You know those heated arguments you have when you know with 100% certainty that you are right, but the person you’re arguing with is equally adamant and 100% certain that they are right? Well, when I worked in Samoa I had an argument as such. A “Where’s Wally?” vs. “Where’s Waldo?” argument with a U.S Peace Corp. While only 6 years ago, it was a time when Nokia phones reigned in that country and we could not settle it by asking Siri. Turns out we were both right and this red-and-white stripey guy pretty much has a different name in every country.
So when I moved to America to work as an SLP, I could only pack a few small resources and my Where’s Wally? book tagged along because I could use it for pretty much every single client with language goals in their IEP and it is FANTASTIC for language groups. Here is a short and by no means complete list:
- IS/ARE + PLURALS: Targeting noun-verb agreement has never been easier with sentences such as “The man is skiing” and “The girls are skating”. I challenge my students to find groups of people doing the same thing in these book to get a great range of ‘is’ and ‘are’ sentences. Because these books are themed, going on a plural hunt is also really motivating, especially when you set goals. My students like to go around in a circle and we count upwards (1 cat, 2 dogs, 3 mummies, 4 pyramids, 5 ladders etc.) until you can’t find something with that number.
- PRONOUNS: To target this goal, you might have to have a few pages earmarked as some books have a lot of (or all) men in the pictures. I am always referencing a pronoun list as I like to target pronouns based on their group (e.g. subjective, objective etc.). Subjective pronouns are really easy – we point out and say what he/she is doing. To focus on objective pronouns we might look for some funny or unexpected such as ‘his shirt is ripped’ or ‘her bag has a hole in it’.
- SYNTAX: This is my #1 motivating way to practice a range of sentence types (think SVO, SVA, SVOA) because the sentences that you can use can often be totally, hilariously bizarre! I have a fantastic set of sentence scaffolds that I typically place on the table and then ask the student to tell me a Who-What Action-Where sentence for example.
- VERBS: If I want to expand verb vocabulary, we go on a verb hunt. Let’s find 20 different actions people are doing. It’s simple, but it gives a lot of insight into a child’s vocabulary and can be a nice way to informally look at expressive language.
- VERB TENSES: Let’s face it, verb tenses can be pretty boring for kids… so this has been the biggest hit in my room. First we choose pages and think if the picture scene shows something that happened in the past/a long time ago, could be happening now, or in the future. Once we have chosen the right ‘time’ we practice their past, present or future tenses. I found that teaching it in this way really helped to consolidate the idea of verb tenses.
- CONJUNCTIONS: I have a really keen eye and love to find things and ask my kids to tell me what is happening and why, to encourage conjunctions and complex sentences. If this is difficult, I’ll pull out my conjunction sentence scaffolds so that instead of starting their sentence with ‘because…’, they answer with a complete sentence and use the conjunction in the middle to expand their answer.
- ADJECTIVES: Another fun(ny) way to increase vocabulary. I use my so that my kids have a structure for the different types of adjectives I’m looking for (size, shape, colour, textures etc.) and we try to hit targets: 20 in 5 minutes.
TIPS FROM A WHERE’S WALLY? EXPERT:
- Know where Wally is on every page. In one book I already have him circled otherwise you can see your student’s little eyes trying to find him and not focusing on their language targets.
- Because scenes can be quite overwhelming, make a window so that you can place a piece of paper with a square cut out in the middle and block out the rest of the images on the page.
- If your students reach their goal target (10 sentences/page), have a find Wally hunt, but set a timer (unless you know where he is, tip #1 and can prompt with… I think he’s down the bottom somewhere…) otherwise it could take a while.