Teaching Tools: Carrier Phrases

Carrier Phrases are short, repetitive phrases therapists use to help kids learn. Usually, only one or two aspects of a carrier phrase change, as it is used over and over again in an activity. The child begins to predict the structure of the phrase and readily understands or repeats it. Because the child is familiar with the repeated phrase, she has less language to process and can focus her attention on the aspect of the phrase that changes- the new learning target.  

I see a red bird looking at me.
I see a green frog looking at me.
I see a purple cat looking at me.

A carrier phrase is more complex than a single word, yet less complex than an entirely new phrase. It is a wonderful bridging activity for learning new language skills. New learning targets include parts of speech such as new nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, or even specific speech sounds, such as /s/ (i.e. snake, spoon, skate, snail).  Repetitive phrases occur naturally in many early storybooks like Brown Bear, Brown Bear and songs like Five Little Monkeys.  Parts of books and songs can be used effectively as carrier phrases in countless easy-to-create activities.  In Brown Bear, Brown Bear, two aspects of the obvious carrier phrase change, the noun/animal and the color. So, the new targets are nouns- animal names, and adjectives- colors. 

Now, let's use the online coloring pages from the Dino Cave Kids website. Allow your child to choose a color from the coloring bar to fill in one of the objects in the pictures. Online coloring is a motivating activity for most kids, especially when they are allowed to use the computer keys.  Vary this activity by having your child 1) say the entire phrase after your models, or 2) fill in the blank after you say the first part of the phrase. Filling in the blank works well if your child has difficulty imitating words directly. As your child chooses colors for each picture element have them request before they click, "I want_______ " (color).  http://www.dinocavekids.com/kidz.php

I want______(color).  I want______ (color)

There are many ways to use carrier phrases at home to help kids learn new concepts. Even a  phrase as short as “Goodnight   ________”, as repeated in the book Goodnight Moon can be used to practice names of friends or relatives, or objects as in "Goodnight bowl full of mush." See if you can get into the groove of using carrier phrases. They are a great tool to have in your repertoire.

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