Group Activities for Nonverbal Students

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

What activities can you do with a group of nonverbal students? If you're looking for some group activities that involve less speaking, here are a few ideas that you can use as a starting point and adapt to your classroom needs.

Activities and Nonverbal Students

Many traditional group activities require students to speak; however, when working with nonverbal students, these activities pose a challenge. Sometimes, if you have only one nonverbal student in a group, an activity can be modified so that he or she can participate in a different way than speaking peers. If you have a group of nonverbal students, however, you may want to consider some activities designed specifically for them. The following activities may give you some ideas that you can use in your own classroom.

Music Group Activities

Many students find music-related activities highly motivating. This music activity helps nonverbal students develop skills related to making choices, imitating actions, and following one-step directions; it also addresses gross motor skills.


  • MP3/CD player and music
  • Song choice cards


  • Choose a selection of songs that you can play for your students. Songs should either contain actions for the students to perform, or lend themselves to student use of instruments.
  • Prepare a set of cards containing the name of each song and a picture that represents it. For example, ''The Goldfish Song'' could be accompanied by a picture of a goldfish.


  • First introduce the songs and their choice cards. Once the song choices are familiar, students can take turns choosing a song.
  • You can also include songs that you sing where the students choose the actions. For example, ''If You're Happy and You Know It'' can be accompanied by a wide variety of movements. Students can take turns demonstrating the actions for the next verse (clap your hands, stomp your feet, jump up and down, nod your head, etc.).
  • This activity can be adapted for different age groups by varying the choice of music.


Depending on the age and ability level of your students, cooking can help them develop a variety of skills, including communication/language (reading the recipe), motor, math, and social/life skills.


  • Picture-adapted recipe
  • Cooking supplies


  • Choose a simple cooking project.
  • Prepare a step-by-step recipe, using pictures to represent each step. Using a photo flipbook, put one step of the recipe on each page.
  • Gather students around a table.
  • Have students take turns turning a page of the flipbook and performing the next step in the recipe. For example, here's a recipe for Dirt Dessert:
    • 1. Wash your hands.
    • 2. Measure the milk.
    • 3. Pour the milk into the bowl.
    • 4. Open the pudding box.
    • 5. Empty the pudding in the bowl.
    • 6. Mix the pudding.
    • 7. Put the cookies in a plastic baggie.
    • 8. Crush the cookies.
    • 9. Add the cookies to the pudding.
    • 10. Stir the pudding.
    • 11. Add gummy worms.
    • 12. Eat!

Interactive Picture Books

This activity helps students work on turn-taking and attention skills, as well as making the content of a book more interactive and memorable.


  • A book with cumulative repeated sounds, such as The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams and Megan Lloyd. In this book, the old woman sees gloves that go ''clap, clap'' on one page; on another page she sees boots that go ''stomp, stomp'' and gloves that go ''clap, clap.''
  • You can also choose books that have a recurring theme and assign sounds to repeated words, for example, whenever you hear the word ''happy'' in this story, ring the bell.


  • Assign each student in the group one sound.
  • When each student's sound occurs in the book, point to and prompt him or her to make the sound.

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