Using Rhymes and Fingerplay to Increase Language Skills

Using fingerplays, rhymes and chants in speech therapy are a great way to target specific language and motor skills that young students with language impairments may be missing.

These activities are great for building vocabulary as children learn language, learning the sounds of words, and hearing the rhythm of language. Fingerplays also help children develop attention skills, imagination skills, gain large and small motor skills, and work on memory and social skills.

This type of quick lesson is also a great way to signal transitions like time to move from the carpet to the table, time to begin or time to leave.

I recently started a new routine in my group of 3 year old students with language impairments. We started with the finger family song. I used this video by The Learning Station to initially teach the song. We only used it once because staring at the screen wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to see reciprocal interaction, eyes on me or their own fingers, imagining they had an entire family on their one little hand.

If you think your little students are past this communication milestone, I challenge you to try targeting it specifically. Chances are, you will be surprised at the first attempt. Some of my students had no idea that they could individually point their fingers in a specific order. Putting their one hand behind their back and pulling it out to reveal another family of fingers…mindblowing!

As Christmas came around, we changed the characters on our hands to Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, little elf, reindeer, and snowman.

I wasn’t sure this was working the way I had planned until a parent contacted me by email and said, “We love the Daddy Finger Song that you have taught…” The one parent who contacted me was the last one I expected based on their son’s initial exposure and response to music in my classroom. He had now learned a new song, with motions, retained the vocabulary over the course of days and weeks and taught it to his parents!

This encouraged me to continue this new routine turned “tradition” in my speech room. My students NEVER let me forget our song before we leave.

We know that while learning language, enactment helps memory by creating a more complex representation of the word, making it more easily retrieved.

To learn a new word, students need multiple opportunities and representations of those words to learn and apply them to a song. This song for January teachers part/whole relationships, body part vocabulary, winter clothing, sequencing, action words, size concepts and more!

This free download contains key vocabulary with pictures and text in 2 inch cards. Use them to visually represent phrases and sentences as students practice combining words verbally. Place them in a small bin of cotton balls and let students pull them out and name what they see. Ask WH questions about the pictures. If they pull out the hat ask, “Where does the hat go?” When the BIG or ROUND card is pulled out have the students name things that are included in that descriptive category.

These images also pair nicely with the book Sneezy the Snowman. I read it aloud to my preschoolers and used the visual for “melt” and “build” throughout to help them predict what happens to Sneezy.

By communicating what we are doing in the speech room with our parents who then review the activities and vocabulary, the likelihood of student mastery of skills increases. “Parent-Implemented Intervention” can take many forms but has been proven successful. A parent letter is included in this download to send home with a copy of the snowman poem for parents to work on the same vocabulary and concepts targeted in speech therapy.

Nursery rhymes and fingerplays have been around for many years. Evolving cultural roles and family dynamics have influenced the passing of these traditions on to more recent generations. Since children are not learning them in the home, it is our responsibility to introduce them to students in our classroom as well as train the parents how to use them in everyday activities in the home.

I hope you are now encouraged to incorporate more rhymes and fingerplays into your speech room, your classroom or your home. Please enjoy this download by incorporating it into your winter themed lessons with language impaired students. I would love to see how you use the included printables in your classroom.

Feel free to tag me on IG so I can see your creativity!

If you are using specific songs in your speech room that you would like me to know about, please let me know in the comments below or by email.

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