Thursday, October 18, 2018

Short stories in speech

Happy fall everyone! The weather in NYC has finally cooled down, and I'm just loving it. Gimme all the chunky scarves!! I wanted to hop on here to talk a little about short stories in speech. Have you used them in your therapy sessions? It's a great way to work on a ton of therapy goals while also engaging your students. 

One challenge I've had over the years is finding quality stories. It's important for me to use short stories that have some rigor but are still relatively easy for my students to understand. I need them to be rich in language so they could practice some of the skills expected of them in the classroom. Most importantly, they can't be corny. PLEASE no more stories about zoo trips or birthday parties.

You'll notice that many of the "short" stories I share below are still relatively long for a 30-40 min session. Especially if you do some pre-reading work. However, the great part is that you can use it for several sessions. How great is that? Therapy planned for at least two weeks! 

No matter the story, I always follow these steps:

Step one: I always do some pre-reading work. I might bring up a topic that comes up in the story. I will ask questions about their experiences based on what that character is going through (e.g., "How do you feel about...?" "Have you ever experienced...." "How would you...."). I might talk about the setting or time period. You can do this verbally, or have the students write it out. If there is important vocabulary that I feel might help with comprehension, I also spend some time going over that.

Step two: We review what we should be doing as we're reading. This is a good time to introduce or remind students about "during reading" strategies such as chunking, annotating, underlining unfamiliar words, etc... This depends on the goals you want to target. You can tell them to pay attention to what the characters are doing, saying, etc...

Step three: Once I feel the students are ready, we begin reading. As we read, I often stop for comprehension check. How much you read before stopping depends on your students skill level. I might ask some comprehension questions, what they're thinking, have them annotate...again: goal dependent.

Step four: My sessions usually run 30-40 minutes. This is typically not enough time to do all of the above + finish a story (maybe if it's an individual session). I find a good place to stop, and continue in the next session.

Step five: In the next session we do a review of what we read the previous day. Then, we finish reading the story. Once the story is complete, it's up to you what you want to do. You can ask them to summarize the story using story grammar . They can answer comprehension questions (inferences, predictions, make connections, come up with a theme/life lesson, etc...). You can also do some writing activities. The world is your oyster!  You can do comprehension one day, vocabulary activities the next, and writing another session. I like to spend four sessions at most, otherwise students get bored.

Note: I often have one story for every group, but will differentiate the questions, prompts, etc.. based on skill level.

Below are some of my favorite short stories that I use every year

1. Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting* 

2. Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

3. The Goodness of Matt Kaiser by Avi (NOTE: long but worth it).

4.  Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles*

5. Slower Then The Rest by Cynthia Rylant

6. Shells by Cynthia Rylant  

7. Mr. Entwhistle by Jean Little 

8. Stray by Cynthia Rylant

*Picture books but can be found written in short story format. 

There you have it! Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite short stories? Let me know!
5 comments on "Short stories in speech"
  1. Thank you for posting! It’s my first year in middle school and I LOVED doing lit based therapy in elementary but can’t really use those same materials. :/ This was BEYOND helpful!!!

  2. Hi! I really enjoy following your blog and getting ideas. I was interested in reading Fly Away Home with my Middle Schoolers because I really like the theme and the message of the story. However, the vocabulary words seem very elementary and all of the online resources (WH questions, graphic organizers...) I found are for much younger grades. I was wondering if you had any ideas on how to elevate it to a higher level and how to make the activities more grade appropriate? Thanks so much!

    1. wow, this is ridiculously late! I have been missing so many comments, so so sorry. I'm not sure if you ended up reading it, but I actually haven't noticed that students found it childish (I wouldn't have done it otherwise- I am super conscious of keeping things age-appropriate). Also, the teachers in my school read it with the ICT 6th graders! I don't do the picture book person, and copy and paste it into a google doc. If you send me an e-mail (, I can send you sample questions that are all higher-level. I ask about theme, character traits, lots of why questions, etc... You'll be surprised how challenging it is for them!

  3. This is a wonderful resources, thank you for the information! Where do you find these short stories? I wondered if there is a particular source you like. Thank you!


Custom Post Signature

Custom Post  Signature