Early on in my career as an SLP, I knew that many of my students benefited from visual supports to comprehend speech and language tasks. There were many sessions when I was scrambling to scribble out visuals to help my students understand a concept. You can relate, right!? In the early days, I didn’t always have the visuals, or the time to make the visuals I wanted. With more years of experience, and the help of the internet, I have developed or found visual supports that are staples for my speech sessions.
Benefits of Using Visual Supports
Visual supports help our students process information presented orally. They can also help reduce the cognitive demands placed on the brain when trying to comprehend or expressively use a new language skill. Visual supports can also help our students be able to better communicate when they are upset or don’t have a strong expressive skills to let us know what they are feeling or thinking.
Visual Supports for Students to Help With Articulation Generalization & Self-Awareness
#1 Articulation Carryover Visual Supports for Students
Many of my students working on 1-2 sound errors struggle with monitoring their speech productions. I have started incorporating self-awareness tasks to help students be more accountable for their productions.
At the start of each session, we do a Yes/No visual check-in. I either produce the sound correctly or incorrectly in isolation, syllables, or words. The student then judges my production. Then, the student produces 5-10 sounds/words and judges his/her production. We do this before jumping into drill practice.
As my students progress to the sentence and conversation levels (multiple sentences, reading, structured conversations, etc.), I incorporate self-reflection time into my sessions. We also fill out conversation scripts for specific times, places, or people that they may need to use their correct speech. Check out my info about artic carryover HERE. If you need more practical strategies for generalization, I have a blog post HERE you can read.
#2 Articulation Production Feedback Visual
It isn’t super helpful to tell articulation students whether or not their production was correct. I notice a lot of my students get discouraged if I say a lot of “try again” or “nope, wasn’t quite right.” When I give more specific feedback about their production, the student can see when they are on the right track, but may need to adjust their production slightly.
I really love Speechy Musings’ production feedback visual that you can download for FREE here. I have used it in therapy and also sent it home for parents to use with the student as well. I love using file folders to make home programs. You can check out how I make a home program using a file folder and this visual HERE.
#3 Visual Sentence Strips For Speech & Language
Having visual sentence strips or sentence frames for my students has helped so much when learning a new skill. You can read more about how to use sentence strips in therapy HERE.
My visual sentence starter strips have been handy for my mixed groups because I can easily find the sentence strip for different students. They include articulation strips, fluency, grammar, language, and social skill strips. No more writing on sticky notes!
#4 Visual Supports for Social Inferencing
When working on inferencing skills, I like to incorporate visuals. Many of my students with social pragmatic weaknesses or language disorders struggle with making inferences. Some of my students can make inferences, but then have NO idea how they got their answer. So, I like using sentence frames to break down the skill. We first work on what we “see” (concrete details), then talk about what we “know” (accessing scheme and background knowledge). Then, we each make a “smart guess” about what the person could be feeling/thinking or answer a higher order thinking question.
Many teachers are wanting their students to use more academic language when explaining their answers, so I like having those visually displayed, so my students can start to practice using those vocabulary words in context. Need this free visual support? Head over to my TPT store.
#5 Visual Supports for Behavior
I have a lot of students working on following routines and expectations. Many of my students benefit from having a working for chart, first/then visual, and visual reminders for what their bodies need to be doing in a session. That’s why I decided to put all my frequently used visuals in one place.
I just printed it out, glued it to a file folder, and laminated the file folder. Then, I could re-use the visual supports using a dry erase marker. I love that I can use this for multiple students at one time.
If you need this visual, hit the pink button below for this free download. Need more ideas for using file folders? Check out this blog post, HERE.
What Visual Supports Do You Love Using in Speech Therapy?
I would love to know what visual supports you have found helpful for your clients or students. Share the visual in the comments or tag me on social media at @thedabblingspeechie.
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
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 my “I Spy” sensory bin that I use to work on categories as an extension activity after I do direct instruction. Click the pink button below to grab the free category printables. Want to know how to make an “I Spy” sensory bin? Head to this post.
Categories Language Cards– Category sorting tasks requires a lot of pictures! These are helpful and on amazon (affiliate link included)
With students who are exhibiting moderate-severe deficits with their receptive and expressive language skills in the areas of categories, breaking down word-relationships is important for your students to understand the skill.
I created leveled category activities to help me collect accurate baselines of what my students CAN do when understanding word-relationships. This has helped me plan achieveable therapy activities, take better data and know how to plan as my students progress. Here is the Leveled Up Basic Categories and Leveled Up Early Elementary 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?
During the spring and summer seasons, making a FUNctional craft in speech therapy that can be used outside is a great way to keep your students engaged. Windsock craft for kids is just the craft for the busy SLP.
Windsock Craft For Kids
Once you have all the materials for the windsock craft, prep for this craft is pretty easy! Some of my groups I just made the craft during the session. For my groups with younger ages, I prepped parts of the craft, so we could get enough practice in during the session. I have used this craft with LOTS of different ages and all of them loved it, especially my kinder-second grade students.
Materials You Need To Make A Windsock Craft For Kids
Take the construction paper and attach together with tape, glue or a stapler (I used a stapler), so that it looks like a cylinder. You can have your students glue their speech or language stimulus cards to the paper first before attaching.
If you have paint daubers, students can put dots all over their construction paper every time they say their speech sound or language target. Then, after they are finished, they can put the craft together.
Punch holes at the top of the construction paper. Tie yarn or string in the holes. Cut the party streamers into strips. Then, have the students attach the party streamers with tape or glue (I went with tape, it was the less messy option).
Your windsock is complete and ready to use in speech therapy!
Ways To Adapt The Windsock Craft For Speech & Language
Just making the windsock craft is filled with LOTS of language opportunities. For example, your students working on initiation can make requests for the different craft parts. Students have to follow directions with basic concepts such as on, in, around. Furthermore, after student’s finish their windsock craft, you can have them explain the sequencing steps they took to create the craft. You can listen to articulation, grammar and work on adding adjectives while they are explaining the steps for making the craft.
Have students decorate their white paper with paint daubers. Every time they say their speech sound or language target, they can add a dot to their paper.
Students can glue their speech sounds or language targets onto the construction paper. After they finish the craft, they can practice their goals using the pictures on the windsock. I use my Any Craft Companion Pack to adapt this ONE craft for my whole caseload.
Take the windsock outside to teach vocabulary words. I taught my kids the following words as we explored using our windsock: high, low, around, twirl, flutter, fast, slow, and windy.
Have your students show different preposition words using your windsock such as near, far, under, above, below, around, on, in, and between.
Teach turn taking, waiting and thinking about others by only bringing out one windsock to play with. Students have to request a turn using their peer’s name, and wait their turn. You can have students do an action that another student requests the student do to work on thinking about other people.
Here is a video tutorial about how to make a windsock and a fun way to make a “fish” themed windsock. This version is really pretty!
Adapting The Windsock Craft For Your Older Students
Your older students can write a narrative about spring or summer on the white construction paper. You can give them a challenge by providing a list of themed vocabulary words or adjectives to use in their story.
Have your students write sentences on the construction paper. Your students working on grammar can write more complex sentences while your articulation students can write sentences with their target words (perfect mixed group activity right there).
Students can watch this youtube video about how a windsock works. They can share the main idea and details from the video. Pick target vocabulary to discuss from this video and then go test out a windsock outside!
Need More Craft Ideas For Speech Therapy
For those SLPs working during summer, here is a blog post I wrote last year on different summer themed crafts you can do in speech therapy. If you love doing crafts in speech therapy, then check out all of the craftivities I have in my TPT store. You can use one craft with your whole caseload!
Looking for a fun Easter egg language activity that will get your students up and moving!? If you are TIRED from IEP meetings and writing reports, this festive activity is just what you need to bring back that FUN spark in speech. I needed an Easter egg language activity that would cover a lot of category and describing goals.
Where to find these FUN TRINKETS
I bought these fun trinkets from Dinky Doodads on Etsy for my “I Spy” Sensory bin. I decided to use them to work on building categories and describing skills for common vocabulary. I used the “trinkets” I bought and hid them in Easter eggs (thankfully my SPED teacher had a bunch of eggs on hand).
Want some FREE Category Visuals
I printed these FREE category visuals from my TPT store for the lesson. Then, I hid the eggs all around my speech room. My students had a blast moving around my room looking for Easter eggs. After the group found all the eggs, the kids opened up all the eggs. I had them sort the trinkets into the correct category groups. If my students sorted one in the wrong category we talked about why that item would not belong. We practiced describing the trinkets by attributes using Sentence Starter Strips. You can read about how I use sentence starter strips HERE.
How I organized the Easter Egg Language Activity during my whole class PUSH IN Lesson
When I did my push in lesson, I split the students into groups of 2-3.
They had to share a basket. Guess what that encouraged!? Staying in the group, initiating comments and questions.
Then, the SDC teacher and I split the classroom aides with different groups. So all the staff had a small group.
As the students were hunting for Easter eggs, the adults in the room made sure the students were waiting for each other, initiating questions/comments, helping students stay in the group and take turns.
After the teams found all the eggs in the room, the teams had to work together to open the eggs. Again, the adults withheld and prompted the students to communicate with each other.
I laid all of the category visuals out in front of the groups on the floor. Then, the students had to walk over the visuals to put the trinket in the correct category. I did this to all for more movement while learning.
My students LOVED this activity! They were all engaged and the spontaneous language opportunities were high. It was great seeing the staff work along side the students to encourage language. If you cannot celebrate Easter at your site or school, I encourage you to do this activity with a chicken theme! Just tell your students that a wild chicken went loose in your room and LAID EGGS everywhere! You need their help finding all the eggs.
What activities have you done with a chicken or Easter theme that your students loved? I would love to hear about it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!
This week we played a REALLY fun word game that targeted LOTS of describing skills. I even found a way to adapt it for some of my articulation students. Word games for kids are the best way to get engagement with vocabulary building. When you say “game”, the kids feel like they are having fun and not realizing how much thinking they are doing! This word game also incorporates inferencing and critical thinking skills.
Word Games For Kids- Mystery Word
I used picture cards from my HedBanz Game (amazon affiliate link) to help my younger students think of a noun for the mystery word. There are also these really cool Learning Resources Basic Vocabulary Photo Cards (amazon affiliate link included for your convenience) that would be awesome to use as well! For my older students, we just brainstormed without pictures.
I made a detective game board to keep track of each player’s points. You can assign one of the students to be the “points keeper”. These Reusable Dry Erase Pockets are amazing because I only have to print one game sheet to use over and over.
How to play the game
To play this word game, the clinician and/or one of the students in the groups is in charge of choosing a mystery word. Pick a word and write it down where the students cannot see it.
Then, give clue #1 to the group. So if we picked “donut”. Clue #1 would be “dessert group”. Each student can take a guess of the mystery word item. Praise the students who make a “smart guess” for guessing a word that is in the correct category. Quiz the students if a guess such as “pizza” would be a smart guess and why it would or would not be a smart guess. Give clue #2 such as “You eat it. You can deep fry it. You can put frosting on it.” Allow for students to make a guess. If a student’s smart guess is correct, then they would earn 4 points. Continue giving clues until someone in the group guesses correctly.
The person with the most points at the end of the session wins! Have the student describe the noun in complete sentences after the mystery word has been revealed! This is a great game to pair with the Expanding Expression Tool.
I adapted this game for my students working on /s/ by having them say the carrier phrase “I guess the item is……….” to work on final /s/. With my /r/ students, I only picked words that contained /r/!
Who doesn’t like craftivities? I usually do speech therapy craftivities about 1-2x a month with my students. It helps keep the kids motivated and having fun. February is filled with lots of fun themes like winter, Valentine’s day and Chinese New Year!
Today, I have a round up of fun February speech therapy craftivities that are easy and functional! I love that I can send the craftivity home with the student for extra practice.
February Speech Therapy Craftivities
Next week, I am going to be doing a hot chocolate theme in therapy! Winter makes me want to drink lots of warm beverages.
This hot chocolate craftivity is perfect for your whole caseload because there are templates for lots of sounds, writing, vocabulary and sequencing!
We made Chinese lanterns and dragons with a little speech twist this week (check out my youtube video to see how you make these). Here is where I found the dragon template!
You can make these sweet treat speech craftivities! Click on the picture above to snag the FREE template.