A Thematic Approach to Speech

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By Victoria Vanderstoep, Student Communicative Disorders Assistant, Durham College

The first few days of 2015 have certainly been some cold ones! Hitting wind chills deep in the -20’s. However, winter is not all bad! While we are curled up inside, maybe by a warm fire or enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, winter still offers lots of fun activities. Reading books, playing games and doing different crafts and activities that use winter as the main theme are excellent tools to use in a thematic approach to speech and can keep you warm on those chilly winter nights.

What is a thematic approach to speech?

The thematic approach to speech uses a variety of meaningful activities created around a central topic or idea. It is important that you select themes that are relevant to the child.

Why use themes?

Using themes allows children to learn about different concepts and helps in connecting these various concepts together cognitively. Language is stored in semantic categories; by teaching a child language that belongs to a category of language we can relieve some of the cognitive demands of filing new vocabulary within our brains. Thematic teaching can help develop a child’s ability to understand a story, retell a past event, and predictions and inferences about a situation.

Themes provide a practical foundation for learning that is relevant for life outside the therapy room because themes carry over into real-life situations. It’s an engaging way to teach facts and new concepts to a child that may otherwise be challenging or not as interesting. Building on the selected theme to create hands on activities allows the child to be actively and physically involved in their learning.

For example: As I am sitting here writing, the wind outside is gusting and blowing the fresh snow that fell last night – it looks like another cold day out there.  As I think about bundling up to go outside later, one children’s book comes to mind.

1. ‘The Jacket I wear in the Snow‘ by Shirley Neitzel

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow


Within the pages of this book, the reader rhymes their way through the process of a child getting ready to go outside in the snow, putting on layer after layer of warm winter clothing.
Reading this book, children are presented with a chunk of new vocabulary that is needed for going outside in the winter.

There is a variety of follow-up activities for this book that can target various areas of speech, such as building vocabulary. The online version of the book provides printable versions of all the clothing pieces that the little boy puts on, which allows us to create numerous activities for our kiddos to do after reading that are directly related to this book. Designing activities is a chance to let your creativity show, but of course, if you run stuck there are tons of ideas on Pinterest as well as the wider web to get you started!

Contact us if you need additional help improving your child’s social and communication skills contact us today!

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