Using Postcards as a Language Activity in Speech Therapy
For Speech-Language Pathologists, finding an activity that is functional, full of language opportunities, and keeps students' attention is like winning the triple crown. Those odds are hard to beat.
While discovering relevant and interesting ways to target a variety of language goals (especially with older students) is no small feat, SLPs work at this daily. But sometimes, inspiration for a fun and language-rich activity strikes at the most ordinary of places.... like a souvenir shop....
I'm talking about postcards, of course!
Writing postcards may not be an activity you have considered doing in speech therapy, but let me tell you, it's a great way to integrate themes into therapy, spark the interest of your students, utilize their previous interests and experiences, and target oral and written language in a new and practical way.
Don't worry, you don't have to take a trip around the world to get postcards for your speech therapy sessions. You can get them locally (try gas stations, post offices, drugstores, card stores) or make your own using the PDF template in my subscriber freebie library. Or, for something quick and ready to go now, download these from my TpT store!
Once you have procured postcards in some way, it's time to get creative with how to use them to elicit the goals your students are working on. One of my favorite goals to target with postcards is using past tense verbs. In this example, students complete the postcard letter about the Grand Canyon by choosing verbs from the "verb bank", changing them to past tense, and writing them in the blanks.
To practice past tense verbs and other language goals in a less structured activity, students can write (or TYPE if you're using the digital version of this activity for teletherapy) the sentences themselves. Here, the student wrote the entire letter on the postcard, rather than just filling in the blanks.
Other resources from the internet, such as magazine and newspaper articles, websites for tourist attractions, and YouTube videos are easy ways to supplement a postcard activity. They can help you teach students more about the place pictured on the postcard. This allows students to use the information they learn to practice any number of language skills when writing the postcards, such as:
Identifying the main idea and key details, and organizing them into a summary
Creating written narratives from the perspective of a person visiting the attraction
Using descriptive language and new vocabulary words
Forming complex and compound sentences
Producing sentences with subject-verb agreement
These language goals (and so many more) can be targeted using postcard activities adapted to a variety of levels. Students can write just a sentence or two, or the entire message. You can provide varying levels of visual cues and assistance, such as creating an outline or graphic organizer, or giving a list of conjunctions or target vocabulary.
This is is an example of a chart created while researching the space needle. The student can then use the graphic organizer to write a postcard as if they had visited the landmark.
When using postcards for any speech therapy activities, you and your students can hypothetically write them to a person or group. You can also choose to write and send them to a classmate, teacher, principal, etc, or a parent to showcase what the student has been learning.
If you do want to send to an actual person, postcards are a great way to practice pragmatic language skills in written form. Students could write and send postcards to a student or class in another city, state, or even country, similar to a pen pal.
Postcards also make a great home practice activity over the summer. In an ASHA article, Kim Swon Lewis shares ideas on how to use postcards to help students work on their goals over the break. I love her idea of having students ease into therapy for the school year by bringing the postcards back in the fall and using them to tell about their summer plans.
If you are loving the idea of using postcards in your sessions but you work with younger students, check out this adorable idea from Sara Wu. You and your students can fill out the postcards with what they have been working on in speech therapy. Then send the postcards home to share the information with parents.
As SLPs, we face many challenges in finding functional and engaging ways to treat language with our students. Thinking outside the box with an activity like writing a postcard will give you a totally new way to target language, and even (virtually) explore new parts of the world.