Home Using Speech Cue Cards For teachers Typical Pre-Literacy Speech Cue Lesson
Typical Pre-Literacy Speech Cue Lesson PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rachel Betzen   

The wonderful thing about addressing pre-literacy skills with children is that it can be done within any theme the class may be working on at the time. The following is a typical lesson plan I have used for a pre-literacy class. These plans are meant to be used in small groups that children participate in once a week. I usually worked with groups of five or six students and spent 30-45 minutes with each group. Adjust to your class as needed, but if you are able to work in thirty minute classes with small groups throughout the week, your children will greatly benefit from the more individualized attention.


Many of these activities seem tailored best to groups of four to six children, although you could do the stories and possibly name signs with the entire class, and then the other activities in groups. Experiment to see what works best for your class.  Visit the coloring page sites on our links page to find the pictures you will need (unless you are an artist and prefer to draw them yourself)!  The children really enjoyed coloring the pictures, and it gives the faster students something to do as you work your way around the table.


For this lesson you will need:

a teacher copy of each picture

teacher copy of speech cue cards with each sound cut out

velcro, tape or glue

title page for each child

1-3 animal pictures for each child

1-3 matching speech cue words for each child

construction paper, creased or folded in the middle

glue or glue sticks

scissors (if the students are advanced enough for sequencing sounds in words)


Theme: Pets


Opening Song

Objectives: Transition to group, identify beginning sounds in words

This can be any short, simple song you use with your students, I like to use songs to help young children transition to new activities. As my students learned the hand speech cues, we would add some of these to our songs as well.


Greetings and Review of Name Signs

Objectives: identify beginning sounds and letters, segmenting sounds

Almost every child should be able to learn and share their “name sign”, which is the hand cue that matches the first sound of their name. The child should make the hand sign and say the sound at the same time. When I taught classes, one of the first activities we did was go around the table and have each child share their name sign while the others joined in making the sign and sound. For the more advanced children, I had them identify another child's name sign, or even sequence the sounds in their name. We often worked on identifying the letters for the “name signs”.


Sometimes the children would practice writing these letters on a dry erase board/chalkboard, in sand or sugar, in shaving cream (fun but messy), or you could even have them form letters out of playdough rolled out lengthwise.


Story: Which Pet is This?

I made up many stories to teach the children about whatever theme they were addressing in class. This is an excellent way to introduce a new theme. You can read a book related to your theme, or use the same pictures the children will be using to create a story. I used the pictures of a girl, bird, dog, cat, fish and turtle to create a simple story. I usually colored in a teacher set of pictures and glued them onto pieces of construction paper. For this story you will need to cut out the speech cue pictures that spell each word, and have a way to put each one on the back of the card (velcro is best, tape also works, and glue is fine if you will only do this once).

Use the pictures to tell the following story.


Which Pet is This?

Objectives: introduce theme, develop understanding of sequence of events, answer questions, understand descriptions with part to whole concepts (through the guessing game), expand vocabulary, identify beginning, middle and ending sounds, and blend sounds into words

Susan loves animals, all kinds of animals. She loves the ones with fur, with feathers and fins too. But, Susan does not have any pets, and she wants to get a pet today. What kinds of animals are pets? Does anyone here have a pet? What kind of pet would you like to take care of?

(Allow responses to some or all questions if there is time, encouraging each child to give some response).


Susan went to the pet store, and saw all kinds of animals. I bet you can guess what she saw.


(Hold up the back of the “dog” picture, but do not let the children see it yet).

The first animal was big and had fur, he was very furry. He had pointy ears and a long tail (or describe what your “dog” picture looks like). The first sound in his name is /d/ (make the hand sign with the sound). Can you do that? (Encourage the children to imitate).


At this point depending on what level your students are at, you can have them pick the right card from a group or simply show them the /d/ card. Place the card on the back of the picture. Next move on to the “o” sound, and finally the /g/, encouraging the class to say and make the cues with you, and name or repeat the letters as they are able. Velcro or tape each card in order to the back of the dog picture.

Finally, ask “What does this say”? Say all the sounds with the children separately, and then blend them together until they can figure out the word. Then flip the card over and show them the picture.


Continue this way through all the animals, saying each sound and having children guess the words. When you have a word such as “bird” which has two vowel letters for one sound, simply say “ir says the “er” sound in this word”. At the end of the story you can ask them to guess which is Susan's favorite pet, the one she should buy. Ask your students what Susan should say to her parents so they will let her have a pet. What should she say to the pet shop owner? They can vote on which pet Susan should take home with her.


Act it Out

Objectives: understanding parts to a whole, understanding sequencing, demonstrating an understanding of animal characteristics, answering questions, associate beginning letters and sounds with different animals

Next your students will enjoy having further interaction with the story. Give each student a pet card to hold, and you as teacher can play Susan, or help a more advanced student take this role giving the class clues to guess which “pet” you are thinking of. Make extra cards with the same animals if you have more than five students to a group, so each child can participate. Each child should hold up their animal picture for their turn as the class figures out the clues (Ex: I'm thinking of a pet that has fins and swims in water- fish). Then, switch cards and have each child show the speech cue side of their card as they act out the animal for the other students to guess (this activity was a big hit with my students)!


Student Booklets

Objectives: practice with recognizing and writing name, identifying sounds and letters, beginning word recognition, associating letters with animal names, sequencing sounds, blending sounds, following directions

The final activity is to have the students make theme booklets which they can take home and share with their families. As an alternative each child could make a single page with the pet of their choice, or you can be creative and think of another craft-type activity that uses animal pictures and speech cue word labels.


Give each child a piece of paper and have them fold it in half. Glue the title page on front and help the children write their names as needed. Have them copy their name from a dry erase board, trace over letters you write, or you may need to help them with hand over hand writing.


Next lay out the stacks of animal pictures where students can reach them, and allow them to pick 2-3 pictures for their books. Glue the pictures on and have the children color them in (or use watercolors). As the students are working pass out the speech cue words for their pictures and help them identify which label goes with each pet. Use the hand cues with them, and have them say the pet words slowly to match up the labels. For younger or beginning students focus more on the first sound in the word, and say the different pets they chose to see which one starts with that sound. More advanced students may cut out some of the letters and sequence sounds to spell the pet word labels.



As a teacher I would encourage you to send a note home to parents when you begin using the program, and regularly send home the booklets and crafts with speech-cue words. Encourage parents to keep these materials in a safe place and read them with their children often. For some children who don't have many books in the home this may be their main source of reading material. Give parents ideas for using the materials at home with their children, and encourage conversing and reading with the child everyday. Remember that parents are also important teachers!


For further insight into developing a high quality Pre-Literacy Curriculum see our History.





Dallas Reading and Language Services

Rachel Betzen MA, CCC/SLP


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(214) 274-7455


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