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August 22, 2016

Using Hidden Objects to Develop Listening and Oral Language Skills

Written By: Simone T. Ribke
X Using hidden objects to develop listening and oral language skills

Using hidden objects to develop listening and oral language skills

It’s midsummer and concerns about school readiness are probably (and hopefully) farthest from our minds. Instead, we focus on exploring our out-of-school senses; playing games, participating in watersports, and enjoying icy refreshments.

The experientially focused activities of summer offer unique opportunities to help children develop language skills. Summer generates a casual and fun-centric approach to learning that is highly conducive for helping children develop fundamental speaking and listening skills.

Developing Listening and Oral Language Skills

Use the following two small-group activities to promote:

Listening skills: listening acuity, listening with purpose

Speaking skills: vocabulary development, speech fluency


Guess What’s Shakin’?

A Small-Group Listen, Imitate, Categorize, and Identify Activity

In this activity, children will use listening skills to determine the size, quantity, and identity of objects hidden inside mystery shakers. Children take turns selecting and shaking the chosen container, using listening acuity to identify the contents.



–24 small, opaque containers (e.g., plastic Easter eggs, small plastic containers*)

–24 different types of objects to fill the shakers* (several of each object**) that vary in size: small/medium/large (e.g., rice, buttons, puzzle pieces respectively).

–Basket or empty egg cartons to hold all the shakers

–3–6 small bowls containing a sample of each of the 24 items in the shakers

–Small, Medium, and Large sorting mats or baskets, 1 set per student in the group


*baby food jars will also work; coat the outside with acrylic black paint or duct tape

**more examples: wiggle eyes, pom poms, plastic animals, pasta, rubber bands, bells, beads, etc.


In Advance:

Fill the containers with the items you’ve collected and put them in the basket or egg cartons
Create sample bowls that contain one of each item concealed inside the shakers: one for each student.



1. Work in small groups (3–6 children)

2. Give each student one bowl of sample items and one small/medium/large sorting mat.

3. Sort: Invite the children to sort the items in the bowls on the sorting mat. Depending on the skill of the children, you may want to demonstrate by asking the children to help you sort one or two items before getting started.

4. Compare: Ask the children to look at their friends’ sorting mats. Which items were sorted differently? Which were the same? Encourage the children to discuss their reasoning.

5. Shake: Take turns selecting a container from the basket. During each child’s turn, s/he should:

– Shake the container and listen carefully so that s/he can describe the sounds.

– Imitate the sound s/he hears.

6. Answer the following questions:

-Does the item sound small, medium, or large?

-Is there more than one of the same item in the container?

-Why do you think so?

7. Reveal: The child opens the container to see what’s inside!

8. Review: Did the child correctly guess…

– what was inside?

– the size (small, medium, large) of the object?

– the quantity (was there one, two, or many inside)?



Guess My ABC Mystery Items!

A Small-Group Oral Language Activity

In this activity, children take turns selecting a letter bag and then answer questions using descriptive language to help their peers guess the contents of the bags.



–26 lunch-size paper bags, each labeled with one letter of the alphabet

–1–2 letter-specific items per bag (each item should start with the corresponding letter*)


*avoid words that start with consonant blends that change the initial letter’s sound (e.g., shoe, chick)



1. Work in small groups (3–6 children)

2. In each turn, a child will select a bag and look inside without revealing the contents to the group. The child tells the group which letter s/he chose.

3. Set the timer for 2 or 3 minutes.

4. Ask/answer questions until the timer rings. The group asks the child leading questions that can help them identify the mystery alphabet item. Model asking leading questions; you may be the only one asking questions at first, but group will eventually catch on. Examples of leading questions:

-Is it a living thing like a plant, animal, or bug?

-(If alive) How does it move? What does it eat? What does it look like?

-Is it something you eat, use, or play with?

-(if food) Does it taste sweet or salty? Is it crunchy? Is it healthy? What color is it?

-(if tool/toy) What do you use it for? What does it look like?

5. When the allotted time is up, ask the group to guess the child’s mystery item, hinting that it starts with the letter on the bag.

6. Reveal: Did the group guess correctly? Discuss.



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