I threw caution to the wind and decided to make a plan for a little structure. And guess what? It actually worked! Even better than I'd hoped it would! I'll share it with you now.
First I found three little boxes to "hide" activities in. I made them appealing (I hoped!) by putting vehicle pictures on them.
Each box contained either an entire activity or a piece of an activity that I had prepared but wouldn't fit in the box, and a paper vehicle with velcro on the back.
The vehicles each had velcro dots on them to attach two wheels. One of my targets was the word "wheel", as he is learning to make the /w/ sound with rounded lips. During this sequence of activities, he had many opportunities to practice that word.
I displayed all three boxes on the table and let him choose which one we would open first. I removed the other two from the table, and together we opened the box. He removed the paper vehicle, and I showed him that we would put it on the road that I had displayed on the back of my bench after we played a game with the other item or items in the box.
One of the targets of the day was words beginning with the /h/ sound.
Inside the box he found six items to practice words that begin with /h/: hat, horse, heart, hop, hot and high. We said the words as we removed them from the box, again when we played with them, and again when we put them back in the box.
When the activity was completed, we put the wheels on the vehicle (after he said "wheel" of course) and then put the vehicle on the road. By the way, my choice of vehicles was also planned ahead of time. he uses a generic "word" (wah-we-oh) to refer to all emergency vehicles, so I chose police car (pees car), fire truck (fa ya tuk) and garbage truck (ga ba tuk). He made great attempts to imitate all three with very little reluctance. After putting the vehicle on the road, we chose another box.
My little buddy loved this format. I was hoping that maybe we'd get through two boxes, but we actually completed all three! Success! Smiles all around. I wonder if it will work next time...?
What are your tricks for working with young preschoolers? I'd love it if you'd share!