Here are some fun and engaging ideas for your pre-story therapy sessions!
🔮 Making Predictions
Encourage students to make predictions about the story based on the title and cover. Use questions and prompts like:
What do you think this story will be about?
What do you think will happen in this story?
I wonder where the character(s) will go in the story.
I wonder what the characters will do in this story.
I wonder if this story will have any villains.
I wonder what kind of an ending this story will have.
You can also teach students how to explain their thinking and refer to context clues with prompts and questions like:
What do you see on the cover that makes you think that?
I wonder what made you think of that.
Why do you think that will happen?
What word in the title made you think that?
Was there a word in the title that made you think that?
I wonder where that idea came from.
You might also want to do a picture walk, briefly flipping through the illustrations and discussing what might happen in the story based on the pictures.
While making predictions let students:
Wear a wizard hat
Hold a wand
Rub a crystal ball
✏️ Graphic Organizers
Utilize KWL charts (know, want to know, learned)
Make a list of things that relate to the theme - maybe organize the list by category by highlighting words with different colors or writing the ideas on sticky notes that can then be moved and grouped together
Discuss a vocabulary word and make a semantic word map
Have students vote on 2-3 predictions they agree with and write their name under the prediction
If you're reading fractured fairy tales or stories that have the same plot line, graph student predictions regarding some aspect(s) (e.g. the problem, attempt, solution/consequence) and review those predictions as you read the story
Use pictography in place of writing
Use yarn or string with index cards or sticky notes to create semantic word maps on a wall, bulletin board, or whiteboard
🔗 Make Connections (Background Knowledge)
Share an aspect of the story with your students that will support their comprehension of the story. Ask questions or make leading prompts that help your students make connections from their lives to the target aspect. This could be:
Key vocabulary words
Character actions or traits
The moral or theme
If you're reading a story that has a similar schema, plot, theme, moral, etc. as a story you've previously read, you could use that as a jumping point for a discussion. For example, if you've previously read "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and you're going to read "Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas," you might want to ask leading questions that help students recall story grammar and plot elements. They can then use that background knowledge to make connections with the new story you're going to read.
Give each student time to share their thoughts and connections. In addition to this being helpful for story comprehension, this also helps them feel heard and improves your connection with the student 💛
Use props to inspire connections and encourage students to share:
Costumes or pretend play dress up items
Print out pictures, pull them up on a device, or project them
Use toys (e.g. zoo animals if the story takes place at the zoo)
🔎 Word Hunt
Discuss and learn key vocabulary.
Make a semantic word map
Use YouTube to watch videos
Look at images on Google search
Teach students how to use a dictionary or use technology to search for the definition
Then, while reading the story, have students look out or listen for the key vocabulary words. You might want to prompt them that there is one on the upcoming page. Once identified, have students state what the word means in the context of the story. See if they can use the word in a sentence to describe the story.
🔎 Give students a magnifying glass to find the target word on a page
👂🏽 Make a "listening device" (think cone or party hat) out of paper to use while reading the story (e.g. "Okay friends I think I see one of our vocabulary words on this page. Let's get out those listening devices and see if you can spot the word! Once you hear it, put your device on your head.")
✏️ Let each student write the definition of target words or draw pictographs on sticky notes and stick them on the wall or whiteboard nearby. Then when you come across a target word while reading the story, you can ask students for the definition and they can reference the sticky notes
Make BINGO boards together, either for individual use or a large group one on a whiteboard. Then as you read the story together, students can mark off words they hear
Grab a blank smash mat (pictured below) and have students fill it in with target vocabulary words. They can cover or smash a ball of play dough over each word when they hear it while reading the book together
(the smash mats pictured above are included in my printable book companions on TPT)
📖 Story Exploration
Do a book walk! This can be a fun student-led activity where they are given time to flip through the pages to examine the illustrations. Give them space to ask questions, make connections on their own, and steer the direction of the discussion in general. You can prompt with "I wonder..." sentence starters or statements if needed.
Grab some sticky notes and let students "mark up" the book! You can give each student a different colored sticky note and then write down:
Predictions they might have made
Questions or wonderings they have about the story
"I think" statements (e.g. I think that's the bad guy) they might have said and compare them to what actually occurred in the story once your read that page
Alternatively, they could use pictography to represent their ideas
Let them put their sticky notes on the page it pertains to and then revisit them when you read the story!
Hope that helps! 💛