The Circus and Speech Therapy
Welcome to the CIRCUS, a place where the impossible becomes possible!
A place where those who are different are embraced and celebrated for their unique abilities.
A place where large and dangerous animals are somehow skillfully tamed to perform alongside their human counterparts.
For the audience: it is a place to smile, laugh, and be amazed.
And, for the performer: it is a place to belong as well as to SHINE!
But, what about for our speech therapy students?
Would a speech therapy session with a Circus-theme hold any value for them? Absolutely!
As you read this article you will discover 20 unique Circus-themed activities that you can easily implement into your speech therapy sessions this week!
DUMBO premiered in theaters over the weekend, and as a result, many of your students will be super excited to see a Circus-theme in YOUR speech room!
And when you finish reading this article you will be surprised at just how excited YOU are too! No matter what skill you are targeting, I’ve got an activity for you!
Ready to see? Okay, let’s get started then!
#1 Drills: Create a tissue-box craft where your student gets to “feed” an animal or performer from the Circus.
Feed the Clown some shoes. On each shoe, put a word with your student’s target phoneme. Every time he feeds “the clown” a shoe, he must produce the target word. You can easily adapt this activity to target any phoneme. You could also choose another character to feed like an: elephant, a tiger, a seal or a monkey. Don’t have time to make this resource? It is available in my store, search: “Feed the Clown” by PlayLearnTalk.
#2 Sorting: Create two to three Circus tents on a piece of paper. Write a target phoneme at the top of each tent. Grab a deck of articulation playing cards and sort them into different tents based on their sound. Maybe you want to sort minimal pairs or maybe you want to sort the same phoneme by its position (initial-medial-final).
Flip a timer, and see how many cards your student can sort before time runs out. When they are done, let them “buy” a Circus reward.
Circus rewards: bubbles, stickers, a quick sketch, a stamp, a Youtube video clip
Find a Circus-themed youtube video that intrigues your student and watch it on the iPad.
Create the opportunity for them to request (Verbally, ASL, AAC).
Target words: On/Off, Want, More, Again, All Done, Yes, No, Push, Go, Stop.
#4 Making choices & answering yes or no:
Before selecting a Circus-themed video to watch, give your student two choices at a time.
Ask him/her: would you like to see a tiger or a seal? Would you like to see it jumping or eating?
Narrow down a video based on your student’s answers, then go search for it on Youtube.
If it’s not there, repeat the process again until you find a video to watch together.
#5 Identify and Label Vocabulary
As you watch that video together, label the vocabulary that you see and prompt your student to imitate those words and point to them on the screen.
Target vocabulary: animals, performers, actions
Every so often, as you are watching the video, pause it and then ask your student a relevant WH-question.
Target questions: What is it? What is it doing? What does it say? What is _ for? Where is it? Who is that? What would happen if….?, Why are they doing….?
Choose two to three Circus items to compare and contrast.
Target descriptive concepts: high, low, heavy, light, strong, weak, big, small, fast, slow, long, short, fat, skinny, wet dry, etc.
#8 Recalling details:
Challenge your students to recall as many details as possible from the video that they just watched.
Have them draw a picture containing these details and then verbally share about their drawing with the group.
#9 Retelling events:
Challenge your students to retell the events that they saw take place in the video.
Go around the circle (if you have a small group) and have one student start retelling what they saw.
Have the child give ONE detail, then the child next to them adds the next detail, then the child next to them adds the third detail, etc.
Target words: first, next, last, then, afterwards, finally
#10 Using Pronouns: He/She/They
Draw two circus tents, designate a show for each circus tent.
Have your students sort boys and girls into each tent based on what show they want to see.
Have your student state: She/He/They want(s) to see the ____ show.
Don’t have time to make this resource? It is available in my store, search: “Circus Pronouns” by PlayLearnTalk.
#11 Using Prepositions:
Look at Circus picture scenes or pause a clip from a Youtube video and have your students state where each of the performers is.
Target prepositions: at, in, on, between, next to, above, below, behind, between, etc.
This resource is coming soon.
#12: Magical Plurals: The Magician
Have your student practice transforming singular nouns into their plural forms by pretending to be a magician.
Don’t have time to make this resource? It is available in my store, search: “Magical Plural Nouns” by PlayLearnTalk.
#13 Conversation skills – Explaining WHY – listening to different viewpoints:
Have your students discuss which shows they liked or disliked. Prompt them to use the conjunction “because” to justify their answers.
Have your students discuss WHO they would like to be in the show. Prompt them to explain why they would want to be that person “rather” than another.
Have your students discuss why or why not the Circus should or should not be allowed anymore. Prompt your students to consider the pros and cons.
As your student is talking, prompt him to remember to use follow-up comments that shows that he is listening to his peer. Remind the child to do this, whether or not he agrees with what his peer has shared. Model for the child how to use good eye contact, and proper body language as he converses in 3-4 turn conversations.
#14 Following Directions: Audition for the Circus
Let your students “audition for the circus” by having them complete various 1-step directions.
Designate a certain number of directions to be completed in order to get various Circus jobs.
For example, to become a clown maybe you only need to complete 10 directions but to become a magician you must be able to complete 40.
Don’t have time to make this resource? It is available in my store, search: “Circus Directions” by PlayLearnTalk.
#15 Identifying and Labeling Actions: Audition for the Circus
Show your student a task card that has a child DOING something. If they are still learning the name of various verbs, put two pictures out at a time and have them identify the verb that you name by pointing to the corresponding picture. If they are ready to start labeling verbs, show them one picture at a time and ask them: What is he/she doing? If your student is fairly familiar with these actions already, have them practice using them in sentences (you can designate which tense they use).
Every time they complete a task, give them a point. Let them “buy” a Circus reward at the end.
This resource is available in my store, search: “Circus Directions” by PlayLearnTalk.
#16 Fluency: Acrobats on the Tight Rope
Have your students who are working on fluency pretend to be “tight rope acrobats”
They need to be careful, smooth and balanced as they produce their target words.
Have them use fluency strategies like: easy onset, stretching and light contact as they walk carefully across the room while saying their word.
This resource is coming soon.
#17 Conversation Skills- Understanding Non-Verbal Cues: Snake Charmer
Are you comfortable with the idea of holding a snake? A lot of people tend to be scared of snakes. But, you know who is not? A snake charmer.
The snake charmer has somehow cultivated a seemingly intuitive ability to communicate with and direct her snakes.
She is able to read the signals that the snakes are giving to her and she is able to charm them into doing what she has designated. Kinda sounds like a skilled teacher if you ask me. So, is there a lesson we can learn from the snake charmer that we can turn into a speech therapy activity for our students?
There sure is! When our students are in conversations with others, they sometimes miss the cues that their peers are giving to them.
In order for our students to become better conversationalists they need to build their awareness of the subtle cues that others are expressing to them during conversation. Just like a snake charmer, our students need to cultivate an awareness for the subtleties of body language, facial expressions and tone. If they can identify these non-verbal forms of communication, then they can learn to respond to them accordingly which ultimately will help them to become more “charming” communicators. Have your students practice talking about a topic of their choice. Have one student be “the snake charmer” and see if he/she can pay attention to the subtleties of his/her communication partner. Can they pinpoint facial expressions or tone that indicate the listener is bored versus interested? Can they subtly change the topic in an appropriate way when they are bored? If they can, allow them to earn points. At the end, have them “buy” Circus rewards.
This resource is coming soon.
#18 Social Skills-Understanding How Others Perceive Us: Clowns
Clowns are known for being silly. At the circus they often perform foolish routines that make people laugh.
But let’s be honest, most people wouldn’t want to be friends with a clown. They are sometimes perceived as weird or creepy.
Which is sad, because the clown is just trying to be funny (or maybe he is completely unaware of how he is being perceived).
Some of our students do some things that cause their peers to perceive them as weird or gross or immature.
Some of my older elementary students still pick their nose, eat their boogers, sneeze and cough without covering, and fart or burp loudly without any shame.
I explain to my students that these kinds of behaviors make their peers NOT want to be close to them or to make friendships with them. We discuss how others perceive us, how we WANT to be perceived and what replacement behaviors we can use instead of the “gross” ones that we are currently using.
Review social rules with your students. Briefly explain what is perceived as rude/gross and what is perceived as nice and considerate.
Create a perspective-taking activity. Have one student be the clown. Have the clown ask your students to help him decide HOW to behave around his friends.
Should he burp loudly when the beautiful pony acrobat rides by? Should he wipe his nose with his hand before he tosses the seal his ball?
Should he burp loudly right as the Circus master announces the next act? When your students give the clown great advice, give them a point. At the end of the activity, let you students “buy” a fun Circus reward.
This resource is coming soon.
#19 Safety Scenarios: The Fire Eater
Eating fire…that sounds pretty dangerous! But, since the Fire Eater is a professional he doesn’t have to be too worried.
Our students on the other hand…they need to be aware of what is SAFE and what is NOT SAFE.
They need to know what to do when they are in a dangerous situation. And, they also need to know how to rate the severity of a dangerous situation.
For example, getting a “paper cut” versus breaking a leg. Being caught in a fire or earthquake, etc. Review with your students various “safety” scenarios. Have students take turns being the “Fire Eater”….the student who is playing the “Fire Eater” can ask the rest of the students for advice on what he/she should do in various situations. If your students are able to give a reasonable answer, they win points. At the end of the game, let them use their points “to buy” some kind of Circus reward.
This resource is coming soon.
#20 Identifying and Labeling Emotions: The Audience
Have your students take a look at the faces of members in the audience. Ask your students what emotion the audience member has based on his/her facial expression. Explain to your students that one person may be watching the “Tiger Tamer” show and she might feel scared while the person sitting next to her may feel excited, bored, or sad. Discuss WHY each person might feel the way that they do. Carryover the conversation into your small group. Have students share how they would feel if they were at one of the Circus shows. How would they feel watching an Elephant perform? A tiger perform? A snake charmer? A fire eater? A magician? The clowns? Have your students take turns making various faces in a mirror, then have other students guess HOW they are feeling based on their expressions.
Don’t have time to make this resource? It is available in my store, search: “Circus-Feelings” by PlayLearnTalk.
Well, if you have made it this far…THANK YOU for reading my TWENTY ways to incorporate a Circus-theme into your speech therapy session THIS WEEK!
I hope you are walking away inspired and better equipped to teach your students with some fun new activities.
My name is Kelly – you can find me on Instagram as Puhtuhkuh Kelly
When you follow me, you will learn how to target every day speech therapy goals in creative and easy ways.
I’ve been an SLPA for 5 years and I love sharing my ideas for how to make speech therapy engaging and functional for the PreK through high school populations.
You can find over 200 of my speech therapy resources on Teacherspayteachers by searching PlayLearnTalk.