Without his device, Joey has been choosing to read books that give him more opportunities to interact during the read aloud. He wants to hold an animal, wave a magic wand, or move a velcroed piece around on his work tray. Last week I wondered just what was so appealing about Room on the Broom that we couldn’t break away from reading it. Through looking at what the Room on the Broom read aloud structure looks like for Joey, and considering that without his device read alouds can be more of a listening experience than an interactive one, I realized I needed to increase the opportunities for Joey to engage during a book. [Read more…]
I’m not sure what I’ll do if I have to read Room on the Broom one more time with Joey (OK, truthfully we all know that I’ll read it and be as excited about reading it as I was the first time…) but I honestly am not sure I can. I’ve stretched the book as far as I can. We’ve counted characters forwards and backwards, identified rhyming words, acted it out, spent time on the prepositions of the book, talked about weather, emotions, and even friendship. Yet still, Joey latches onto it.
Joey critically eyes the box each time I see him, and waits for the right moment to request it in whatever manner is available to him. Without his device he is quick to point, make eye contact, give some verbal utterances, and point again, silently willing me to open up the box and pull out his favorite characters.
As I try to find another book he’ll love just as much I find myself wondering what exactly is so appealing about this book. He seems to want it even more now that he does not have his device. What makes Room on the Broom just so engaging and enjoyable for Joey that he requests to read it so often, even when we have so many other books around (so. many. others)?
There is comfort in the predictability of the book, which is especially comforting when Joey cannot share his thoughts and ideas. When we first started reading it he was excited to label the pictures and share what he observed in the pages. Now that he does not have his device, he is quick to request the toy that corresponds with each character, in the order the characters appear. He knows the comfortable routine of the story, and loves waving a magic wand during the repeated phrases. Without his device, this book gives him opportunities to interact.
The book seems to have the right mix of repetition and novel storyline to give Joey the opportunities to engage while also being entertaining. While Joey’s old favorite series, Pete the Cat, has a great repeated storyline, I’ve noticed he’s not as excited by these books lately. Although he can participate in the repeated phrases, these books don’t offer the same exciting story engagement that Room on the Broom does.
Today we are going to attempt to read The Gruffalo’s Child in hopes of matching Room on the Broom’s repetition and enjoyability. Fingers crossed that it is a fit.
Let me introduce you to your new favorite book for reading with a child using an AAC device. Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop written by Todd Tuell is a packed with core words and a fun story. When I first found the book I thought it might appeal to active boys, but it didn’t strike me as an overly useful book. I was so wrong.
Ninja, Ninja is about a little boy who is pretending to be a Ninja. He slinks around his house, hiding under, behind, and above furniture. He makes himself short and tall, fast and slow, quiet and loud. (See where I am going here… so many strong core words! The opportunities for using prepositions are endless.) He karate chops his brother’s balloon (which causes his brother to cry – He feels sad), and knocks over his brother’s blocks. (Joey immediately said “messy” on that page.)
Finally his brother hides from him in a leaf pile, jumps out and surprises him. Then the boys join forces and multiply their ninja talents. It’s predictable, simple, and silly, but oh so perfect.
On our first read Joey was able to tell me what he saw in the pictures. I could ask “Where is the ninja?” or “What do you see?” and Joey could use his device to tell me the ninja was under the couch, behind the chair, on the bookshelf, etc. He could predict what was hiding in the leaf pile (he said pigeon), and we could talk about how the characters feel throughout the story. We could even count the ninjas.
Once Joey was familiar with the book he could help me read it with his device, helping me with Ninja, tall, short, under, hide, stop, and all the prepositions out there. It is a fun story that’s simple text allows for strong engagement.
Now if only I had a ninja doll and doll house furniture so we could act out the story in real life. Then again, maybe the Elf on the Shelf isn’t that different from that sneaky ninja.
*** In regards to last week’s post about Joey’s language plateau, Joey is back on target. Immediately after I wrote that post he went back to using 29 or 30 words in a ten minute block. I am still sure if it was a problem with his device, or because he was tired or was experiencing a developmental shift (or if my lessons weren’t engaging.) Hopefully his upward pattern will continue this winter. Stay tuned.
The last time I worked with Joey he was fairly quiet, and not as engaged as he usually is. He had just worked hard during his in home occupational therapy, and he just seemed tired. I was wondering if he was with me when he scanned the room and then gave me a disapproving look.
“What’s up?” I asked. “What book do you want to read? What will Fat Cat Sit on? or What is Chasing Duck?” (I’m on a Jan Thomas kick since Joey told me he loved funny, silly books. You don’t get sillier or funnier than Jan Thomas.
Joey looked past both books I was holding up and again scanned the area of the room behind me, obviously looking for something.
He turned back to his device. “Where a a which on?” he asked, then once again looking past me.
Where a a which on? I thought. Joey doesn’t use the question words often, so my first thought was that where and which was a mistake. Except it was so obvious he wanted something. What was it? Where a a which on?
OH! It finally hit me. Joey was asking me for the book Room on the Broom! He used where appropriately, instead of just telling me he wanted it, he was able to ask where it was. He used the wrong form of which, but I’m pretty sure the correct form isn’t on his device, and what four year old understands that there are two different versions of witch/which? When my own four year old says it she has no idea the letters it is attached to are different depending on the meaning. Joey doesn’t have the word broom, so he couldn’t say witch on broom, but he got as close as he could.
I was so proud of him, so I gave him a huge smile… and then delivered the unfortunate news. I’d taken Room on the Broom back to my house during our last session. I usually leave book kits with my students for about a month, and don’t want to add to any family’s clutter by stacking up my kits.
Joey was not impressed with my answer. Room on the Broom will be returning for our next session. Who cares if it’s December, or that we’ve already read it over 100 times?
This interaction was an excellent reminder to me that I have to continue to shift my thinking in order to determine his meaning. If I let my mind get caught on the meaning of which I may have assumed Joey was just randomly selecting words and would have moved on. It takes a moment each time to think past my initial impulse and look for meaning. I love when I find it and can let Joey know that his words have meaning we can understand.
Halloween is long over, so you can file this post away from next year. My own children love the book, Room on the Broom, but when I read it with my “Is this for Joey?” eyes I realized just what a great book it is.
Room on the Broom, written by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler, is the story of a witch who is riding around on her broomstick. As the wind picks up her hat, bow, and wand, are blown away. Each time she goes to look for an item she meets a new friend (a dog, a bird, and a frog), each who asks her if there is room on the broom for one more friend. Eventually the broom becomes so full that it breaks, and the witch falls next to a dragon who wants to eat her. Before he can, the friends she made room for ban together to save her. On the surface level it’s a great story about inclusion and friendship. But let’s look beyond that.
Prepositions: Room on the Broom is perfect for working on prepositions, because the witches’ movements are repeated. Each time the witch flies over the field, says “down” or “up”, I can include Joey’s AAC device. At first I modeled these words on the AAC device as I read, but after awhile I was able to pause and wait for Joey to fill in the down, up, or over word. These actions are also easy to act out, so you can fly a broom or a witch up and down to create a real life model of the preposition.
Weather: While it is easy to find books specifically about weather, we don’t always find opportunities to talk about weather in regular (fun and engaging) read alouds. When I’ve read this book to my own children, the weather seemed like a back story we barely commented on. Yet Joey started pointing out the weather changes to me the first time we read the story. Of course! How did I not see it before? The witch’s difficulties are all because of the coming storm. Joey has weather words on his device, and it is rare that we can use these words outside of the calendar routine. Not only can we label the weather here, but Joey can explain why the witch’s hat fell off – the wind blew it down. Suddenly, these static weather words have become a part of the plot line, and he can meaningfully use them to discuss the story.
Early Math Routines: This book is also excellent for supporting one to one correspondence when counting. There are five main characters (the witch, cat, dog, frog, and bird). Five is a great base number to count and use for number stories. On a simple level, we can count one through five. We can practice the “add one more” concept by starting to count the witch and the count, and then add on each additional animal. “Now we have three!” “Now we have four!”
The math concept I like the most here is that we can practice matching one to one. Five friends each need five seats, and each needs to put one item into the witch’s cauldron. Matching up the five friends, five items, and five seats reinforces to children that counting represents a set number of objects. Initially, some children are able to count but unable to match the memorized count “1, 2, 3” to three items. This book gives an easy, meaningful opportunity to match set amounts with other set amounts. This also helps reinforce the concept of equal and same. So much math!