by Robert Munsch
If you want a book with a summer theme that is good for working on oral narration and story comprehension, The Sandcastle Contest is a great book to work on those skills! This book is all about cool sandcastles, so it is a pretty engaging book for students. I have a buried in sand craftivity that would go great with this book!
Beach Day by Clarion Books
Beach Day is probably my most favorite beach-themed book! It is written with a rhyme sentence structure, so it isn’t that long of a book. Why I LOVE the book is because the pictures are filled with lots of people and activities that a person may do at the beach. It is great for teaching beach vocabulary, as well as for creating sentences about what the people are doing. I love that this could help with teaching word associations, and the visual supports are already built in with the book, so you don’t have to worry about preparing visuals for your lesson.
Summer Books to Build Vocabulary on Hot Days
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari Jumps is a sweet tale about a young boy who is ready to jump off the diving board. Jabari has passed his swimming test and now has to figure out how he can overcome his fear of jumping off the diving board. Kids can relate to this book as many take swim lessons over the summer and also have fears of jumping off the diving board. You can also work on /dj/ when reading this story.
Let It Shine by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
If you like to talk about a lot of different activities people do over the summer, then Let It Shine is the perfect book to read with your students. This book is great for answering themed wh- questions. They cover Fourth of July, baseball games, the beach, swimming, camping, and more in this book!
One Hot Summer Day by Nina Crews
This is a great book for Pre-K and kindergarten that talks about what happens during a big heat wave in the summer months. The book uses real photos, so children can relate to the words used about summer. For many children, hot summer days are just ordinary days filled with fans, popsicles, and trying to stay cool in the shade.
The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing
Lots of children go on vacation during the summer months. The Night Before Summer Vacation is a book that talks all about what happens the night before kids go on summer vacation.
Speech Therapy Resources with a Summer Theme
If you need activities and resources that have a summer theme, I have a lot of great activities in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! My Low-Prep Summer Resource is a great time-saver. What books do you use to teach summer-themed vocabulary?
Hadley, E. B., Dickinson, D. K., Hirsch-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). Building semantic networks: The impact of a vocabulary intervention on preschoolers’ depth of word knowledge. Reading Research Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/rrq.225