Storybook Sessions: “That’s Not My Snowman”

Storybook Sessions: “That’s Not My Snowman”

Storybook Sessions: “That’s Not My Snowman

In each Storybook Sessions post, I highlight a book that I have used, or plan to use in therapy as well as associated, extension activities that can be paired with the book to increase vocabulary comprehension, provide opportunities to express yourself verbally, written, creatively, etc., sensory exploration, fine motor practice, gross motor movements, etc. Some extension activities will focus on all of these components while others will focus more specifically on one area. Books and all materials are linked as well to provide easy online shopping so you can easily gather materials to replicate these activities and enjoy them yourself. (Simply click on the title of the book and/or material listed and you will be redirected to an opportunity to purchase and/or learn more)

That’s Not My Snowman”
Author: Fiona Watt
Illustrator: Rachel Wells
cover of "That's Not My Snowman"

“That’s Not My Snowman”

This book, like the others in the wildly popular, That’s Not My… series, features various textures and sensory elements via touchy-feely patches on each page. The story line also features a simple, repetitive text: “That’s not my snowman, it’s ____ is too ____.” This repetitive line promotes basic, emergent literacy and language skills for readers, providing multiple opportunities to see and hear familiar words which will in turn, increase their comprehension and recognition of these repeated words. The various items that are featured and described in the repeated line are those that contain the different touchy-feely patches on each page (e.g., “…it’s hat  is too soft.”). Featuring and describing these items provides the reader with opportunities to increase their receptive vocabulary through identifying the labeled items (nouns) as well as describing how they feel (adjectives). 

As readers become more familiar with the text and associate the feel of the various sensory elements with the descriptive vocabulary provided, they will have the opportunity to use this vocabulary in their own expressive communication as they read the book and/or describe various items they interact with throughout their day. An added bonus for students who are emergent language and literacy learners, who may also be using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is that this book is full of core vocabulary that can be modeled on a communication device/system. Examples of core vocabulary within the book include: “that”, “not”, “my”, and “it” as well as the multiple opportunities to model “turn” for turning the page, “help”, “feel” for exploring the touchy-feely patches, “you” and “I” and so many more!

As you can see, there are so many reasons that this book is a no-brainer to use within my language therapy sessions but it’s a great book to read with any emergent reader and language learner to help build and refine their literacy and language skills. Reading books like this become even more fun when you pair reading with a fun, sensory based extension activity like these fun sensory snowmen.

Simple, cheap and fun = win, win, win!
Sensory Snowmen

All you need for this simple, fun, sensory extension activity is:

materials needed for making sensory snowmen activity

Materials needed for sensory snowmen extension activity.

Step 1: 
  • Remove the label on the resealable zipper storage bag(s) with nail polish remover. (This really works – promise! I was a skeptic too but was shocked at how easy it was to remove!) 
  • Dry nail polish remover residue from bag.
photo of nail polish remover and two resealable storage bags - one with label and one without

Nail polish remover removes labels from resealable storage bags

Step 2:
  • Draw a template of a snowman on a piece of cardboard using a permanent marker. 
picture of snowman template on cardboard with permanent marker and resealable storage bag

Draw a snowman template on piece of cardboard

Step 3:
  • Place resealable zipper storage bag on top of snowman template & trace onto bag with permanent marker.
  • You can also encourage kids to draw their own snowman on the bag – be creative! 
resealable storage bag over snowman template with permanent marker

Place resealable storage bag over snowman template.

traced snowman from template onto resealable storage bag and permanent marker

Trace snowman template onto resealable storage bag or let kids draw their own snowman.

Step 4: 
  • Place a few cotton balls inside of the bag (number of cotton balls will depend upon how full you want your bag to be as well as how big your bag is).
Step 5: 
  • Squeeze hair gel into the bag until cotton balls are able to be pushed around when in contact with the gel (again, the amount of gel needed will depend upon the size of the bag as well as how many cotton balls were used – not an exact measurement).
resealable storage bag with cotton balls and hair gel

Put cotton balls and hair gel into resealable storage bag.

Step 6: 
  • Seal bag and reinforce with duct tape (may need to reinforce on both sides of seal to ensure closure). 
sensory snowman bag sealed with duct tape and labeled with name

Reinforce seal of resealable storage bag with duct tape and label with name.

Step 7:
  • Use a permanent marker to label the bag with the name (of snowman or kiddo). 
  • Encourage kids to write their own name to practice emergent writing skills.
Step 8: 
  • Enjoy moving the cotton ball “snowballs” around within the bag to personalize the look of your snowman over and over again!
  • Re – read “That’s Not My Snowman”  again – while students play with the sensory snowman bags that they just created!


There are a lot of ways that you could personalize this activity even further, such as adding additional sensory elements to the bag such as sequins, small snowflake confetti, glitter, etc. – Have fun and be creative!

If you create Sensory Snowmen bags with your students, I’d love to see them! Share pictures in the comments here or tag me (@senseableliteracy) in your posts online!

Until next time – Happy Reading!

Introduction to AAC, Core & Fringe Vocabulary

Introduction to AAC, Core & Fringe Vocabulary

What is AAC?

If you are reading this – chances are you know a kiddo that is a late talker, has a diagnosed language delay, and/or a diagnosis that involves difficulties with communication in general and you are wanting to support and help them increase their communication and language skills. Hopefully, you have heard of Augmentative and Alternative Communication or AAC, but if not, don’t worry – keep reading! 

First and foremost, a definition – AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication – let’s break that down: 

Augmentative: a supplement to existing speech

Augmentative: Adding to existing verbal speech and language

Augmentative: Adding to existing verbal speech and language

Alternative: used when speech is non-functional and/or absent

Alternative: Instead of Verbal Speech and Language

Alternative: Instead of Verbal Speech and Language

An important thing to know and learn from these definitions is that AAC is beneficial for both kids that are not yet speaking as well as kids that are already talking. 

There are MANY different forms of AAC including: 

  • Gestures
  • Signs
  • Object representation
  • Pictures
  • Communication boards (choice boards, Core/Fringe Vocabulary boards, etc)
  • Speech-generating devices with voice output recorded by us, the communication partner as well as speech generating devices and apps that are preprogrammed and editable.

examples of various AAC

Various examples of AAC

One thing that all of these AAC examples have in common is that they often use specific vocabulary that research has proven to be the most effective in teaching beginning communicators and AAC users to communicate in the most functional, effective and efficient way. This vocabulary is known as Core vocabulary. 

Core & Fringe Vocabulary

We all know that there are SO MANY words that we use throughout our day – how are we supposed to choose which words to teach first? Especially to our kiddos with complex communication needs – this seems like an impossible task! 

While it is nearly impossible to know what words our kiddos with complex communication needs would choose as their first words, thanks to research we can know what words are used most frequently. This group of words are often referred to as Core Vocabulary. Core vocabulary words actually make up approximately 80% of what we say, all day, everyday, When you think about it that way, it makes sense to teach these words first. These are the words that kiddos hear before they start talking so it makes sense that these would be the words that they would use first when they start to talk or communicate via other means of Augmentative and Alternative Communication or AAC such as pictures, communication apps or devices, etc.

Here are some other facts about core vocabulary: compared to all the words available to us, those words that are considered core vocabulary are in a pretty small group. They are a variety of parts of speech including verbs, pronouns, prepositions, etc. These words are also used across a variety of different environments, routines, etc. 

So, given all of these factors, it makes sense that these are the words that, not only make up the majority of the words we use daily, but also the words that are most important to provide students access to for communication at the very basic level and beyond.

core vocabulary communication board example

Example of a Core Vocabulary Communication Board

This is an example of a core vocabulary communication board. There are many different versions of core vocabulary communication boards, some have more words, some have less, none are wrong. 

So, now that you know more about the backgrounds of what Core Vocabulary is  – I want to teach you a little about the opposite of core and that is Fringe Vocabulary. Fringe vocabulary is the rest of the words that we use throughout our day. If core vocabulary makes up 80% of that we say everyday, Fringe vocabulary makes up about 20%. Fringe vocabulary is also very limited in where and when we can use it and consists mostly of nouns and labels for items.

Fringe vocabulary board example

Example of a fringe vocabulary board

This is an example of a fringe vocabulary board that could be used in a classroom for a calendar activity. As you can see the majority of the words are nouns and labels. 

While core vocabulary is used more frequently, fringe vocabulary is what we need to use to make our communication more specific – they are both important! I often think of this graphic when describing the interaction between Core & Fringe vocabulary.

core is the glue that holds the fringe together graphic

Core is the glue that holds the fringe together

We can and should use core and fringe vocabulary together throughout the day within all communication. 

Now that you know more about AAC, core and fringe vocabulary – you may have some additional questions about how to use these ways to communicate. Hold that thought and subscribe to SENSEable Literacy –  I have more information coming on this exact topic!

By the way, if you are more of a visual and auditory learner, click here to watch a YouTube video sharing this information.