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Story Time


Susan gathers the children around a large kidney-shaped table to read this month's book Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, by Eileen Christelow. (Each month, Susan focuses on one book.) Each child has a customized communication board designed to foster interaction about the story. Some children have only two symbols on their boards, while others have nine.

Susan holds up the book and says, "For the last two weeks we've been reading a story about . . ." She pauses, providing the children an opportunity to complete the sentence. Lauren bellows, "Monkeys!" Susan replies, "That's right, there are monkeys in the story. What else is in this story?" She motions for the children to look at their communication boards. Cindy, a child with cerebral palsy, makes the sign for the crocodile. Susan nods her head, saying, "Good, crocodile." She repeats the sign for all the children to see and several children imitate her.

Susan sets the stage for the story by reviewing the basic events of the story, carefully eliciting responses from the group. First, she asks the children what the mother does after setting out the picnic basket. To elicit a response, she prompts, "She decides to go to ......." As some children fill in "sleep," Susan signs the word sleep and points to the picture communication symbol for sleep on one child's communication board. She encourages other children to find that symbol on their own boards. She continues in this manner until the basic story line has been mapped out for the children.

Susan signs Susan signs "sleep" while her students look for the symbol on their communication boards.

The children listen intently as Susan begins reading the story. She uses several strategies to keep children engaged. For example, the story has many repeated lines and Susan assigns them to different children in the group. Matthew, a child with cerebral palsy and severe visual impairments, listens to the story intently and delivers the crococile's line,"Snap" at appropriate times.

Susan signs Matthew signs the repeated line, "Snap" along with Susan.

View Video Clip of Susan asking her students questions as she reads the story, "Five Little Monkeys" to the class.

Another line, "Oh no, where is he?" is repeated as each monkey disappears. Susan turns to Terika, a nonspeaking, nonambulatory child, and says, "I'm going to give you that part, because I get tired of saying it. So whenever we get to that part, please hit your switch and say it." Terika smiles broadly and prepares for her role. A switch is mounted near her cheek so that she can activate it by turning her head. The switch is attached to a tape recorder with a loop tape that plays the prerecorded message, "Oh no, where is he?"


Susan preparing to read a book as class looks on.The other children watch as Terika tries out her new role.

Susan uses a variety of strategies to make story reading a multisensory experience for children. Throughout the story, she stops and asks the children how many monkeys are left. She holds up a felt board with five monkey's assembled out of pipe cleaners velcroed to the board. As each monkey disappears, she tears one off the board and the children count the monkeys remaining in the story. This is a great use of manipulatives to convey math concepts such as counting to five and subtracting.

Susan holds up felt board with monkeys as children look on.Susan holds up the board after detaching the first monkey.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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