Early Literacy Storytime: Fill in the _____

Speech therapists talk about setting up “communication temptations” in order to motivate children to communicate or speak. A communication temptation is a situation that a child really wants to resolve in a certain way, so they are willing to try to use their signs and/or their words to get what they want. For example, a therapists might offer them a food that they don’t like, or take away one piece of a puzzle they are solving together. The child really wants to say “No!” or to find all the pieces, so they may be more willing to use their words. Any time we make it tempting for children to use their expressive vocabularies, we are helping their language skills become more fluid. One way to set up a communication temptation is by using a repetitive or predictable book, pausing before you finish reading a sentence or a phrase, and waiting for the children to fill in the missing word, phrase, or idea.

One way to do this is to choose a book for storytime that has sentences that are incomplete on one page, then are completed after you turn the page. This sets up a nice delay for the children to fill with their suggestions for the next word.

Some titles with this type of page turn are:

Flip Flap Fly, by Phyllis Root
Yawn, by Sally Symes (a board book)
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, by Karen Beaumont
Monkey and Me, by Emily Gravett

There are other books that don’t have incomplete sentences on their pages, but they still can work well if you include pauses for children to fill in.

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr
I Spy with My Little Eye, by Edward Gibbs
Whose Nose and Toes? By John Butler

There are many, many books that would work for this! Choose your own favorite!

Read your book with the children. Pause when the book indicates so that the children have a chance to fill in the missing word. Or, insert pauses before the ends of sentences or phrases, or before a repetitive phrase in the book. With Brown Bear, you would say, “I see a …” [pause] / [turn the page] / [wait for the children to name the animal] / [then continue] “ …yellow duck looking at me.”

Tell them they are being good listeners and good thinkers! When you’ve finished reading the book, say something like this to the adults: “Grownups, when you let your children finish a phrase in the book, they practice saying the words they know and have a chance to say new words. The more words they can say, the more words they will be able to read easily.”

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4 Responses to Early Literacy Storytime: Fill in the _____

  1. Love it. I also like to just say the wrong word in the middle of familiar stories. The kids say “WHAT?! Curious George is NOT a bad, little monkey! He’s a GOOD little monkey.”

  2. Melissa says:

    Thanks Jennifer! Kids LOVE catching on and showing that they know what to do or say! And you’re right–this is an easy thing to do just about anywhere in a storytime!

  3. Amanda M. says:

    You’ve explained this so well!
    I love using this technique with rhymes, cumulative stories, and stories with a repeated refrain as well :)
    A few of my favourite stories for this are:
    Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy Carlstrom
    I Know a Rhino by Charles Fuge
    Come Rhyme with Me by Hans Wilhelm (this one cracked up my 5 year old – it mentions poop & nose picking – perfect for the kindergarten set :))
    Many Robert Munsch books
    Nursery Rhymes
    Bouncing & Tickling Rhymes (extend the life of these familiar rhymes from babyhood by using them to encourage language skills as children begin talking, and perhaps feel they are too big for the “bouncing & tickling”, or do both at once if they still enjoy the actions)
    Thanks for the great post!
    Now that I have these books out, Nick & I are going to have some cozy story time :)

  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks Amanda! Thanks for adding your books to the list–there are so many and I just provided a few in the post! Totally putting Come Rhyme with Me on hold RIGHT NOW.

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