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Here's a Fun Way to Work on Figurative Language in Speech Therapy

Updated: Jan 4

Feature a Joke of the Week on your door to target your figurative language goals in speech therapy!

Many of the students on our speech therapy caseloads have difficulties interpreting nonliteral, or figurative, language - it can be a characteristic of a few different learner profiles, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), and kids with poor working memory to name a few.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try featuring a Joke of the Week on my office door, and it worked like a charm!

Here's how I did it:

For the first week, I put up my own joke: What kind of shoes do ninjas wear? (see below for the answer!)

an example of a joke of the week on my office door

I didn't say much about it, but kids started noticing it on my door and would ask me about it. When they did, I'd congratulate them on their excellent observation skills, and tell them that it was my joke of the week, and that every week there would be a new joke.

Anyone who had a good joke could participate.

Then I'd ask them if they'd like to hear the joke. If they were interested, I'd ask them to read me the question (a decoding task - yay!) and I'd then give them the punchline. If they got the joke, great! I'd tell them they could try telling it to their teachers or family members.

If they didn't get the joke, I'd take the opportunity to explain it to them, which was a fun, meaningful way to talk about multiple meaning words.

I then explained that I'd be looking for new jokes for the next week, and to tell me one if they had one.

The Joke of the Week grew organically after that.

Oftentimes, I'd observe kids coming in with jokes in mind - isn't it the best when kids think about speech therapy outside of our sessions?! And so many of my students benefited from having a way to start a conversation when they arrived to my room (many of whom had pragmatic language goals related to initiating and maintaining conversations).

Because I'd put the joke's creator's name on the joke, I'd tell everyone who wanted to know the punchline that they'd have to ask the creator themselves. This provided an easy and positive way for my students to interact, both inside and outside of the speech therapy room.

Lots of kiddos wanted the - ahem - fame and prestige of being the one who had their joke on the door that week, so I had to field many, many terrible jokes. This provided another organic opportunity to provide kids with feedback regarding how jokes work and what makes them funny.

I had one student who tried and tried to tell a joke and when she finally told a funny one it felt like such an accomplishment!

I even had teachers come by and ask what the week's punchline was and it often gave us tired educators a chance to giggle.

After jokes had their time in the spotlight on my door, I retired them to a wall in my office, which gave kids a way to remember them and to keep a little collection of jokes at the ready.

the joke wall in my speech therapy room

As SLPs, we're always looking for ways to target as many skills as efficiently as we can, and this was such an easy way to work in some figurative language and pragmatic language.

If you're interested in targeting figurative language goals with some excellent storybooks, you can find my book companions for figurative language here.

If you'd like more ideas, here's another post about more ways I target figurative language goals in my speech therapy sessions.

And would you like to know what kind of shoes ninjas wear?



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Have you heard? StoryWhys now offers the Speech and Spell series of resources. I am always trying to tie articulation work and spelling together in my therapy and I've never found any good resources out there to help me do this. So I made my own! Many more speech sounds and spelling rules to come. They'll be 50% off for 48 hrs when new resources are added to the StoryWhys store. Find them here.

Did you know book companions can be among the best speech therapy materials for elementary students? Explore all of the StoryWhys book companions for speech therapy in my store. You'll find comprehensive book companions that target many different language skills or Spotlight Series book companions that focus on one type of skill, all using high-quality, beloved storybooks.

And get your FREE, 71-page book companion for speech therapy on the free download page.


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