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How to Teach Pronouns in Speech Therapy

Teaching pronouns in speech therapy is crucial, as children with language delays frequently struggle with employing the correct pronouns during conversations, particularly when distinguishing between “he” and “she.” This challenge can manifest in various ways: some children may consistently use “he” or “she” regardless of the subject’s gender, others might default to “him” and “her,” and some may skip pronouns altogether. Such inaccuracies can significantly obscure the clarity of the child’s communication, making it difficult for listeners to follow who is being referred to. Keep reading to learn How to Teach Pronouns in Speech Therapy.

A focused approach is recommended to effectively teach pronouns, tackling one category of pronoun at a time to avoid overwhelming the child. Starting points could vary; one might begin with the “he” and “she” pronouns, or perhaps with “they” for plural references. When introducing personal pronouns like “I” or “you,” it’s often beneficial to teach them concurrently, sometimes even incorporating “we” into the lesson for a more comprehensive understanding. Deciding on a starting point and then adhering to the following five steps can significantly enhance pronoun learning in speech therapy sessions or even during practice at home.

How to Teach Pronouns in Speech Therapy

Unlocking the world of pronouns in speech therapy can significantly enhance a child’s communication skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on effectively teaching pronouns in speech therapy. Paving the way for young learners to have clearer and more confident expressions.

Need pronoun practice? View pronoun worksheets

Understanding Pronouns Through Reception

The foundational step in teaching pronouns during speech therapy is fostering a child’s receptive understanding of them, setting the stage for their usage in conversational speech. Beginning with simple recognition exercises, such as asking the child to identify the correct person in a picture based on pronouns like “he” or “she,” lays a solid groundwork. For gender-specific pronouns, it’s helpful to initially explain that boys are generally referred to as “he” and girls as “she,” acknowledging exceptions to these generalizations.

Utilize images of a boy and a girl engaged in identical activities and prompt the child to indicate the correct image upon hearing “he is…” or “she is…”. This approach can be extended to other pronouns, such as “they are…” or “we are…”, though pronouns like “I” and “you” may require a different strategy due to their complexity. Once the child demonstrates proficiency in correctly identifying the depicted actions or subjects based on pronouns, it’s time to progress to the next stage of learning.

Introducing Pronouns in Brief Phrases

To enhance children’s proficiency with pronouns “he,” “she,” and “they” in short phrases, a dynamic activity like a Pronoun Treasure Hunt can be both educational and enjoyable. The activity involves using pictures of boys, girls, and groups of children engaged in various activities, along with small objects or “treasures” such as stickers or toy coins, which the children will match to the pictures. Begin by distributing these pictures around the room or on a table, ensuring they’re easily accessible to the child, and hide the treasures nearby.

Children embark on a treasure hunt, and upon discovering a treasure, they determine to which picture it belongs—whether a boy, a girl, or a group—based on the depicted activity. They’re then encouraged to articulate their decision in short phrases, such as “She wants the coin” for a single girl or “They want the coin” for a group.

Correct use of pronouns is reinforced through praise and possible rewards. For a twist, include pictures of the child and the adult to practice “I” and “you,” or intensify the challenge by incorporating actions into the pictures, prompting phrases like “He is jumping.” This activity not only aids in mastering pronoun use but also injects an element of fun into learning, making it a memorable experience for the child.

Introducing Pronouns within Full Sentences

Once the child is comfortable using pronouns in brief phrases, the next step is to encourage them to construct full sentences with “he” and “she.” Present the child with images of individuals engaging in various activities and guide them to describe what they see using pronouns, such as saying “she is riding her bike” instead of naming the individual. Utilize a range of resources for these images, including family photos, online images, or magazine cutouts. For instance, compiling a dedicated photo album on a device with pictures specifically chosen for therapy can offer a convenient, go-to resource.

If a child refers to someone by their name or as “the boy/girl” instead of using a pronoun, gently steer them towards pronoun use by affirming their observation and then asking, “Yes, the boy is riding. If it’s a boy, do we say ‘he’ or ‘she’?” Encourage them to correct themselves if they use the wrong pronoun by repeating their statement with the incorrect pronoun as a question to prompt self-correction. For instance, if the error was saying “she is riding” when referring to a boy, a question “She is riding??” might help the child realize and rectify their mistake.

Moreover, introducing “I,” “you,” and “we” pronouns can be done by describing mutual activities, which also paves the way for integrating possessive pronouns (like “his, her, theirs”) and object pronouns (such as “him, her”) as these constructions become relevant in conversation. This method reinforces the understanding and use of subject pronouns and gradually expands the child’s grasp of possessive and object pronouns within contextually rich sentences.

Integrating Pronouns in Narratives and Storytelling

As the teaching of pronouns progresses, it’s beneficial to incrementally increase the complexity of the activities to challenge the child appropriately. Once the child demonstrates proficiency in using target pronouns within simple sentences, it’s time to elevate the learning experience. Introducing a storybook with diverse characters offers an excellent opportunity for the child to practice pronoun usage in a more nuanced context.

Guide the child to describe the unfolding events in the story, emphasizing the use of correct pronouns (he, she, they) to refer to the characters. If the focus is on personal pronouns such as “I/you/we,” consider creating a personalized photo album featuring the child and yourself engaged in various activities. This can serve as a concrete visual aid for retrospection and discussion about the actions performed by each person.

The activity of inventing stories also provides a fertile ground for practicing pronouns, encouraging the child to integrate the target pronouns while weaving narratives about the characters or experiences involving themselves, you, or a group. This approach reinforces their understanding and usage of pronouns and stimulates creativity and narrative skills, making the learning process both educational and engaging.

A wonderful book example that facilitates teaching pronouns through storytelling and character description is “Where Are You Going, Little Mouse?” by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. This charming story follows the journey of a little mouse who decides to leave his mouse hole and explore the world, meeting various characters along the way.

As you read “Where Are You Going, Little Mouse?” with a child, you can pause on each page to discuss what the little mouse is doing and which characters he encounters. For instance, when the little mouse meets the big, scary cat, you can ask the child to describe the scene using the correct pronouns: “Who is chasing him?” or “What is she thinking about the little mouse?” This encourages the child to use “he” for the mouse and “she” for the cat, practicing gender-specific pronouns in context.

Enhancing Pronoun Usage within Everyday Conversations

As the child becomes more proficient in using pronouns within sentences and structured storytelling, the goal shifts towards ensuring they apply these pronouns accurately in all their communications. When noticing a pronoun error, gently guide the child towards the correct usage using strategies such as:

  • Echoing the mistake as a question to prompt self-correction: “She is walking?”
  • Clarifying gender, then confirming the appropriate pronoun: “Is that a boy or a girl? So, do we say ‘he’s my friend’ or ‘she’s my friend’?”
  • Gently highlighting the error: “Actually, it’s ‘they are happy.’”
  • Correcting the error subtly without explicit emphasis: “Right, we are at Grandpa’s house.”

Initially, it’s advisable to avoid correcting every mistake to prevent overwhelming the child. Consider designating specific times for focused correction, informing the child in advance, such as:

“In the next 5 minutes, let’s pay extra attention to using ‘he’ and ‘she’ correctly. I’ll gently remind you if needed, okay?”

This approach eases the child into understanding that corrections will only occur during designated “good speech time” sessions, not constantly.

Gradually, as the child’s proficiency improves, you can increase the frequency of corrections. Starting with a manageable scope ensures the child remains motivated and not discouraged. Over time, the child is likely to make fewer errors, necessitating less intervention and reinforcing their mastery of pronouns in everyday speech.

Conclusion on How to Teach Pronouns in Speech Therapy

Thank you for reading through this resource on How to Teach Pronouns in Speech Therapy. In teaching pronouns in speech therapy, adopting a patient, tailored approach that respects the unique pace of each child’s learning journey is crucial. Progress in mastering pronouns varies significantly from one child to another, highlighting the importance of personalized strategies and interventions.

Therapists can foster significant improvements in a child’s pronoun usage by gradually increasing the complexity of exercises—from simple identification to using pronouns in conversation—and providing supportive feedback. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance communication skills in a way that feels achievable and encouraging, recognizing and celebrating each child’s individual progress along the way.

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SLP Team
Author: SLP Team

Our Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) team is a dedicated group of professionals committed to sharing industry expertise to help you grow your practice and improve how you treat your patients.

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