I recently got my hands on Communication & Language Activities – Running Groups for School-Aged Children, edited by Sarah Nash. Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher to review, I used to work in the Hackney Team and Sarah is a friend. That said, here’s what I think.
I loved the illustration on the cover, and was keen to see how the book had been structured. There’s a comprehensive and clearly written introduction, covering topics like planning the sessions, dealing with difficulties and supporting carry over to the classroom.
Next there’s more than 140 activities, organised by the skill each activity targets for example: attention and listening, understanding, phonological awareness and social communication. Each activity has it’s own page: at the top it states clearly the expected time it takes (quick, mid-length, lengthy) the challenge level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and the resources needed. Then the aim of the activity is identified, followed by an easy to follow description of the method. Some activities also have suggestions for making them easier or harder, as well as helpful hints.
The second part of the book contains resources, including a handout that explains to parents what a communication group is and some visuals to photocopy, such as lotto boards.
I thought the best way of test-driving a practical resource like this was to use it to plan a group! I was off to model a social skills group for three boys in a reception class last week, so I opened up the book to see what I could find.
I decided on:
- Do What I Do: a non-verbal copying game, to encourage the children to look at me.
- Who is Wearing the Hat? an attention activity, to encourage the children to look at each other.
- Tower Game: each child waits for their name before adding a brick, to practise listening.
- I Made a Horrible Sandwich: a memory and vocabulary game, to give them a reason to listen to each other.
The activities worked well, the boys were engaged throughout and the Learning Support Assistant who’ll be running the group was enthusiastic about taking it on. When I showed her the book she commented that it looked really easy to use, there were loads of activities she’d like to try and she’d ask the SENCO to buy it immediately.
As I’ve been running language groups for a while, I wasn’t sure how many new ideas I’d find in this book. I was pleasantly surprised. Three of the activities above were new to me, and they worked a treat. The book is clearly laid out, easy to flick through for inspiration and has a great index. I’ll use it again and have already started recommending it to school staff. This book would be a useful tool if your service is trying to support other professionals to run universal and targeted interventions.
At £29.99 it’s good value. It’d be useful for therapists, SLT students, teaching staff and parents. The only thing I’d change: I hate having to photocopy pages from books (it’s not spiral-bound) so an electronic version that I could print the resources from would be fantastic. Or perhaps an iPad app?! Simply select the activities you want, make a personalised session plan and then track the children’s responses!
If you’d like a copy of this book Hinton House is kindly offering a 15% discount. Do you run or plan language groups? What’s your favourite activity?