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Cooperative Themed Speech Therapy Games and Activities - September 2009

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Cooperative Themed Speech Therapy Games and Activities

By: Don D’Amore M.A. CCC-SLP Publishing Company
©2009 Don D’Amore

Speech Therapy Session Activities That Are Fun And Engaging!
Part 1 of 3: Cooperative Themed Therapy Games And Activities!

Speech and Language Therapy sessions that are designed to be fun and interesting tend to have the happy result of the young clients becoming eager participants each week! More session goals can be realized when the client is enthusiastic to partake in the activities. The key for the clinician is to be able to engage their clients in a wide variety of enjoyable activities that can also be meaningfully applied to most therapy goals.

This series highlights a collection of simple and fun activities that can take place in most therapy sessions. Little or no cost is involved. The activities are mostly general in theme so that a variety of different therapy work can be applied. The eagerness to participate in the enjoyable session activities can be a fun motivator to move the client through whatever therapy goal based work is presented. (Please note: These are possible suggestions only! As always, all therapy activities and goals are entirely at the discretion of a qualified Speech-Language Pathologist, based on the unique needs and abilities of their individual clients.)

Part 1. Cooperative Themed Therapy Games And Activities!

Nobody wants to be a loser! Sometimes when competitive games (that result in one client winning while others lose) are played in therapy, the clinician may discover that their clients that do not win very often may also lose some interest in participating in future sessions. Even games that rely solely on luck instead of skill result in a winner and sad losers. When a young client feels like they cannot compete with other group members that appear more highly skilled, it may set up a “me against them” attitude within the group. Most clinicians would rather their activities reinforce cooperative behavior. Cooperative theme games solve this dilemma by their inherent emphasis of group participation to achieve the mutual goal, rather than a competition that results in only one winner.

Cooperative games provide a challenge activity that involves fun group participation to complete the goal, rather than an objective of defeating an opponent. This is not a new idea. Some of the most motivating activities in schools have cooperative themes, such as when a teacher adds beads to a jar every time the students are well behaved. When the jar is filled, the whole classroom gets a treat. Or a school that sets an overall magazine drive goal amount that results in a whole school prize such as new playground equipment. The result is that all of the students are motivated to try hard, and the winning coming to all members rather than just one.

The cooperative activities listed here can allow clients working on a variety of different therapy goals, (but grouped together at one time) to participate equally!
The clinician’s discretion for adjustments to individual situations may be necessary.

Cooperative Picture Drawing!

The only materials needed are a piece of paper and a pencil! After completing their turn for their therapy goal work, each group member is given the pencil and allowed to draw one part of an agreed upon picture (such as: “house”, “face”, “truck”, or “zoo”, etc.). Everyone in the group takes a turn drawing in their addition of whatever piece of the picture they like (such as: “door” or “window”, etc.) until “the house” drawing is complete. Hang the picture up when it is done to show off the accomplishment.

Variations: 1. Add more art supplies (such as colored pencils, glitter glue, markers, etc.) to create more elaborate group art works. 2. Rather then naming the goal picture in advance, the group may be allowed to add whatever drawings they wish on their turn for more creative group outcomes!

Cooperative Paper Chain!

This is a group effort, not just with small groups but the entire speech therapy caseload. Let the clients know you want to decorate the therapy room with a super long paper chain and all the clients can make it grow together. After each turn of their speech therapy goal work, a strip of paper and tape are given to the client to add to the chain. The group’s goal may be pre-set such as to make the chain “…long enough to reach across the table by the end of the session.” Add on to the chain made by other groups to make a super long snaking chain by the end of the week! Young clients are excited to return the following week to see just how long the room’s paper chain has grown, and to know they were a part of the big project! Even the clients who you work with individually can feel like they are a contributing part of the big group making the room’s chain. Keep the chain as a room decoration! (Use thin strips to conserve paper.)

Cooperative Car Driving!

Use a toy car or truck with the goal that the whole group will power the vehicle to its destination. Place the car on one end of the table and place a small box at the other end that will serve as the garage for the car to park in at the end (or simply tape a three folded piece of paper to the table). The idea is that after each turn of their therapy goal work is completed, clients can each move the car a few inches. The clinician may explain that completing their therapy goal turn allows the client to give the car a little bit of “gas” for a small move. (A small piece of paper can serve as the measure for the maximum move distance if needed.) It may be a far distance for a small car to travel, but because group members each gets to contribute some “gas” to the car, the toy will be in the garage by the end of the session through their combined group effort.

Cooperatively Making Time Go By!

Start with a small one or two minute sand timer set sideways. After each turn of their speech therapy goal work, each client is allowed to let the sand move to the other side of the timer for a specified amount of seconds (such as five, seven, or twelve, etc.) The group may enjoy counting out the seconds together. (The seconds of sand allowed to pass will vary depending on the group size, length of session, and amount of turns needed.) After each turn, the sand timer is kept sideways waiting for the next group member to help “move time”. The group’s goal is for the last of the sand to be moved through the timer.

Cooperatively Building A Puzzle!

Start with a simple large-size piece jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces separated. (Size and theme of the puzzle should be appropriately matched to the client’s abilities. A puzzle can also be fashioned by cutting up a picture that has been glued to a piece of card stock paper.) After each turn of their speech therapy goal work, each client is allowed to connect one piece until the entire group collectively completes the entire puzzle.

Cooperatively Filling It Up!

Start with a small container that has a lid, such as a clean empty oatmeal container. After each turn of their speech therapy goal work, each client is allowed to open the lid, put a toy block (or crumbled paper ball) into the container, and shut the lid. The group goal is to fill the container up so high that the lid cannot fit on anymore. Use different sized containers for different sized groups and lengths of sessions!

Cooperative Number Grab Bag!

Use a large size winter stocking cap (or a paper lunch bag, or a large manila envelope) as a reach-in bag for this “number count-up game”. Prepare beforehand by cutting up card stock paper into equally sized small cards. Put a small number on each card, mostly “ones” and “twos” and a few “threes” and “fours”. These will be put into the cap for the clients to take turns pulling out one-by-one after they complete their turn at their speech goal work. The number on the card that each group member pulls out on their turn gets added to the grand total. Keep adding up the numbers on a paper with the simple goal of seeing how high a number the group can build up. The group will be excited to see the grand total that they all contributed to by the end.

Variations: 1. Wild Cards: Put a few “Wild Cards” that really increase the score (such as “Multiply by 2” “Add 10!” etc.) into the card set to make things really interesting! 2. Fun Season Themes: Instead of plain square shapes, cut the number cards into season theme shapes such as “Leaves” for “Fall”, “Snowballs” for ”Winter”, etc. 3. Keep a running “total score” posted in the room adding in the numbers from all the groups coming to therapy for the week, so that all the clients feel they helped build the number up to the grand total.

Clinicians can come up with more activities on their own following the cooperative theme, using the materials they already have! Try gradually incorporating some cooperative theme activities into your therapy sessions. The result can be better participation with every client’s speech goal work, because all the clients feel like they are winners!

This Month's Featured Author and Vendor: Publishing Co.and Don D'Amore

Special Thanks to Don D'Amore and Publishing Company for contributing this month's Speech Therapy Corner article. A professionally packaged product line of laminated, colorful and fun Speech and Language Therapy Materials are available directly through at a reasonable cost. They even offer a fun set of therapy game boards based on cooperative themes similar to what Don has written about. Please visit their website at

Don D'Amore M.A. CCC-SLP a licensed and ASHA Certified Speech/Language Pathologist with over 20 years of Experience working with individuals with a wide variety of disabilities, including both school age and adult clients. Don D'Amore has presented regularly for over 15 years at speech-language pathology conventions and at other SLP and educator gatherings. He has specialized in AAC for a large urban school district for the past 10 years.

Don is the founder and co-owner of Publishing Company which specializes in colorful and creative ready-to-use Speech and Language therapy materials all Written, Designed, & Illustrated by this Speech-Language Pathologist.

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Tags: September 2009 Newsletter SLP Article