Have you ever found yourself working with upper-elementary and middle school students that struggle to understand, retain, and explain what they’ve read? Do you want a tool that can bridge the gap between comprehension and expression?
Let’s chat about the Sketch and Speak strategy! It might even be something you use bits and pieces of in your therapy already! ⬇️
Where Does This Strategy Come From?
The Sketch and Speak strategy comes straight from research by Peterson and Ukrainetz. You can read it all below. I’d highly encourage you to! There isn’t a ton of research on highly relevant, useful strategies that can be used in real life therapy sessions out there. So, take advantage of learning more about this adaptable tool:
Ukrainetz, T. A (2018). Sketch and speak: An expository intervention using note-taking and oral practice for children with language-related learning disabilities. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-18-0047
Peterson, A. K., Ukrainetz, T. A, & Risueño, R. J. (2021). Speak like a scientist: A multiple case study on sketch and speak intervention to improve expository discourse. Autism & Developmental Language Impairments. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2396941521998604
Peterson, A. K., & Ukrainetz, T. A. (2023). Sketch and Speak expository intervention for adolescents: A single-case experiment via telepractice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_lshss-22-00192
Why the Sketch and Speak Strategy?
Reading comprehension and note-taking skills are critical skills, especially during upper-elementary and middle school years. Yet, many students we work with continue to have difficulty synthesizing information they’re learning and communicating their understanding. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were a tool that could enhance both their comprehension and their expressive language?
Well, that’s where the Sketch and Speak strategy comes in. It’s a unique and effective tool to help teach students how to take high-quality notes, articulate their understanding, and increase what they can remember.
🔹 How Do I Implement This Strategy? 🔹
- Select a Passage: Choose a reading passage relevant to your student’s language level and interests. Shorter passages work best initially.
- Read and Sketch, Read and Sketch, Read and Sketch: Paragraph by paragraph (or even sentence by sentence!), ask your student to do a quick sketch of the main (or most important) idea. Encourage them to focus on capturing the essence rather than creating a detailed drawing. A simple stick figure or shape can be enough! For a short 3 paragraph text, my students might draw 3-5 sketches/ideas in total.
- Discuss the Drawing: Once they’re done drawing, have them explain their sketch to you. For example, “Tell me about this.”, “What detail is this about?”, or “Why is this important/interesting?”. Give prompts, supports, and feedback as needed here.
- Speak: Then, have students describe all of their sketches, one at a time (to summarize what they read/retell the most important or interesting parts). For higher level students, you can also have them use their sketches to create a written summary of what they read.
My Top Tips:
- Start with familiar topics to build confidence.
- Emphasize that the sketches are tools for comprehension, not art projects. Perfection isn’t the goal! Sometimes it can even be fun to do an activity where you draw something as fast as you can first, to get students comfortable with quick, ugly sketches 🙂 I repeat “just enough that you can remember that detail” over and over.
- Use a multi-sensory approach: pairing visual (drawing), auditory (speaking), and kinesthetic (writing) activities can enhance memory and understanding. So does pairing input (reading) with output (speaking about the drawings).
With better comprehension and expressive skills, students are more equipped to participate in class discussions, answer comprehension questions, and even engage in group projects. Jotting down quick notes, ideas, and summaries is a functional life skill too. The true beauty of this strategy is in its simplicity and adaptability.
What are your thoughts? Can you picture how Sketch and Speak could be a helpful tool for your students? Remember to read the research directly to hear how the researchers did it and what their findings were each time!
Want to learn more about comprehension skills? Click here!
Hope this information was helpful! ❤️