Blog Archive

Friday, February 9, 2018

Quick and Easy Activity to Teach Inference Skills

Do you need a quick hook to grab the attention of your students? Are you introducing a new theme, topic, or skill? Mystery Bags are a fun way to elicit student engagement. Mystery Bags are a common use in elementary classrooms as a form of show-and-tell. This activity is so versatile and can be used to address many different goals. So whether your students are in elementary or middle school, this activity will address their goals. 

In this post, I want to share with you some new ways to use Mystery Bags in your speech therapy lessons.

 Although I am not a classroom teacher, I like to use a strong teaching strategy with my students called a hook. A hook is an attention grabber. Great teachers grasp their students' attention immediately with a hook. This could be a question, illustration, animation, or object. As a speech-language pathologist I use a hook to help my students focus. Mystery Bags are a great way to introduce a topic or a theme. It gives you the opportunity to connect to background knowledge and access their schema. Items such as a toy bus in August, an apple in September, a small pumpkin in October or November and an an ornament in December are a few options for introducing monthly themes. 

If your early elementary classes use "letter of the week," put items in the bag that start with target letters (A-apple, B-ball, C-toy car, D-stuffed dog, E-plastic Easter egg).  Give student semantic or phonemic clues and have them guess the object inside. Examples of semantic cues would include:  "It's a round red fruit, grows on a tree and has seeds. You can use it to make a pie." If giving phonemic cues you might say it starts with /a/ and ends with /l/, or have students blend phonemes /a-p-l/ to figure out the mystery item.

Mystery Bags are an interactive social activity. You can target skills such as asking and answering questions, turn-taking, sustained attention, eye contact and perspective and inference skills. By having students ask and answer wh-questions, and give clues for object function and location, you are creating opportunities for rich language discussions. How one student might use an object, such as a stapler, could be different from how another student might use the same object. You can have students take turns holding the bag while others in the group ask questions, or you could hold the mystery bag while students ask you the questions. I have used Mystery Bags with students as young as 3 years old and as old as middle school. 

If your students need verbal or visual support for asking and answering questions, you can use sentence stems, question sticks, and picture clues to facilitate questioning.  In order to get started, I've included a visual map for describing objects using attributes such as: color, shape, size, texture, relative weight, etc. You can also add visuals for questioning such as index cards or sticky notes with the question words "who?" "what?" "when?" "where?" and "how?"  Students can ask questions such as, "Who uses this item? Where can you find it? What color is it? What is it used for?" and "How does it work?"

In this post, I have touched on a few different ways to use Mystery Bags in your speech therapy sessions. This activity is also perfect for mixed groups because you can target articulation, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, expressive language, receptive language, vocabulary, syntax, and pragmatic language all in the same lesson. 

If you use Mystery Bags in your speech therapy, I'd love to hear from you. Comment below and share your amazing ideas! 

Link to the free visual map shown above HERE and download. Share this post with someone that you think could benefit from these ideas and freebie.

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Lisa, SLP

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