Magic Moments with a Crafty Flashlight
Looking for an engaging activity to support AAC and literacy learning? Today, we’re adding to our Magic Moments series and getting ideas (and materials) from Maggie Judson. Maggie is an SLP and ATP, working as an AAC facilitator for a special education cooperative in central Illinois. In her work as an AAC SLP, she provides direct therapy, evaluations, consultations, and trainings for staff and families. You can find some of Maggie’s previous posts that she co-authored with her colleague Jeanna Antrim, here.
Magic Moments – Crafty with Core
I love hanging out on Instagram and Pinterest because there are so many cool educators doing cool things, and I get so inspired by them. As an AAC SLP, I follow a lot of SLP and teacher accounts. But I also follow some crafty accounts, because you never know where your next inspiration will come from for a super fun and engaging activity to work on functional communication skills!
This happened the other day with the neatest flashlight craft featured by Daily Dose of Art on Instagram (@art_dailydose). It’s such a genius idea – you draw a scene on a plastic baggie with sharpies, put a piece of black construction paper inside the baggie to “hide” the picture you created, then use a “flashlight” cut from white construction paper to “light” up the image – a DIY version of those cool flashlight books!
I immediately liked, saved and pinned it because I knew I wanted to work it into an AAC session, but I just wasn’t sure how. Not until I checked out the book “Flashlight” by Lizi Boyd. Confession time: I typically shy away from wordless picture books. I know, I know – these types of books are fantastic and amazing for all kinds of language skills! I know this, but sometimes I feel a little lost without some text guidance. But I decided to give this one a chance, nerves and all, because I really wanted a reason to get my craft on with that flashlight activity!
The first step was to get prepared to use the book in therapy.
- My big hang-up with wordless picture books is the whole no text thing, so I knew I needed to add some words to each page.
- I decided to focus on the core words ‘look’ and ‘what’ because they could easily be targeted throughout the story (‘LOOK! WHAT is it?’) and because they are included on the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Core Vocabulary 1st 40 list (https://unc.live/2ky47rq).
- I wrote the words on sticky notes, placed them on each page of the book, and problem solved! Instant text!
When prepping the book itself, I did not adapt it with or add in symbol support. Since I was modifying the book with simplified text (just one word per page), my students did not require any other adaptations to be able to linguistically access the book. Providing symbol support would have just diverted attention away from the written words, which I didn’t want!
However, I did still want to have symbol support available for my students – and for me! So to do this I circled the target words on manual communication boards that replicate the main vocabulary pages of the speech generating devices that my students use.
- This made it easy to see what words to target and their location on the SGD, but without distracting from the text in the book.
- When we came to the word ‘look’ or ‘what’ on a page, I could easily see where that word was located on the manual communication board. I was able to quickly touch the icon for ‘look’/’what’, while saying ‘look’/’what’, to provide my students with aided language input for these core words!
Next was to (finally, this is what I had been waiting for!) create the flashlight craft! I knew I wanted this activity to be a way to add in some fun and functional practice of the target core words. So instead of drawing a picture scene on the bag, I just wrote core words on it!
- I took a clear pouch and wrote ‘look’ and ‘what’ on it with a dry erase marker (you could also use a permanent marker, but with dry erase, it’s reusable).
- I added in a black piece of construction paper.
- I created the flashlight by free handing the shape on card stock and coloring in a little yellow for the light.
And now my fun flashlight themed therapy session was ready. But, would my students like it??
Well, to be honest, they didn’t.
They LOVED it!
And so did I! I felt like an AAC boss as I was reading the book with that text support right on each page. I didn’t have to guess what words I would be saying next or get flustered because I was trying to figure out what word to provide aided language input for. Such a simple modification to the book, but it made a huge difference for me. And my students showed a lot of interest in and focus on the text, which made my literacy-loving heart happy!
Using the flashlight to find words, just like the character in the book used a flashlight to find things, made for a natural real-world connection for my students. And it was just plain ‘ol fun! This little bit of suspense around what word the students would find next added in that excitement that helps to make learning engaging and meaningful.
- Each time a student found a word with the flashlight, I would say ‘What did you find?’ and then provide an expectant pause to allow them the opportunity to say the word. Or I would say the word verbally, while at the same time touching the word on the student’s AAC system, to work in some more aided language input!
But what’s a good lesson without an extension activity or two!
- Turn the lights down and let students use a real flashlight to find the target words on each page of the book. They can say the word they found using their AAC system, or you can provide aided language input for the word they found.
- Take this activity on the go and reuse those sticky notes by placing them around the room. Keep the lights off and use a flashlight to go on a core word scavenger hunt.
- I didn’t want the fun to stop with our session, and we know how important family involvement is, so a take-home extension craft was next.
- I found these great plastic folders from my local Dollar Tree – they are your typical plastic folder, but have a clear pouch on the front, so perfect for this activity. And it comes in black, so I could skip the construction paper.
I try to include writing opportunities into my sessions whenever possible. So for this activity, I tucked a white piece of paper in the pocket and wrote a few sentence stems directly on the folder. I included the target words in the title and in each stem, which was a great way to work in extra practice of those core words.
Then we re-read the sentence, and the students wrote their answer to finish each stem with permanent marker (that way it wouldn’t rub off on the way home).
When they finished, we read the sentences one more time, again focusing on the target words “look” and “what”. Then we removed the white paper, prepped a flashlight by cutting it out and coloring it a bit, and had some fun lighting up each sentence as we said the core words again! We got So. Much. Practice in with this activity!
In the inside pockets of the folder, the students stored the flashlight and I included a handout explaining the activity and how families could light up the words and practice saying them, the manual communication board with the target words highlighted, and ideas of books they could read at home to keep the flashlight fun going (of course ‘Flashlight’, and I also really like ‘Moonlight Animals (Lightbeam Books)’ by Elizabeth Golding).
This flashlight theme was a great way to add a magic moment into my typical therapy session and shine a light (see what I did there?!) on how talking, reading, and writing all work together for AAC users to develop their functional communication skills.
Now back to Pinterest to see what other activities I can find to get crafty with core!
You can find Maggie on Instagram @the.bookish.slp and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This post was written by Carole Zangari