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Modeling Purposes of Communication during Trips


Boy putting his hands on window of aquarium tank with shark and fish.

July is a month of day trips and vacations. My little sister is visiting us here in FL this month, and we have been sharing lots of adventures. During each of our adventures, I have been thinking about what great opportunities there are in modeling all of the purposes of communication we have been discussing this month. Using a variety of functions of communication is important as it helps us to advocate for ourselves, socialize with others, provide and gain information from others, and even have our wants and needs met.


This week, we’ll discuss how you can model these purposes of communication during trips and even virtual trips. For our final week of July, I have chosen aquariums as a place to model these language skills. In addition, I’ll share one of my favorite ocean themed apps you can check out as you prepare for your adventures to the aquarium.


In person trips and virtual field trips provide great opportunities to expand your child’s vocabulary, increase their background knowledge, and practice many of the communicative functions we have been discussing. Before an in-person or virtual trip, I like to first present new vocabulary or review previously learned vocabulary. There are many ways to do this, but here are just a few examples of things you can do with your child at home:

  1. Print out pictures of the animals they may encounter on their trip or use real objects if you have them. Then hide the pictures or objects around the room, the house, or even outside. Then play a hide and seek game. Discuss each item or picture the child finds (what it looks like, what it feels like, what it may sound like, etc.)

  2. Using a sensory box, hide objects or laminated pictures in the sensory box. As your child pulls out items, discuss each object (what it looks like, what it feels like, what it may sound like, etc.). (See Blog Post: Using Play to Model Purposes of Communication)

  3. Put ocean animals in the pool or in the bathtub. Give your child goggles or a mask to pretend they are looking for the animals in the ocean. Then have your child point out all the ocean animals they see. Discuss each of these animals (what it looks like, what it feels like, what it may sound like, etc.).

  4. Read books about ocean animals together. Discuss each object they see while reading (what it looks like, what it feels like, what it may sound like, etc.). (See Blog Post: Using Books to Model Purposes of Communication)

Now that you have introduced vocabulary your child may encounter during your adventure, let’s talk about different ways to model our purposes of communication while taking a trip to the aquarium.

  • Greetings/Farewells: As you move through each section of the aquarium, model greeting the sea life. As the fish swim away, model saying goodbye to the animals. Examples include: “Hi shark”, “Bye jellyfish”, and waving or blowing a kiss to the animals.

  • Requesting: Allow the child opportunity to move towards, reach, or point towards the part of the aquarium they want to see. Then model phrases such as “See dolphin”, “Go to sea turtle”, and “Want seahorse”.

  • Commenting and Exclaiming: Commenting and exclaiming are my favorite things to model on trips. As you explore new areas of the aquarium, point out different sea life and model phrases such as “I see a big shark!”, “Wow, fast fish!”, “Pretty jellyfish.”, and “Look, whale eating!”.

  • Sharing experiences: Last, but not least, it is important to provide opportunities for sharing about the trip. I love to take pictures during the trip and then create a photo book or a slide show. If doing a virtual trip, you can take screenshots or even allow the child to draw or color about the experience. I then use these visual aids to provide reminders about their adventures to help them better be able to share. Kids love to show these photos with other friends and family members. I model pointing to the pictures, turning the pages if in a picture book, bringing the pictures to others to share, and modeling a variety of words and phrases.

For virtual field trips, many zoos or aquariums have live webcams. Some of my favorite ocean virtual trips include:


App Recommendation - Video Touch Sea Life: The Video Touch apps are some of my most used apps and provide a great alternative for longer virtual field trips. This app can also provide an opportunity to practice vocabulary they may encounter on their adventure. There are 12 ocean animal pictures for your child to choose from. Once your child touches an animal picture, a 10-20 second video clip plays of real animals. There are 4-6 different videos per animal, which is great as your child does not see the same video each time. I model phrases such as “I want crab”, “Wow! Dolphin jump!”, “Big sting ray”, “Go fast shark!”, etc.



I have enjoyed sharing some of my favorite ocean themed toys, books, and trip ideas for helping to support you in modeling purposes of communication for your child. It is my hope that you have fun while helping your child to grow in their language skills this week! Take time to enjoy the end of your summer with your family!


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