Whether or not you consider Labor Day to be the first three day weekend of the school year, the official end of summer, or an excuse for a BBQ, Labor Day is a national holiday that was created to celebrate the workforce of America. An ode to the history of workers that have contributed to the social advancement and economic well-being of the U.S. As the countdown to the first Monday of September begins, many educators can take this opportunity to spend the previous weeks to educate their students on our community and the many faces that constitute our workforce. Below are some therapy ideas and activities you can use with your speech and language students, many of which can be conducted virtually as well as in person:
Pre-school: As with most therapy within this age group, a great way to introduce students to our workforce is with play-based therapy, especially with role-playing activities. You can target categories by having children choose toys that represent a community worker (e.g., food = chef, cars = mechanic, doctor supplies = doctors and nurses, tools = construction worker, etc.). Provide play-based instruction with the toys by having one of you be the community worker and the other the patient/customer/consumer. When the activity is over, you could target expressive language skills and articulation by having each student state which “job” was their favorite and which one they think they might like to be as they get older!
Grades K-2: With this age group, you can start by reviewing community workers with them and then having each student choose a worker. Have them create a paper plate mask with clues as to which worker they’ve chosen. Go around the table and have each student try to guess which worker that is being represented. Charades would also be a fun activity with this group, having each student act out the duties of a worker while the rest of the group tries to choose which worker they’re portraying. Inferencing skills, descriptors, articulation, comprehension, and social skills can all be targeted with these simple activities. There are also many children’s book covering the topic of community workers that you can check out for free from your library, including the Cloverleaf Series “Let’s Meet a Veterinarian/Firefighter/Teacher/etc.
Grades 3-5: Given the current pandemic, the value of essential workers has reached a level of appreciation that we’ve not seen in the past years. Since students within this age group are developing and fine-tuning their writing skills, instruction that is based around writing letters or emails would be an excellent choice. Review the variety of essential workers and their importance in our economy. Have each student choose an essential worker they consider to be of value to the community during the pandemic and review the proper protocol of writing, including introduction, body paragraph, and closing sentence. Utilize this opportunity to teach students how to locate information on the Internet, compose an email or write a standard letter, and to follow through with the activity.
Older students: As students enter middle and high school, adulthood is on the horizon and the meaning of the workforce becomes more of a reality. Use this opportunity to have students conduct interviews with their parents to gain more information into their chosen field. Students can develop their own interview questions and report back to their therapy groups with what they’ve learned. As students are exposed to a variety of real-life workforce experiences, ask students if any of these fields interest them for their own future career. High school students can engage in role-playing interviews themselves, learn how to complete simple documents, and research the salary and necessary education levels to advance in that field if they’d like.
Although it’s easy to get caught in the blissful moments of childhood crafts, toys, and fun books within our field, the reality is that our roles include much more than that – educators carry the heavy weight of helping to shape our future workforce by exposing them to options, guiding their decisions, and fostering their enthusiasm and learning along the way. Might as well make it fun while we have them!