Vocal Play

By Activity Bank on Nov 12, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Charlotte Cushman and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

Imitation exercises are designed for students who do not yet speak or vocalize meaningfully. Depending on the abilities of the student, this activity may be used to stimulate any vocalization at all, or to develop specific imitation skills.  Lessons include English Language Arts and Social Skills.


  • Various items that amplify, distort, and record sounds in interesting ways: microphones, helmets with voice modulators, voice activated switches, and electronic devices available on the market.
  • Common household items: barrels, boxes, jugs, buckets (for use as echo chambers)


  • Present the student with an item which provides interesting auditory feedback (such as an echo or modulation of the voice) when a sound is made.
  • Show the student how to make sounds by letting her experiment, or you may demonstrate if necessary.
  • Have the student feel vibrations in your throat and vocal chords.
  • Encourage the student to vocalize and enjoy auditory feedback from her own voice.

The specific vocalizations depend upon the individual student. For some students any vocalization at all is to be encouraged. Other students may be able to imitate particular sounds such as “be, be, be” or “ma, ma, ma.” Some students my enjoy experimenting with controlling voice volume (loud and soft) or with imitating pitches and intonation.


  • Record the student’s vocalizations (with or without special equipment). Play it back to the student and help her to understand that she is the one who made those sounds.
  • Encourage a small group of students to explore these sounds and their echoes. Try to have students imitate each other’s vocalizations.
  • After the student has had a chance to make her own sounds at random, try to engage her in some imitative play. Take turns – let her lead while you imitate her sounds, then see if she can imitate your sounds.
  • Certain students may perseverate on silly noises rather than making an effort to develop meaningful vocalizations. For students with echolalic language, the imitation skills are present, but the student may not attach meaning to specific words or sounds. In such cases it may be better to structure the lesson more firmly by getting the child to use specific words that have concrete meaning; for example, imitating names of preferred toys or food.

Hint: Encourage vocalization throughout the day. Reinforce any spontaneous babbling or imitation skills. Help students to attach meaning to their vocalizations.



Read more about: Communication, Social Skills