TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

September 16, 2019 by - 4 Comments

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Photo of Maggie Judson and Jeanna AntripWelcome back to another installment of TELL ME About it, guest authored by Jeanna Antrim and Maggie Judson. Maggie and Jeanna are speech-language pathologists who work in the Assistive Technology Department for the Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative (BASSC) in southern Illinois. They are AT/AAC facilitators and provide evaluations, direct therapy, consultations, and trainings with school teams. In this series, they discuss how they support preschool teachers who are implementing the TELL ME program with their young students. Today, they walk us through the ways that they facilitate AAC use while focusing on a beloved book by Eric Carle.


TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

TELL ME About Reading:  The first book in the TELL ME program (Teaching Early Language and Literacy through Multimodal Expression) is the warm-up book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”.  A wonderful classic that may already be part of your classroom library! This storybook is super engaging for students as it has repeated phrases, simple text, and a predictable structure – all great components to look for in a book that is used for shared reading activities!  Each book in the TELL ME program has specific concept areas to address – the book focus for “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” is listed below.  Pay close attention to the core word focus of “you” and “see” as those words will be making an appearance throughout all activities and lessons!  Repeated exposure, repeated exposure, repeated exposure!

Book Focus:  Brown Bear, Brown Bear

  • Core Words (BOW WOW Words): you, see
  • Additional Words (Tiger Talk Words): read
  • Concept Vocabulary: colors and animals
  • Special Letter: a
  • Book Concept: front of the book

TELL ME About Writing:  The TELL ME program incorporates a strong emphasis on shared writing, with a different writing activity completed each day.  Including writing instruction for students with complex communication needs may on the surface sound hard to plan for and implement, especially when thinking of our youngest students.  But the TELL ME program does a great job of breaking each step of shared writing down into individual, easy-to-implement lessons and activities!  For us as educators, learning to provide high-quality literacy instruction to students with complex communication needs doesn’t necessarily develop naturally.  We require clear guidance and repeated practice to learn – just like when our students are learning a new skill!  And what an important skill it is!  Writing is a complex process and the more chances children have to practice, the better!  Including writing opportunities daily in the preschool classroom can help our students as they progress in their emergent literacy journey.

TELL ME More:  Below are some specific ideas on how to implement “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” in your therapy sessions and classrooms TELL ME-style!

  • Activity Core word focus!

The TELL ME program highlights specific core words to focus on during each storybook.  Having a set of words to focus on during the week, infused in all activities, really helps us provide that repeated exposure that students require to learn new vocabulary and see how words can be used in flexible ways for different reasons.  The TELL ME program really helps us look at how we can best support our students to receptively and expressively learn flexible, everyday vocabulary.  Students with complex communication needs require frequent opportunities for learning and practice of new vocabulary, so incorporating the target words in multiple instructional activities throughout the day helps to support this language growth.  Some ways to repeatedly focus on the core words are:

  • Review the core words each day before reading. This is a quick warm-up activity that helps the students get ready to use the words in context during other activities such as reading, singing, writing, and talking!Photo of someone pointing to a communication board


  • Highlight the core words with colored tape in the book.  Not only will this draw your students’ attention to the words, but this will provide you a visual reminder to target the words during reading!Image of a page in the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear


  • Sing the fun story song that includes the target words. Because singing is always a good idea!TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear


  • Take a picture walk of the book and incorporate the core words as you discuss what is happening in the pictures. TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear


  • Teaching Strategy – AAC all day!

Many students who enter into a preschool or early childhood special education classroom who may benefit from AAC strategies do not have a specific AAC system in place.  Utilizing manual communication boards can be an effective and fast way to get the needed language and communication supports in place to support your students.  And it allows for easy access to AAC supports for different activities throughout the school day!

Using these AAC supports during activities laid out in the TELL ME program, such as during shared reading and shared writing, can help get a solid foundation started for incorporating AAC in various parts of the day.  From there, integrating these visual communication supports in other activities feels totally doable!  Language and literacy learning happens all day long, so providing AAC supports and systems all day long will help our students develop their language skills and communication abilities.

Having manual communication boards available in multiple locations in the classroom can help to make it easier to teach and practice language and literacy skills in all sorts of activities throughout the day.  Here are some examples of how to provide AAC all day:

  • Manual communication boards taped to the desks allows for easy access to language during snack time, centers, and crafts. TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear


  • Having boards on teacher lanyards provides support on the go when walking in the hallway during transitions.  Communication boards on a lanyard


  • Keeping a board next to the toys allows any staff member to provide communication support during play.

Photo of a child's bench and communication board

  • Implementation Tip – How to prepare for a TELL ME week!

While the TELL ME program really breaks down all the lesson plans and activity ideas for each book, there is some planning and prepping that needs to happen beforehand in order to prepare for a TELL ME week.  We like to spend time looking through the manual to see what the core word, letter, and book concept focus is, along with what crafts and other activities are suggested.  This helps us see what materials are needed to complete each activity.

  • Prepare the book. We have all been there – you are reading a book during a shared reading interaction and you become overwhelmed with the student’s wiggles and forget what questions you intended to ask, or you start asking only yes/no questions. To help keep us on track, we have found it (extremely!) helpful to highlight the core words that you want to target in the book with either a highlighter, sticky note, or highlighting tape. To provide a visual reminder to ask a variety of WH-questions, we have found that pre-writing the questions out and placing them on the target page helps (because adults need visuals, too!). TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear


  • Prepare vocabulary and language supports (manual communication boards & fringe vocabulary supports): In order to have visual communication supports for the target core and fringe words, we like to use our free resources! We print manual communication boards from the free software simulators from AAC companies and to create fringe vocabulary flips we use the ‘capture feature’ (Saltillo), writing with icons (PRC), Boardmaker (PCS), and when all else fails the good-ole snipping tool! Logo from Windows Snipping Tool


  • Prepare the special letter: To help prepare for the special letter and to provide our students with access to the alphabet, we print a manual keyboard on the back of our manual communication boards and we write the focus letter on an index card for quick reference during groups. We have also found it helpful to post the special letter on the circle time bulletin board. This allows staff to remember to point out the letter during various centers, class activities, and play engagement (e.g., sensory boxes). Cover of Brown Bear with hand pointing at a sticky note that has the letter 'a'


  • Prepare for the book concept: For the book ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’ the book concept is the front cover. As a visual support for staff, we like to have a post-it reminding them to point this out each time before reading. The visuals are placed in the classroom library and at circle time. We also include the book concept vocabulary page available on the WordPower Vocabulary from Saltillo, to give students the language to talk about these concepts. Photo of classroom book area with picture books

Putting all of this information into a lesson planning form really helps us feel organized!   At a glance, you can see what the main targets are, what content to focus on, and what materials are needed to complete an activity.  The TELL ME program also comes with a Book-At-A-Glance Materials Checklist that shows all the book-specific materials, AAC materials, and general materials you may need to get ready for the week! TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Spending time organizing lesson plans and needed materials will help you feel more confident and prepared as you tackle a TELL ME week.  But our other best suggestion for preparing for a TELL ME week is to just jump right in!  You’ll learn as you go what works best for you, your schedule, and your students.  Sometimes, just starting is the best way to get going and figure things out!

To read more about how we prepare for a TELL ME book, check out our last post, TELL ME About It: AAC Literacy Kits, to see how we prepare a book kit box!

  • Goal Idea – Providing shared reading and writing opportunities directly relates to IEP goals, as these activities align with various core standards. Here are some examples you may find applicable:
  • ELA-Literacy.RI.K.10: Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
  • ELA-Literacy.RI.K.5: Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.

Be sure to check back next month as we work through the TELL ME manual and share activities, teaching strategies and implementation tips for the next book in the program, “I Went Walking”!

If you are interested in applying this in your own practice, you can purchase the TELL ME manual from the Attainment Company ( or from ASHA (  You can learn more about the program by watching the webinar TELL ME: AAC for the Preschool Classroom presented by Dr. Carole Zangari, available from Saltillo (

You can find our Lesson Plan form for “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and a blank form here (Brown Bear – Lesson Planning Form & Template- attachment).

Check out the videos of us reading the book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” while providing aided language stimulation for the target core words.

TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Direct link to video –

TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Direct link to video –

TELL ME About It: AAC Learning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Direct link to video –

Follow us on Instagram @basscAAC and subscribe to our YouTube channel (basscAAC) for more AAC implementation ideas!

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This post was written by Carole Zangari


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