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?
The Go Fish in speech therapy is staple game for the busy SLP. Kids love the game and you can adapt it to meet so many goals. Today, I want to share some new ways to play Go Fish in speech therapy.
True Confessions From This SLP
Want to know something? I can only play Go Fish so many sessions before I might go out of my mind! The kids absolutely love the game, but the redundancy of having to play it group after group after group drains my energy and enthusiasm. So, I try to play Go Fish during those busy times of the year when therapy planning time is cut in half. I also try to stagger when I play Go Fish, so that isn’t my lesson plan for an ENTIRE day.
New Ways To Play Go Fish In Speech Therapy
My first way you can spice things up with your Go Fish playing is to create “character” names for each student. For my social skills groups we just did it to get them laughing and initiating with peers during the game.
I was Taylor Swift because in a different life I was a pop princess. My kids were dying of laughter every time someone called them by their new “character” name. It increased engagement for my kiddos that don’t always want to initiate with peers. The next day, my SDC teacher told me that the kids could not stop talking about Go Fish. During our end of the year party, one of my students that needs prompts to initiate communication, came right up to me and said, “I want to play Go Fish today.” I would love to know how this twist goes in your therapy room! Tag me on Instagram @thedabblingspeechie and share your story!
Adapt the name cards to have your student’s target sound in the name!
For your articulation students, you can pick names that have their sound like Mr. Magee for /g/, Mrs. Flamingo for /l-blends/ and Mrs. Ridiculous for /r/. The crazier the better!
For your social skill students that need to work on using the appropriate voice volume in social situations, you can have them work on asking for cards with different voice volumes. You can also adapt this to work on changing your tone of voice to match certain emotions. I used my voice volume visuals from my Behavior Visuals For Students With Autism to help my students identify and model different voice volumes during Go Fish.
Bring in funny props for Go Fish In Speech Therapy
Who doesn’t love having goofy props around? #idontlookcrazyatall
Allow each student to wear the fun prop when it is their turn to ask a peer for a card. This is just to keep the session motivating and fun! I think this could also help some students understand their role during the game. The person wearing the big sunglasses is asking, while the other students wearing crowns are waiting their turn.
How To Make Go Fish Visual For Students
I have a few students that really struggle with understanding the rules of how to play Go Fish. There are too many steps to keep it all straight. My students on the Autism spectrum struggle with the quick transition between turns. This is why I made an easy visual guide for Go Fish. You can click the button below and download the free visual!
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!
Who else has to work next week!? For those of you SLP’s that have to set the alarm clock for the next week, I wanted to share some easy holiday activities for the busy SLP. They should actually be called holiday activities to help the SLP survive the last week of therapy before winter break. I thought the other title sounded a little more professional lol.
The key to getting through the week is to have FUN! This week therapy should be focusing on implementing goals in a natural way. Doing hands on activities in speech therapy builds schema and experiences to draw from when learning language. One important element to good speech therapy sessions is remembering to build meaningful relationships with our students.
Use this week to have FUN with your students.
So, put the data binder away this week and focus on the little people in front of you. I know it is hard to do this when you know you have paperwork to complete before winter break. Just remember that those holiday parties at the end of the week is the perfect time for you to close your door to finish your reports, IEP’s, medi-cal billing and updating therapy logs. Some of our students go home to environments that aren’t the most pleasant, so just remember that a little extra love from you may be just what they need to hold onto during winter break.
Easy Holiday Activities For The Busy SLP
Make a Christmas Countdown Chain! I used my Any Craft Companion Pack to have stimulus items for everyone on my caseload! I printed out the pages I needed, cut the pictures into strips and then let the kids finish cutting them out in the session. My articulation students now have words to practice every day before Christmas. My younger students working on basic concepts got LOTS of practice with the vocabulary words: on, over, and through while assembling. If you have students who are non-verbal/limited verbal, you can work on initiating requests, making comments and sharing feelings about project with my AAC Starter Kit CORE boards. I also included some amazon affiliate links for your shopping convenience.
This candy cane craft is in my TPT store for FREE! Print on red paper and one of the templates for an easy and FUNctional craft. This one is perfect for your 3rd-5th graders because it targets word associations, adjectives and antonyms.
Have you heard of the book Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini? It is a cute, fun holiday book to read this week! If you can’t get the book on amazon or your library, then you can use this youtube read a loud video too! Buy some brown pipe cleaners and plastic beads from the dollar store or craft store to make moosetaches. Each time your student says their speech sound 5x, they can string a bead on the moosetache as a Christmas light. If your students are working on describing items, they can get a bead for every attribute they can share about the noun. Naming items in category groups, creating sentences and sharing expected behaviors are more skills you can target!
The Gingerbread Man is a great theme for the month of December! After you have read the book and worked on story retell, describing and grammar concepts, you can play this fun game that I created! I was inspired by Busy Bee Speech’s instagram photo using paperclips with gingerbread man pics. All you need is a Card Deck, paperclips, and a magnetic wand. I printed up some gingerbread men and foxes on colored craft paper (print more of the gingerbread men then the foxes). You can download the gingerbread and fox printables by clicking the yellow button below. Click Here to get the Gingerbread Man Game Printables
Who doesn’t love holiday ugly sweaters!? I push into my K-2 SDC classroom for whole class instruction. My SDC K-2 teacher came up with this fun craft! We had the best time working on lots of skills. She had lots of stickers, pom poms, and extra art supplies and set them out on the floor using art trays. Here is a tutorial about how to make a vest out of a paper bag. During the craft activity, I was kneeling down next to a student asking them questions while they were decorating. Another student tried to squeeze behind me without initiating an “excuse me” or “can I get by?” This clever SLP decided to block the way every time the student had to get more decorations, so we could work on initiating “excuse me”. It was a great natural social communication exchange.
Have you seen the Elf movie? If you have watched my SLP Blogger Live segment on using Elf in speech, you will know that I LOVE this movie!! It is perfect for working on all sorts of language. Most importantly, it is THE BEST for working on social skills. Check out my blog post on how to use Elf in speech therapy.
Need more youtube videos this week? Have you tried using Christmas commercials in speech because they are packed with language skills to target? I like to let my student’s watch a little bit of the video and then pause it. We can discuss making inferencing about the time of the year, where the person is and what the person could be thinking/feeling. We can also make predictions about what might happen next by looking at the clues in the video. You can also work on summarizing the commercial and working on the main idea. Just so you know, you might start crying during some of them lol. These marketers really know how to pull at their customer’s heart strings.
Christmas Commercials Worth Using In Speech Therapy
Well, there you have it! No more fretting about “what will I do all week?” in speech therapy. The key to a great week is cozy coffee drinks, yummy lunches (so get some good stuff), an ugly Christmas sweater to sport and some festive music to listen to while doing paperwork!
Hope you have a great holiday. Make sure you include some “ME” time, so you can reflect on all the blessings of this year. I will keep those of you that are going through a difficult time in my prayers. Lamentations 3: 31-33 “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. Keep this close to your heart when you are feeling love. I also love reflecting on Philippians 4:8-9.
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/!