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SPARC® for Basic Routines
Ages: 4-8   Grades: PreK-3

This program helps students learn basic routines and develop narrative language skills.  The familiar content and lesson structure help them transition to the language and stories of the classroom.   


  • Comprehend and talk about routines
  • Improve sequencing, question-asking, and narrative language skills
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** This is a Cloud E-Book that is accessible from any device with Internet access. .

Busy clinicians rely on the SPARC series for:

  • convenience and portability
  • loads of pictures
  • systematic progression of stimuli
  • use with a variety of treatment needs

The book includes 80 2-page lessons.  Each lesson centers on a three- or four-step familiar routine presented in pictures.  A corresponding lesson page provides:

  • questions to activate prior knowledge
  • questions to help students sequence and retell the routine and the story
  • the basic routine and story without questions

The basic routines are based on children's typical experiences and knowledge in the themes of:

  • Routines at Home—baking cookies, blowing up a balloon, feeding a dog, making a bowl of cereal, and more
  • Routines in the Community—buying an ice cream cone, getting a haircut, going to a parade, going on a picnic, and more
  • Routines at School—answering questions, buying lunch at school, practicing a fire drill, checking out a book, and more

Use the lessons to directly teach routines to students.  They can also be used to assess and teach comprehension and to encourage oral retelling of common experience stories. 

Copyright © 2002

167 pages

I use SPARC for Basic Routines in social communication therapy with my students with ASD.  It has saved me hours of planning time.  I especially like the features of immediate sequential retelling, role playing, and prediction.  My students often choose the bowling and valentine routines to review and role-play with their general education peers. 

Trish Vander Schel, SLP
Wyoming, MI

  • Text comprehension can improve with instruction that uses specific comprehension strategies, such as monitoring comprehension, using graphic and semantic organizers, answering questions, recognizing story structure, and summarizing (CIERA, 2003).
  • Seven categories of text comprehension instruction are linked to improved reading comprehension in non-impaired readers (gleaned from 481 studies on scientifically-based reading strategies).  The types of instruction include: comprehension monitoring, use of graphic and semantic organizers, answering questions, generating questions, summarizing, cooperative learning, and story structure (NICHD, 2000).

SPARC for Basic Routines incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA). (2003). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read. Retrieved February 18, 2009 from

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Susan Thomsen, Kathy Donnelly


Susan Thomsen, M.A., CCC-SLP, has been a speech-language pathologist for over 30 years.  Most recently she has been head speech-language pathologist with Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Clinton and Maquoketa, Iowa.  While there, Susan also had a staff development position for eight years.  She provided staff development for implementation of Idea 97 for special education support staff and teachers, general education teachers, parents, and administrators.  Her interests are in the areas of early literacy and language, language and curriculum, narrative development, and data-based decision making.  Until her recent retirement, Susan was co-chair of a statewide Oral Narrative Committee.  This committee was composed of SLPs from all over the state of Iowa and was focused on early narrative assessment through story retell and intervention using storybooks and before, during, and after narrative strategies.  SPARC for Basic Routines is Susan's seventh publication with LinguiSystems.  She is also the author of SPARC Revised and co-author of SPARC for Grammar, SPARC for Phonology, and SPARC for Attributes.

Kathy Donnelly, M.A., CCC-SLP, has been a speech-language pathologist for 20 years.  She is currently working for the Kentwood Public Schools in Kentwood, Michigan.  Kathy's primary interests are in the areas of beginning reading and data-based decision making.  SPARC for Basic Routines is Kathy's fifth publication with LinguiSystems.  She has also co-authored SPARC for Grammar, SPARC for Phonology, and SPARC for Attributes.


SPARC for Basic Routines is composed of 80 three- and four-step familiar routines and basic stories.  The routines and stories are organized into three broad categories: Routines at Home, Routines in the Community, and Routines at School.  The topics are familiar to most children although it is important to consider cultural and social backgrounds.  (For those children, who have had limited or different experiences, these materials can be used as a bridge to school language.)  SPARC for Basic Routines is a critical tool because it reflects the language of stories, textbooks, journal writing, and oral-language discourse in the classroom.

The basic routines in SPARC for Basic Routines are based on children's typical experiences and knowledge.  It is best to use routines and stories about which your student has experience and prior knowledge.  By using the questions provided, you can facilitate activation of prior knowledge; sequencing; use of the pronoun you; and the concepts first, next, then, and last.  After each routine sequence, the student is asked to retell the routine.  This is excellent practice for the student and an opportunity for you to assess comprehension and use the above-mentioned language skills in a meaningful, organized way.  The routines in SPARC for Basic Routines are excellent resources for teachers of students with autism who often need to be taught routines directly.

The basic stories in SPARC for Basic Routines are useful for students who aren't fully appreciating or comprehending fictional stories.  Students need to be able to comprehend and tell personal account stories (or narratives) before they can apply these skills to fiction.  This book facilitates that language development and helps close the gap between comprehending and telling personal and fictional stories.

SPARC for Basic Routines may be used to assess, monitor, and teach comprehension as well as to encourage oral retelling of common experience stories.  Comprehension is facilitated by strategically asked questions about important information.  The basic story elements of introduction, setting, characters, episodes, outcome prediction, and problem-solution are emphasized.  The stories help you teach the pronouns he, she, and they; regular and irregular past tense verbs; complex sentences; connector words and conjunctions; as well as the transition words first, next, then, and last.  Students can also learn to sequence simple episodes in logical order.

This book is a flexible teaching tool to use in a variety of settings, including work with individual, small group, and collaborative whole class instruction.  Here are some additional suggestions for using SPARC for Basic Routines.  Encourage your students to:

  • Cut the sequence pictures apart and put them in sequential order.
  • Write a story to go with the pictures.
  • Paste the pictures into a book and read the story.
  • Practice articulation, voice, and fluency.
  • Add additional information to the story that could happen before, during, or after the routine or story.

SPARC for Basic Routines provides a rich variety of opportunities for language learning as your students learn and practice telling basic routines and stories.

Susan & Kathy