Recently we asked our therapists to recommend resources for building speech, language, and social communication skills. We wanted to share some of these activities that parents, teachers and other therapists may find fun and useful and that can be easily tailored for specific children’s needs. Therapist Kevin English recommended using Pixar short films (or any short video that tells a story) to work on pragmatic language either at home or in the classroom. Kevin first heard of this technique while attending a training by Anna Vagin PhD and has since adapted the premise to meet the needs of his students.
Many delightful Pixar shorts are available at no cost on YouTube. Because the films use little or no verbal language, they offer excellent opportunities for working on pragmatic goals such as understanding body language, facial expressions, and characters’ emotions. After watching a film, ask your child “wh” questions (i.e., What happened in this story? and Who are the important characters in this story?). If appropriate, delve into why the characters acted in a certain way and how they felt about what happened in the film.
Once you’ve discussed the basic plot, ask your child to make predictions about what might happen next. Work on perspective taking by asking the child to imagine being in the same situation as one of the characters. Use questions like, “What would you do if …?” or “How would you feel if …?”
For additional guidelines about teaching kids to understand plot, check out this resource on Teachers Pay Teachers: Plot Chart Diagram Arc – Pixar Short Films Study (w/ Answer Keys)
Enjoy the short films, which are clever and witty!