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?
I love incorporating books into speech therapy. It is the easiest way for me to teach themed vocabulary without having to prep anything! Summer books are filled with picture scenes that have summer vocabulary to teach. I don’t think I could never have enough books to teach summer vocabulary! #professionalbookhoarder
Why Using Summer Themed Vocabulary Is Beneficial For Language Therapy
Choosing vocabulary words that align with the summer theme helps students remember them better! They can draw on their own experiences when recalling the vocabulary words and use examples from the books that you read them about summer! Summer is also a theme that all kids have experienced, so they can relate a lot better to the vocabulary and content surrounding that theme. You can also teach word relationships and word associations for these themes which is an evidence based strategy for building vocabulary! I love doing word webs to discuss word associations for the beach, camping, fourth of July, summer, and vacation! With word relationships, you can take a word such as “popsicle” and think of a descriptive word for the word such as “sweet”. Then, the students can think of an antonym for “sweet”. My Summer vocabulary and grammar activities for K-2 pair well with most summer books that allow students those extra exposures to summer vocabulary that they need. Did you know that kids with language impairments need up engage with new words up to 32 times to master it!? I figure if I am working on the same seasonal themes as the teachers, then that increases those vocabulary opportunities.
There are waaaayyy more language skills that you can target with books using summer themed vocabulary. I love teaching inferencing, predicting, grammar, articulation carryover, story retell and comprehension! Here are some books to teach summer vocabulary that I love incorporating in my speech therapy lessons (amazon affiliate links included).
10 Books To Teach Summer Vocabulary
1. Beach Day By Clarion Books
Beach Day is probably my most favorite beach themed book! It is written with a rhyme sentence structure, so it isn’t that long of a book. Why I LOVE the book is because the pictures are filled with lots of people and activities that a person may do at the beach. It is great for teaching beach vocabulary as well as creating sentences about what the people are doing. I love that this could help with teaching word associations and the visual supports are already built in with the book, so you don’t have to worry about prepping visuals for your lesson.
2. A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee By Chronicle Books
Camping is a favorite past time by a lot of people during the summer months! A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee is a great book teach about all those camping vocabulary words. It has a fun, vivid pictures, a bear, camper, Mr. Magee and his cute dog, Dee.
If you need camping resources to pair with this book, I have some fun camping activities including a S’mores craftivity in my Summer Craftivity Set! You can also make a fun lantern craft too. Check out my tutorial for how to make a lantern by clicking the youtube video (I know it is for Chinese New Year’s, but I use that craft for camping lanterns too).
3. All You Need For A Beach By Silver Whistle
All You Need For A Beach talks about all the things that is needed for the beach. It has a fun rhyme to the verses and doesn’t take too long to read. After reading a beach book, I have my students draw a picture of what they would do at the beach. Then, I have them add glue to the paper and we sprinkle sand to their beach scene. We work on the vocabulary and describing words for the different items in their pictures.
4. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Shell by Lucille Colandro
The “old lady” books series are great for story retell. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Shell is great because it uses similar sentences throughout the book, so it helps those kids that need to hear vocabulary many times. I think this book is also great for students working on /s/ and /sh/.
5. When A Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore
I love using When A Dragon Moves In to teach beach themed vocabulary, work on inferencing and perspective taking. This book is all about a boy who is pretending that his sand castle has a dragon inside it. He talks all about the things he does at the beach with the dragon. The boy’s family doesn’t seem to believe him when he tells them that it is the dragon who is eating the brownies and spraying sand at his sister. The pictures are very colorful and it is a great book to discuss pretend vs. real.
6. The Sand Castle Contest by Robert Munsch
If you want a book with a summer theme that is good for working on oral narration and story comprehension, The Sand Castle Contest is a great book to work on those skills! This book is all about cool sand castles, so it is a pretty engaging book for students. I have a buried in sand craftivity that would go great with this book!
7. Magic School Bus On The Ocean Floor by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen
Magic School Bus On The Ocean Floor is a great book to use to teach about the ocean. This book is filled with lots of fun facts and interesting pictures. I love that I can read the whole book during a session, or break it up into smaller sections over the week and only read 3-4 pages. This book is great for your 3-4th graders that may still need picture supports to help with comprehension.
8. Let It Shine by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
If you like to talk about a lot of different activities people do over the summer, then Let It Shine is the perfect book to read with your students. This book is great for answering themed wh-questions. They cover 4th of July, baseball games, the beach, swimming, camping and more in this book!
9. The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing
Lots of children go on vacation during the summer months. The Night Before Summer Vacation is a book that talks all about what happens the night before kids go on summer vacation.
If you need activities and resources that have a summer theme, I have a lot of great activities in my TPT store! My No Prep Summer Resource is a great time saver. What books do you use to teach summer themed vocabulary?
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/!
Have you ever tried using the dubsmash app in speech therapy? It’s FREE and super entertaining. I wanted to share how I used the dubsmash app in speech therapy with my middle school students. I also prepared a little DUBSMASH video for your viewing pleasure, scroll down to the bottom of this post!
If you haven’t heard of dubsmash, You can download the app HERE! Dubsmash is an app that allows people to lip sync and video themselves performing a TV show, movie or music clip. It’s pretty entertaining and my family has enjoyed playing around with it.
Last year, when I worked with middle school students, I used it with my life skills students. Big Disclaimer here: Make sure you have previewed and chosen which soundbites you want to use. When I was experimenting at home with the app, I would sometimes click on a dub that looked “kid friendly” and was met with flavorful language to say the least.
I used the app mostly to engage my students who were working on functional social language and as reinforcement for participating in the group. This is what I discovered with trying out this app! I saw smiles emerge from my middle school students when I showed it to them. Initiating and commenting increased without me “teacher” prompting them to talk. I built trust and a relationship with my students using this app.
Here are a few other ways I thought you could use this app in therapy:
You can work on identifying emotions based on the tone of voice of the soundbite.
Work on facial expressions when the students create their dub.
Students can use their AAC devices to request, make comments, and engage how they feel about the dubsmash.
Expressing why you liked a dubsmash clip with a conjunction such as “I really liked this dubsmash because…….”
Practice turn taking and waiting. Also, working on sharing positive comments even if you don’t like the person’s dubsmash.
Give your students a social situation and then they have to chose which dubsmash would fit how the person could be feel or thinking during the social situation.
And last, but not least, use the dubsmash in speech therapy to send to your SLP colleagues and SPED team. You can send dubsmash videos via facebook messenger and text messages! Dubsmash is all about bringing the joy to communication and I dig it!!
So, if you have been following me for a while, you know that I like to have FUN! I invited, I mean coerced, I mean black mailed all my speech therapy blogger buddies to help me make a Dubsmash compilation. Check it out!! We had so much fun.
How would you use the dubsmash app in speech therapy?
Every SLP needs resources on how to implement effective grammar intervention because half our caseloads have goals in this area!
Much of my career as a speech therapist has been working with students that have goals targeting grammar. I have seen that many children with deficits with grammar, often times, have language deficits in other areas such as vocabulary, oral comprehension and story narration.
Today, I wanted to share about some articles I have found that talk about strategies for implementing effective grammar intervention.
Information about Implementing Effective Grammar Intervention
What I found when reading these different articles is there is not a “must use this technique always” when targeting grammar. There is however, some really good guidelines that researchers have found to be helpful when you, the clinician are creating a treatment plan.
Fey, M.E., Long, S.H., Finestack, L.H. (2003). Ten principles of grammatical intervention for children with specific language impairments. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 12: 3-15
Some of the principles shared in the article are as follows:
The function of improving a child’s expressive grammar is so that they can have better language to effectively communicate whether orally or in written form. Thus, we should be targeting skills that will help improve their communication (a tip for writing/choosing goals) or help them to make progress with common core standards and academic activities.
A clinician may get more “bang for their buck” if they target grammar by broad grammar patterns verses “isolated” grammar targets.
“When grammar is targeted, it should be treated in ways that lead to improvements in other domains, such as storytelling, comprehension and expression of expository text, and reading comprehension.”
Grammar Intervention Research Article
A randomized clinical trial looked at two grammar treatment procedures of recasting and a cuing hierarchy in 31 five year olds to see which treatment would yield better results.
Here is what they found:
First off, the very fancy term “recasting” is simply the clinician implicitly responding to a child’s response with the correct grammar and sometimes emphasizing the correct word like, “I really love cookiessssss too.” This technique helps keep the flow of conversation going without having to stop and correct the child. (you’re welcome for learning a big fancy speech therapy word…now go sprinkle that into your IEP meetings to impress some folk
In the study, when a child in the recast group made a grammar error, the SLP would do a “recast” and move on with the lesson, using recasting every time there was an error.
With the cueing group, when the child made an error, the SLP went through a hierarchy of scaffolding techniques to work on having the child correctly produce the grammar structure.
The overall study found that the cueing group made more growth then the recasting group.
So, children with speech and language impairments appear to be responding to implicit grammar intervention that provides cueing and allowing the child to say the sentence again to correct his/her error.
The Effectiveness of Two Grammar Treatment Procedures for Children With SLI: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2015, Vol. 46, 312-324. doi:10.1044/2015_LSHSS-14-0041 Karen M. Smith-Lock, Suze Leitão, Polly Prior, and Lyndsey Nickels
Practical Strategies For Grammar Intervention
Now, time for the practical tips for implementing these findings! I typically will do 0ne-two structured therapy sessions filled with cueing and explicitly teaching the grammar components that I want to target. It will include visuals sentence strips, visuals of the rules, worksheets, lots of modeling, and having the student trying to correctly use the grammar rule.
Then, my next two sessions are filled with activities that the child may be asked to do in the classroom. Basically, working on generalizing or applying the skill into a more complex task. Often times, I will use books, story telling, answering wh-questions, describing nouns by attributes, play activities (i.e. play dough, cars, tea party, etc.) or describing picture scenes to work on grammar. During this time, I am modeling, expanding, and “recasting” (it feels good word dropping fancy terms here). I feel like these sessions allow me to also let them hear correct grammar modeled to them, which seems important to the process.
My Parts of Speech Sentence Flips are a great tool to use as a warm up to build mastery of LOTS of different grammar. These sentence flips have a lot of opportunities for clinicians to cue the student with the correct grammar.
My Parts of Speech Flashcard books are a great tool to use as a quick warm up as well or send home as homework. Once assembled, students can create grammatically correct sentences with visual supports.
Sentence Frame Graphic Organizer (FREE) is a great tool to use with any book, youtube video or a picture. It provides color coded columns to sort different parts of speech. This is a great tool to start building more complex sentences and beginning to introduce written language.
My Student Language Helpers are visual supports that you can make with two file folders glued or stapled together. You can then glue all the different parts of speech to the helper. The student can use this in the speech room or even in the classroom to help when writing sentences!
My seasonal themed vocabulary and grammar resource allows me to used seasonal vocabulary to practice grammar concepts as well as work on other skills such as wh-questions, compare/contrast and describing by attributes. These activities and visuals pair well with all of my seasonal books that I like to bring into the therapy room.
What resources for implementing effective grammar intervention do you use? What techniques and research have you found for this intervention? I would love to add more tools to my tool belt! Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org