The most critical point in using storybook activities to improve literacy is that they be interactive in combination with the books.
The following 27 activities can be adapted for any book. Also, the exercises go from the very basic for Pre-K (environmental sound awareness and vocabulary) to early elementary (word awareness, syllable awareness, speech sound awareness with the speech sounds combined letters leading into phonics).
First, choose your book. For example many children are interested in the rainforest. The words you choose for your activities may not be within the story but should closely relate.
Also, there are many pictures and images as well as sound that you can download from the internet. On SLPStoryTellers for example, you can download over 1,000 images, photos and lesson activities.
Here are some words for use in the rainforest example activities: toucan, tiger, parrot, gorilla, butterfly, frog, sloth, monkey, cricket, coconut, vanilla. Some of the sounds related to the rainforest are hoot, oo-oo, tweet. However, you can also pull in words that are not necessarily related to the books.
Within the exercises it is important to teach vocabulary that is used when teaching reading later; first, middle, last, how many, same/different, sound is what you hear vs. picture or letter you see, counting/how many, moving left-right or following left-right with eyes, etc.
Vocabulary Familiarization Activities through the senses:
Vocabulary list related to the rainforest: rain, leaves, toucan, trees, frogs, butterflies, monkeys, sloth, owls, lizards, birds, parrots, coconuts, bananas, vanilla, chocolate.
Color and/or cut out rainforest pictures – whichever is available – and hang them on the wall to resemble a rainforest. Place these suggested items and/or pictures on a table in front of the display: (1) whole coconut and some shredded coconut (2) bottle of vanilla extract next to a picture of an orchid (3) pictures of rainforest animals and birds (4) pictures of frogs (6) pictures of toucan, sloth, monkeys, parrots, etc. (7) Fan for wind.
27 Education Storybook Activities to Improve Literacy
- Activity: Feeling on skin – How does the fan feel? Is it cool? Does the wind feel like that sometimes when you go out? Does it blow your hair? Do you like the wind?
- Activity: Feeling on skin – Water (rain). Tell the children (sitting in a circle) that you will go around and sprinkle their hands with water from the leaves and they are to pretend they are in the rainforest. Ask them if they would like a little sprinkled on their head. Ask if they can feel the raindrops on their hands or head. Is it warm or cold?
- Activity: Various feelings on coconut – Allow the children to feel the outside of a coconut and the inside of the coconut. Do a comparison. Is it rough (outside) or smooth (inside)? Is it dry (outside) or wet (inside)? Is it hard (outside) or soft (inside)?
- Activity: Play rainforest sounds from the internet – frogs, crickets, toucans, monkeys. First, familiarize the children with the sounds. Then, put pictures on the board or hold up pictures for them to point to when they hear the sounds.
- Activity: Smell – allow the children to smell vanilla. Explain how the vanilla comes from a special bean and, if possible, download a picture from the internet.
- Activity: If allowed in your school, serve coconut macaroons that contains both vanilla and coconut.
- Activity: Hearing – play sounds downloaded from the internet and pair them with pictures – thunder (dark clouds with lightning), frogs, crickets, monkeys, etc.
Animal/Environmental Sound Awareness Activities.
Use pictures of animals that children can emulate like monkey (ooh, ooh), snake (sss), bird (tweet), owl (hoot)
- Activity: Locate your sound. Have all children draw a card from the animal card stack of 3 animal pictures). Then, have 3 children stand in front and make the sound of their animal. The other children will then line up behind the produced animal sound of their picture. Then, have the children check to see if their picture matches those in their line.
- Activity: Identify the sounds.
Using the same picture cards have each child make the sound of the picture on their card. Then, the others will guess the name – snake, bird, monkey, frog, etc.
- Activity: Identify the sounds and their position left to right. Have three students stand in front of class. Standing children take a picture card but do not show it to seated children. Tell the standing children that when you tap the shoulder (always in a left-to-right progression from the seated children’s perspective for future reading left-to-right), they will make their sound. Question to the listening children: What sound did you hear at the beginning, in the middle, at the end?
- Activity: Same/different sounds: Have two children come to the front. Give each a picture, sometimes the same pictures and sometimes different pictures. Have each student say the animal sound. Ask the seated students if the sounds are same or different.
- Activity: Count the animal/person sounds (bird (tweet), monkey (oo-oo), snake (sss), and 2 blank cards.
Tell the children they are to count the sounds. Have four children come to the front in a line. Give each one a paper with a picture or the blank. Tap the children’s shoulders left-to-right from the audience perspective. The students will say his/her animal sound but the one with the blank card says nothing. The children in the audience will then say the number of sounds made.
- Activity: Silly Simon game: Teacher makes a silly comment, and the children tell what should have been said.
A ghost says “moo”. Children respond, “No, Silly Simon, a ghost says, “boo”.
A bird says “sweet”. Children respond, “No, Silly Simon, a bird says, “tweet”.
- Activity: Count the words in a sentence.
Have the children clap or take steps to count the words. The steps can be taken in chalk-painted and numbered squares. Sample sentences: I saw a monkey in the tree. (6) The monkey jumped down. (4) The bird flew high. (4) Jump, monkey, jump! (3) I see a monkey in the tree. (7) The monkey jumped down. (4) The bird flew high. (4) Jump, monkey, jump! (3)
- Activity: Finish the sentence. Here are some samples.
The bird flies high in the ______(sky).
The monkey climbs in the _______(tree).
A sloth is not fast. He is _______(slow).
A fish cannot live on land. It lives in the _______(water).
Syllable Awareness Activities
- Activity: Count the syllables. Again, use the same or similar activities that were used with the Environmental sound and word sounds. You can explain that a syllable makes your chin go down for each syllable in a word. Practice this prior to counting the syllables. It is okay to exaggerate the movement. Ask the children how many times their chin moved. Then, ask them to repeat that it means there were 4, 3 or 2 syllables.
Rainforest (3 syllables)
Butterfly (3 syllables)
Kinkajou (3) Similar to a raccoon
Toucan (2 syllables)
- Activity: Tell the children to clap for each syllable in a word as you say the word. Use any of the rainforest words in earlier activities.
- Activity: Finish my word.
Mon _____ (key), Rain ______(bow). Tou ______(can), Par _______(rot), Igua _______(na).
- Activity: What is the missing syllable? This is a good one to follow the above Syllable Awareness as the children should be aware of the vocabulary now. Clap to let the child know when there is a missing syllable as in the syllables in parenthesis. You can also use the children’s names if there are two or more syllables.
Tou_____(can) Hint that it is the bird.
Rain_____(bow) Hint that it is the color in the sky after the rain.
- Activity: Syllable deletion.
Tell the children you will say a word. Then, ask them what is when I take out a syllable. I will say “rainbow”. What will it be if I forget to say “bow”? The answer is “rain”.
Create a list from any book you read to the children for another powerful way to use education storybooks to improve literacy.
Parrot – I take away “rot” = “Par”
Toucan – I take away “tou” = “can”
Monkey – I take away “key” = “mon”
Butterfly – I take away “fly” = “butter”
Cricket – I take away “et” = “crick”
Kinkajou – I take away “jou” = Kinka
- Activity: Syllable blending, Who Am I?
The teacher will call out the name of a student (with 2 or more syllables) in a very robotic voice by stretching it out. That student will then stand and pronounce his/her name normally. Depending on the skill level and understanding, the teacher can have 2-3 children stand at the front and be the robotic voice. Try to get participation from all as robots or those who stand and correct the robot of his/her name.
Speech Sound Awareness
One of the best ways to teach speech sound awareness is with rhyming activities.
- Activity: Give the children cards with letters. (Kindergarten), the most common like /b/, /s/, etc. Have 3 children leaders come to the front with their cards. When the teacher taps their shoulder, the child will say the sound of /b/. The children in the audience will look at their card and if they have the letter represented by the sound that was made by the child up front, the listeners will then line up behind the child who made the sound of their card. After all the children are lined up all the cards will be checked to ensure they are the same as their leader’s card.
- Activity: Variation on the above sound awareness game. This activity can be done when children are getting ready to go out to recess or come in from recess. Have two children’s leaders with a specific letter sound card say their letter sound. The other children will line up behind the child who said the same sound as the letter card they drew out of the pot.
- Activity: Same or different words. It is best to use rhyming words or minimal pairs (different sounds at the beginning) to facilitate phonemic awareness. Tell the children you will say some words and they are to tell you if they are same or different.
- Activity: I say a sentence about someone or something. You will finish the sentence, so it makes sense and rhymes. Depending on the academic level you may have to give hints. Create as many sentences as necessary for your group or your one student. Here are some to get you started.
I am a bee. I live in a _____ (tree).
I am a frog. I like to sit on a ______(log).
I am a snake. I swim in a ______(lake).
I am a cat. I like to sleep on a ______(mat).
I am a mouse. When it is cold, I want to live in a ______(house).
I am a ghost. I like to eat _____(toast).
I am a goat. My fur is my ______(coat).
I am a little boy. I want to play with a ______(toy).
- Activity: Substitute initial sound of a word. If possible, choose words from the story.
Replace the first sound in bee with /k/ = key.
Replace the first sound in goat with /m/ = moat.
Replace the first sound in mouse with /h/ = house.
Replace the first sound in mice with /r/ = rice.
Replace the first sound in can with /f/ = fan.
Replace the first sound in ghost with /t/ = toast.
Replace the first sound in cat with /r/ = rat.
Replace the first sound in knee with /s/ = see.
Replace the first sound in boy with /t/ = toy.
- Activity: Robot game with sounds
The teacher says she/he will speak like a robot. The children will have to translate the robot’s language to their language.
Can you see the power of these education storybook activities to improve literacy? Let us know in the comments.
Lavelle Carlson, MS,CCC-SLP, is a Speech and Language Pathologist and author of more than 12 books. She is the founder and creator of SLPStorytellers.com where you can find hundreds of free photos and images as well as a nominal fee for paid lesson activities. Go here for your FREEBIEs!
She taught speech and language and taught children with dyslexia for over 25 years. The special children she taught were the inspiration for her books.
Lavelle wants to share the power of educational storybooks with you to both entertain your students and children as well as teach early reading concepts.
Today, she is retired, is an avid traveler and continues to write education storybooks to improve literacy.
Related article: 5 Top Ways Educational Storybooks Improve Literacy