Have you had a student on your caseload with category goals? Do you feel limited with the amount of resources you have for teaching categories? Wonder where to start therapy? Incorporating interactive category activities to build language skills is a great way to approach vocabulary development. Teaching categories is very relevant to the child’s vocabulary development.
Why is teaching categories important?
Teaching categories in speech therapy is important for vocabulary development. When we teach vocabulary words in “groups”, SLPs can create schema for the students to understand those words. Grouping items provides a familiar setting for students to organize and understand words. As a student puts words in “groups”, they learn to associate others words for that specific group. Someone with typically developing language may associate waves, sand, seagulls, beach towels, sand castles with the group “beach”. When students know the category group nouns belong in, they have one more way to describe that noun. An apple is a fruit. A shirt is a piece of clothing. A bus is transportation item.
Learning Categorization Skills Can Be Difficult For Students With Language Impairments
- Visual cues and prompts help with categorization.
- Physically manipulating and touching objects can make a categorization activity more meaningful.
- Rules must be meaningful and relate to a categorization activity.
- Self-talk can is a strategy that helps with organization in categorization activities.
Assessing Your Student’s Category Abilities
Assessing your student’s category abilities can help you determine where to begin in speech therapy. When you are doing an initial assessment, you can definitely find some of these areas of weakness with our standardized assessments. Once I determine eligibility for services in the areas of a language disorder, I look to see what subtests the student scored poorly on. I will give some informal assessments to gather some baseline data for writing goals in the areas of vocabulary. Knowing category groups is important for later describing and defining vocabulary words.
How to plan and organize your therapy for teaching categories
It is important to get a baseline of where you student is performing with his/her understanding of word relationships. If you are finding that a student isn’t able to name categories independently, you can gather other information by assessing sorting skills and matching identical objects and pictures.
- Match identical objects and pictures
- Sort a group of objects or pictures into two identical sets
- Sort a group of objects by one feature
- Choose an item to match a given category description or name
- Sort into 2 and 3 categories
- Name categories
- What doesn’t belong and why
- What goes together and why
- Name multiple items of a given category
- Express similarities and differences
Considerations When Deciding Where To Start With Teaching Categories
Some of our students may struggle with understanding category groups because they have NOT experienced the vocabulary in real life. If your student hasn’t been to the beach, then your student may not know to associate bucket, umbrella and boogie board as items in the beach category. This may be a factor when picking which categories to target with students. Taking baseline assessment can really help with narrowing down where to begin. Based on your probes, you can see what category groups your students understand and don’t understand. Also, consider introducing those early developing categories such as shapes, colors and food for students struggling with the concept of categorizing.
How To Decide What Level To Start With Students
Let’s say your student is able to sort a group of objects or pictures into two identical sets with 80% accuracy without any prompts. When you asked them to sort a group of objects by one features, they needed visual cues at 40% accuracy. Since mastery is below 80% accuracy, sorting items into groups by one feature probably is a good place to start in therapy. As your students increase their correct accuracy, you can move to harder category activities, or change the group objects to new category groups.
Category Activities To Build Language
All About Category Flipbooks– I created two category themed flipbooks for my caseload last year. The first one comes with 20 different category groups and 15-20 stimulus visuals to help with naming items in a category. This first book can be paired with any language lesson and can also be used to have the students follow directions such as “put a circle around all the red fruits”. The second book comes with interactive activities that work on matching items that go together and determining which items do not belong.
No Prep Category Activities– If you are a busy SLP that doesn’t have time to prep, these activities are interactive and just print n’ go. You can do cut n’ glue for what belongs, “I spy” coloring sheets for categories and coloring the correct items in categories with a 3 and 4 item field.
FREE category visuals– Many of my students need visual supports when learning categories. You can grab these visuals in my TPT store and use them for bean bag toss games or for sorting items onto the visual cards.
Check out how I use these visuals with my “I Spy” Sensory bin! There is a categories FREE printable in that blog post that you can access by clicking on the purple image below.
Categories Language Cards– Category sorting tasks requires a lot of pictures! These are helpful and on amazon (affiliate link included)
SLPNow Membership (affiliate link included)-In the membership, there are themed resources and specific skill packs that you can use with students. I used the category resources in her membership to progress monitor my students abilities to name how three items go together. The membership has a lot of compare/contrast graphic organizers that I use to work on describing how two items are in similar or different categories.
Category Activities With Apps
Categories From I Can Do apps-I love using this app to get baseline data for how students are currently doing with identifying what doesn’t belong and which items go together.
Smarty Ears Go Together APP– This app works on categorization through matching. You can also have the students explain why the items go together after matching them up!
Smarty Ears Categories Learning Center– This app is great to have because it has different levels to use, so you can differentiate for your students. As your students progress in the categorization levels, you can make things more difficult!
What resources do you have that you really love for working on categorizing?