fireman small

Fireman Small

Title: Fireman Small

Author: Wong Herbert Yee

Age: preschool, early elementary

Description: One tiny firefighter works hard all day to help his friends when they are in trouble.


  • Rhyming
  • Auditory Memory
  • Sequencing
  • Prediction
  • Perspective Taking
  • Helping others
  • Dramatic Play

Why I like this book: The catchy rhyme in this book grabs kids’ attention and the simple plot line is great for inspiring dramatic play.

Ideas for Use:

  • This story contains a repetitive rhyme that recurs several times within the story. Have kids complete more and more of the rhyme each time it occurs to encourage auditory memory skills
  • The problems related in the story have rather obvious solutions so this is a great book for introducing the idea of problems and solutions within a story.
  • This book can also be used to introduce the category of community helpers. Discuss the different roles that each community helper plays in our community and then play a round of the Bag Game to reinforce those concepts.
  • The narrative structure of this story lends itself very well to use with the Story Grammar Marker App. Have kids retell the story with particular focus on the “kickoff” (initiating event) for each problem, the accompanying emotion, the “plan” and the resolution.
  • This is a fantastic story for promoting group pretend play. Using small people figurines and dramatic play materials, the kids can set up a fire station and props for each of the story components. Kids can then take turns with each of the characters.
  • Kids can also act out the story with themselves as characters and gross motor materials as props. Acting out the story in this way provides a wealth of opportunity to experience movement, deep muscle input and tactile sensations. Using a scooter board or platform swing as a fire truck, a soft barrel as a well and/or a climbing pole as a tree provides lots of different sensory input while fostering representational ideation and play.
  • Fireman Small’s friends really appreciate him. Use this story to talk about thanking friends when they are helpful and how good it feels when we help others. Social Thinking Behavior Maps provide a great visual aid for talking about the connections between our actions and our emotions.

Submitted by:  Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

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Snow Friends

Title:  Snow Friends

Author: M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton

Description: A little bear wakes from his winter nap and has no one to enjoy the snow with. He decides to build a snowman to play with and meets some friends along the way.

Goals/ objectives:

Early inferencing and predicting
Why questions
animal/winter vocabulary (winter animals: bear, rabbit, otter)
social skills/friendship
body language

Why I like this story: A cute winter story that encourages friendship and thinking about others.
Ideas for use:

Great story for retelling and identifying the story grammar elements (characters, setting, initiating event, etc.). I pair with “Braidy” through Mindwing Concepts. A clear kickoff and plan (bear needs a friend so builds a snowman…)
use to discuss setting (woods, cave). Draw a big winter wood scene and have child add the various winter animals to retell the story.
Good for description as well as the pictures are textured….sparkly, shiny, white, cold snow. etc.
Great for early prediction/inferencing (e.g. What could be under the snow making noise? (rabbit in burrow), what will they use the sticks for?)
Good for modeling and exposing to “why” questions. Why do they need carrots? Why is the rabbit upset? Why is the bear lonely? etc.
Beautiful illustrations for body language and emotions. Have children act out the body language.
Good story to act out in a group or dyad . Use big exercise balls to act as snow balls. One child holds the bottom while the others, “make” the other snow ball. Encourage team work and communication as they roll the balls.
Discuss friendship and thinking of others. Why did the animals make another snowman? (They didn’t want the snowman to be lonely when they left to do other activities). How can they include others?

Submitted by Meghan G. Graham  M.S. CCC-SLP

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Red head pic

Red Hat

Title: Red Hat

Author: Lita Judge

Description:  Similar to Lita Judge’s winter story, Red Sled (see review here) a little girl leaves her red hat outside on the clothes line, and many forest animals decide to borrow it for some fun. However, when they return the hat…it isn’t the same.

Goals/ objectives:

  • Early narrative (simple sequence story)
  • Perspective taking
  • Early prediction
  • Emotion/Facial Expression/Body language
  • Vocabulary (forest animals: rabbits, raccoons, bears, porcupine, etc.)
  • Social Pragmatics and Problem Solving
  • Speech Production

Why I like this story: A nice sequel to the Red Sled story, with wonderful illustrations as a mainly “wordless” book.

Ideas for use:

  • Have children be the “teacher” and read it to you. Encourage temporal markers (first, next, then) and expanding on their language. Would be great to incorporate with early learning of story grammar elements (character, settings, initiating event, etc.) and pair with “Braidy” from Mindwingconcepts.
  • A great story to “act out” in a group. Practice the “set up” of the play: assigning roles for the different animals, choosing objects to represent the house, the clothes line, the hat, the forest.
  • Use thinking and speaking bubbles and have kids fill them in. What are the animals and the little girl thinking, saying, etc.
  • A nice story to discuss simple problem solving. What did the girl do when she saw her hat ruined? Could be a nice discussion for staying “calm” when a problem arises, and working together as a team to fix the problem (as she and the animals knit the hat back together).
  • Mainly a wordless book, but lots of opportunity for speech production. For example, I have been using for syllable sequencing kiddos, and making up different sounds the animals make (appropriate for their targets) as they “steal” the hat and play within the forest (i.e. wooogoooo, gaaaaaadeeeee, moooooowaaaa, etc.). You could do this with straight articulation targets too.
  • The illustrations are great for working on simple prediction. What animal will be next? What will happen next?
  • Work on similarities and differenced between the Red Sled and the Red Hat. What is the same? (concept, some animals, same main character, etc.) What’s different (different season, different animals, borrow and use vs. take and destroyed)
  • I myself am not particularly crafty…however it seems a construction paper hat with red yarn and a pom pom could be a nice pairing with this story:) Could incorporate temporal markers throughout the steps, and direction following during the process.

Submitted by Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

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Me and My Dragon Scared of Halloween

Title: Me and My Dragon: Scared of Halloween

Author and Illustrator:  David Biedrzycki

Age:  preschool, early elementary

Description:  A boy tried to help his pet dragon to not be afraid of Halloween.


  • Perspective taking
  • Body language
  • Early prediction and inferencing
  • Trying new experiences
  • Narrative language
  • Pretend play
  • Trickery
  • Social skills
  • Halloween vocabulary

Why I like this book:  The illustrations are incredible and keep kids engaged. An adorable story with a nice sequence of events for kids to retell and/or act out. There is also an Elvis reference, which I find awesome…I mean why not? :)

Ideas for use:  

  • A great story for labeling emotions and what characters could be thinking. Create a “thinking” bubble and hold over different characters heads to discuss. Point out and act out body language. Pair that with the character facial expression and discuss the context. There are great examples of “trickery” too- the dragon eventually dressed up as a dragon, but adults and kids think it’s a kid dressed as a dragon. A great opportunity for what do people “think” versus what is really happening.

Screenshot 2014-10-07 14.06.42

  • Encourage “detective eyes” to look for “clues” to help kids make inferences and predictions throughout the story. You can use the “remember” + “know” = “guess” framework for inferencing. For example in the first scene help students REMEMBER (see the clues) of the burned cake, small fire, burned clothing, soot on faces, holding fire extinguisher). What do they KNOW about dragons and fire? (they breathe fire, extinguishers are used to put out fires, etc.), helps us GUESS that the dragon accidentally burned down the cake and presents with his fiery breath!
  • Have students act out the story. Someone can be a dragon, the boy in the story and the various other characters (parents, other kids, etc.). Make a visual plan with the sequence to keep kids on task.
  • There are many opportunities for social skill discussions. A concept we work on constantly is “friends don’t make other friends wait.” The dragon has a tough time selecting his candy while trick or treating. The children in line are visibly frustrated. A good opportunity for discussion.
  • Pair with the Zones of Regulation for different emotions are how our body feels. Lots of opportunity for discussion around regulation. The Dragon obviously is “scared” and even “terrified” which can be at different “zones” in this program. Discuss the differences and what tools could help.

Z of R

Screenshot 2014-10-07 14.04.08

  • There are lots of examples of halloween vocabulary including werewolves, zombies, frankenstein, mummies, costumes, etc.
  • There is lots of “subtle” humor throughout the story that can be pointed out if language skills allow for it.

Submitted by:  Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

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Me and My Dragon

Title:  Me and My Dragon

Author and Illustrator:  David Biedrzycki

Age:  preschool, early elementary

Description:  A boy describes all the things he could do with a dragon and how he would take care of this new and unusual pet.


  • Perspective taking
  • Body language
  • Early prediction
  • Trying new experiences
  • Managing the unexpected
  • Pretend play
  • Trickery

Why I like this book:  Incredible illustrations practically come alive!  Characters on each page, including the dragon, show a wide range of emotions such as happiness, confusion, fear, remorse, concern, curiosity, sneakiness, and surprise.

Ideas for use:  

  • Before reading the book, discuss what kind of unusual pets kids would like and what they would do with them
  • Read the book to tap into the children’s imagination, then talk again about unusual pets and see if they can come up with different suggestions
  • Before turning the page, ask the kids to predict what will happen next
  • Discuss how each child, adult, or dragon is feeling by noting facial expressions and body language.  Have the kids act out different characters while the others guess which character they are mimicking
  • Help preschoolers with regulation and deep breathing by taking deep breaths and blowing when they see the dragon breathe fire
  • Have kids practice impulse control by holding bubble blowers and only blowing when they see the dragon breathe fire
  • Play open-ended dragon games.  Have the kids make up new ways to play with or take care of a pet dragon
  • Create a dragon with craft materials as a group project

Submitted by:  Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

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Body Talk

Many years ago, I first heard that communication was more about body language than words.  As an OT who worked with children who had motor planning challenges, I was fascinated by how limiting their inability to imitate was on communication.  Ever since Albert Mehrabian’s famous study in 1967, people have quoted his formula, misquoted it and speculated about it’s validity.  (Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal Communication. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction.)  His striking claim established that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% spoken word.  Others have stated everything from 60% body language and 40% words to 90% body language and 10 percent spoken word.  The important takeaway here is that body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and context, are all essential to being an effective communicator.

 My friend has a new baby.  It has been a blast watching this 5-month old stare at her mother’s face.  She mimics her mother’s expressions by smiling or displaying scowl marks on her little forehead.  Her miniature body moves in accord with her moods.  Excitement elicits wild arm and leg flapping and high-pitched squeals.  Sadness gives way to the pouting lower lip and tight limbs pulled close to her body.  This little one has no words but man… can she communicate! What happens when a child in school does not attend to his teachers’ face because he simply doesn’t understand that it is communicating anything?  The importance of body language, facial expressions, context and tone of voice has always been important to me – as a teacher, a mom, and an OT.  Yet, I STILL need reminders.  John, in my social cognition group flips around the room giggling and specifically NOT doing what I ask.  When I stop his body, get down to his level and say, “Look at my face.  What does this face mean?” and he doesn’t have a clue, I am still surprised.  When I say to another, “Listen to my voice.  Is this a happy or mad voice?” and Sara can’t tell me, I am still surprised.  When all the kids are assuming my favorite yoga pose, child’s pose, on the floor and Gabe is sitting in his chair and talking and I say, “Look at what the other kids are doing.  Can you make your body do the same thing?” and he simply sits on the floor, I am still surprised.   I don’t mean to imply that if I have a hard time remembering that many kids don’t use nonverbal communication well that you won’t.  I do strongly suggest that we are an incredibly verbose society and words are often our first line of action.  My go-to activity when I need reminders is to engage the kids in the STOP ‘N GO game featured in our Social Adventures App.  This game is played much like Mother May I? but without words.  It is important that the leader be an adult so that clear nonverbal communication can be provided.  When the leader looks at a child, the child needs to point to her chest to confirm that she knows she is the chosen one.  The leader then uses gestures, facial expressions, and body movements to communicate how that child should move forward:  big steps, little steps, crawling, jumping, fast, slow, backwards, etc.  After this game, the kids are primed to at least try to gain information from the teacher and peers by looking at them. Please check out our Social Adventures App for more activities addressing social interaction.  The app also includes 4, 8-week programs to be used with social cognition groups.  Most importantly, please consider the impact of non-verbal challenges when you encounter kids who seem to be acting out behaviorally.  They may want to follow your direction but just don’t have a body clue!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

PHOTO copyright : Lars Plougmann



arnosky turkey

I’m a Turkey

Title: I’m A Turkey!

Author: Jim Arnosky

Description:  The life of a turkey from his own perspective.


-phonological awareness skills (rhyming)

-why questions (i.e. ups and downs of being a turkey, why must they be careful, etc.)

-Discussion around body language (i.e. discuss how they communicate “without words”)

-perspective taking

Why I like this book: It’s a fun holiday story.

Ideas for use:

-Have children fill in the rhyming words, or generate other words that would rhyme.

-After reading do a game of charades. The story talks about how in a “group” they often “communicate without words”- expand on this. Could act out thanksgiving theme ideas as well (e.g. turkey, dinner, setting table, cooking, etc.)

-Have children make their own thanksgiving poems.

-for older students, discuss the turkey’s perspective vs. the hunter, vs. the farmer, etc.

-For causals have children fill in “why” turkeys have to be careful…because….

Submitted by: Meghan G.Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

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Can I Bring Woolly to the Library, Ms. Reeder?

Title:  Can I Bring Woolly to the Library, Ms. Reeder?

Author: Lois Grambling

Description: A little boy fantasizes about bringing a Woolly Mammoth named “Woolly” to the library. He provides many reasons why Wooly should be allowed, and predicts what would and could happen.



  • “Why” questions
  • Inferencing/prediction
  • Curriculum connections: extinct animals
  • Reading Body Language

Why I like this book: The illustrations are wonderful for kids and grownups alike. An entertaining story that can address many higher level language goals.

Ideas for this book:

  • The boy provides many predictions as to what might happen if Wooly comes to the library. Have students generate their own ideas. What could happen if a big animal comes to the library? How could he help? What problems might there be?
  • Lots of opportunity for both implicit and explicit “why” questions. For example,  Why does Woolly need slippers? (because he would make too much noise walking around the library; Why would Wooly be helpful at putting books away? (because he can reach the tall shelves), etc.
  • A great story to connect with expository text/media  around extinct animals. Here is a great example from Brainpop Jr
  • The illustrations are vivid and clear. Great examples of body language for children to interpret. How are characters feeling? Why? How can you tell? To assist with understanding pair with thinking and speaking bubbles
  • The story ends with the boy realizing that Wooly may be homesick if he came to live with the boy. Have students discuss/write about a time when they were homesick? How did they feel and why?
  • At the very end the boy suggests bringing another extinct animal (Saber Tooth Tiger) to the library. Have students create their own version of this story. Use a story generation app/software like the Story Patch App. Have then predict what could happen if that animal were to come to the library? Or to School?

Submitted by; Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

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Being Frank

Title:  Being Frank

Author:  Donna W Earnhardt

Illustrator:  Andrea Castellani

Description:   Frank learns that “being honest” can be tricky business.  A wise grandpa suggests that “more sugar and less pepper” is often the best way to go…


    • Social skills, especially being honest yet kind
    • Emotions
    • Body Language
    • Perspective Taking
    • Inferencing/Predicting
    • Narrative Language

Why I Like This Book:   This book provides a fun and engaging way to discuss a nuanced topic.  I really appreciate the catch phrase, “more sugar less pepper” that is introduced in this book.  Also, the illustrations are fantastic!

Ideas for Use:   

  •  This is a great book to introduce the topic of being honest and kind to kids who may have difficulty with this concept.  There are several scenarios presented which offer opportunities to discuss how the other person might feel and to brainstorm another approach.  The introduction of the catch phrase, “more sugar less pepper” then provides a way for kids to apply this same approach to new situations.
  • In a group setting, this book is wonderful for acting out.  Kids can work on body language and facial expression to relate their emotions, both when their feelings are hurt and then later when they feel validated.
  • This is also a great book for discussing Social Behavior Mapping (Garcia-Winner).  Frank certainly feels much happier when his friends are happy with him because he treated them more kindly..
  • Once kids have the experience of acting out the book and they are familiar with “more sugar less pepper,” have two kids at a time act out a brief scenario.  Include the other kids by having them give a thumbs up if the child is honest and kind and if not, have the audience say, “more sugar less pepper.”
  • This book is also great to use to work on figurative language.  The idea of “more sugar less pepper” can be explored both literally and figuratively.  Then additional idioms can be explored by generating brief scenarios that would incorporate both the literal and figurative meanings.
  • The scenarios in this book are also good for inferencing and predicting.
  • The narrative structure and story retell can be made more fun by using the Story Grammar Marker App from MindwingConcepts.  This app gives kids the chance to be a newscaster and to tell the exciting story of Being Frank.  Kids can even record their “newscast” and share with others over email!

Submitted by:  Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

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Ellen DeGeneres’ App is Great for Social Skills and Language

Ellen Degeneres makes me happy. I’m pretty sure she makes everyone happy. Usually she entertains me at night after work when I watch her show that I DVR. But lately, I’ve been getting to enjoy her during the work day. She created an app called Heads Up that is a speech pathologist’s dream. It’s a lot like the popular traditional speech and language game Headbanz…but it’s on the iPhone/iPad which gives it lots of awesome features. Basically you place the phone, screen facing out, on your forehead. Whoever you are playing with then must describe the given word that is on the screen. If you guess correctly you quickly move the phone forward and back up to your head and a new word appears. If you need to pass because you don’t have a good guess, you move the phone backwards over your head. This is a great feature for many of my students.

There are various categories you can choose from for description, from animals to food. There is a new “kids” deck as well which is obviously filled with kid friendly words (including characters like Runaway Ralph and Zac Efron). The best part about the game is the video recording feature. While you are describing a word…the phone/ipad is recording you. You can watch the video after which is great for a good laugh, as well as an opportunity for some discussion around the child’s performance. (Ellen, can you provide a “pause” button for the video? That would be great for us therapists to breakdown the performance for some teachable moments!). 

I’ve used it with a number of kids for lots of different goals and objectives.

Here are some ideas:

Use in a social group.

  • Great for working together as a team. How many words can you describe and get your team to guess together?
  • It’s a game you CAN’T play alone (like our Bag Game App). Get kids interacting and laughing.
  • Great for body language. Make it more challenging by requiring no words – just body language to describe. This is awesome to watch back and point out on the recorded video. Can kids change their bodies if their friends aren’t getting it? Can they problem solve and think flexibly?
  • Great opportunity for perspective taking from positioning the iPhone/iPad so others can read it, to thinking about saliency (what’s the most important thing) for others to know about something to help them guess
  • Have kids watch the video and give feedback to their friends. Can they give a compliment for what was helpful and/or creative that helped them guess it correctly? What could they have done differently? Can they provide this feedback with appropriate tone of voice and word choices?

Use for individual therapy.

  • Use for description. Pair with the  EET and encourage thorough description. Discuss the importance of starting with the most important/salient information. Especially since this is a timed game
  • Use for generalization of speech production work. Can students use their targeted speech sounds under pressure? At the sentence and discourse levels?
  • Use as a “reward” for completing challenging work within a session. A great language based game to play for fun!

Thanks Ellen for finding another way to make us all happy, even while at work:) 

By Meghan G Graham, MS, CCC-SLP