How to Play Bears & Chairs
Level 1: Instructions contain 2 pieces of key information: colour + position.
Materials: 1 black chair + 6 small bears + 10 picture cards with a green border.
- Place the small bears and black chair on the table. Review the colour and position words as a warm-up.
- Place the picture cards face down on the table, pick one up and hold it so the child can’t see it.
- Read the sentence at the top or modify it to suit your teaching purpose.
- Have the child arrange the items as best they understand.
- When the child is finished arranging the items, reveal the picture card. If they arranged the items correctly, great. If not, identify what went wrong and try using some receptive language teaching strategies to increase their comprehension.
- Continue being the speaker until the child understands the instructions about 80% of the time.
- Then switch roles and ask the child to be the speaker. Have them pick up a card, hold it so you can’t see it and describe the image.
- Arrange the bears exactly as the child describes even if you know it’s not correct.
- Have the child show you the picture card. If your arrangement is the same as the image, the child’s expressive language was accurate. If not, identify what went wrong and employ some expressive language teaching strategies.
- Advance to level 2 when the child is about 80% successful being the listener and speaker.
Level 2: Instructions contain 3 pieces of key information: size + colour + position
Materials: 1 black chair + 6 small bears +15 picture cards with a yellow border.
- Place the all the bears and black chair on the table.
- Point out that there are big and small bears now. Ask the child to point to some big and small bears as a warm-up (e.g., point to the big red bear, point to the small green bear).
- Play as described in level 1.
Level 3: Instructions contain 4 pieces of key information: size + colour + position + chair
Materials: All the bears + both chairs + 20 picture cards with a blue border.
- Place all the bears and both chairs on the table.
- Point out that there are black and white chairs now. Ask the child to place some bears on the different chairs as a warm-up (e.g., put the big yellow bear on the black chair, put the small green bear under the white chair).
- Play as described in level 1.
Bonus level: 3-part sequencing
Materials: All the bears + both chairs + 15 picture cards with a purple border.
- Place all the bears and both chairs and on the table.
- Gather the 3 cards for a particular sequence (there are 5 different
- Read the sentence at the top of the first card and wait for the child to arrange the items accordingly.
- Then place that card face up on the table and check for accuracy together before moving on to the next card.
- Do the same for the next 2 cards in the sequence.
- Make sure to emphasize the “time” words: first, then, last or feel free to change the words to first, second, third if you wish to target ordinals.
- Consider placing the cards beside the numerals 1,2,3 as a visual support.
- Once the child can follow (comprehend) the sequences with about 80% success, invite them to be the speaker so they can practice this type of expressive language.
- Remember that there are still many pieces of key information in each sentences (in addition to the time words) that can challenge a child’s receptive and expressive language skills.
- Try making up new sequences.