Trying to find engaging Speech therapy vocabulary elementary activities can be tricky for any SLP. Today we thrilled to have guest blogger Truvine Walker here to share tips and tricks to help you get those older students excited to practice building their vocabularies!
My students are older…what type of speech therapy vocabulary elementary activities are available to me?
Some of the most commonly occurring goals school based SLPs or SLPs who work in educational settings encounter are related to vocabulary. If the goals are not specifically stated as vocabulary, we still encounter the need under the umbrellas of comprehension and expression. Regardless of how it’s worded we have the challenge of improving the vocabulary skills of children, and doing so in a manner that will keep them actively engaged. This can be somewhat of a challenge when working with older students. That’s why we need fun ways to make vocabulary exciting in elementary! Research has shown that it takes a child with typical language learning abilities at least 12 exposures to a new word to learn the word. One can only imagine how many times it will take a child with language learning difficulties to learn a new word.
The following suggestions are possible ways to approach instruction that might help make vocabulary exciting in elementary school:
Speech Therapy Vocabulary Elementary Activities
1. Story Based Vocabulary
Reading books has been identified as one of the best ways to improve vocabulary because books often have pictures and contexts to offer support. When using books, anticipate which words are possibly unfamiliar and preview the words by defining and describing prior to reading the story. When reading, restate the meanings of anticipated unknown words within the context of the story. Last, but not least, read with feeling and facial expressions that coincide with the events of the story.
2. Picture/Word Dictionaries
These work great for individual books and/or thematic word lists. The older your students, the more details you can have them include in their dictionaries. Even if they have to copy your pictures, definitions, or other content, each student should make his/her own picture word dictionary. Be sure to have the students repeat the words, definitions, related words, etc. if they are not able to read. Repetition is very important. Here is the link to one of my favorite forms to use for student made dictionaries. My students love it too!
3. Guess Who (Vocabulary Edition)
This activity is based on the format of the popular “Guess Who” board game but can be altered to use vocabulary words instead of people. Students may need to be taught or given a list of questions to ask. My “go to” list of yes/no example questions target categories (ex. Is it a place? Is it an action? etc. ), functions (ex. Does it make a sound? Does it move?), locations (ex. Do you find it in a store? Do you find it on a farm?, etc.), attributes (ex. Is it noisy? Is it big? Is it alive? etc.) Again you may have to help the students; but, this method of vocabulary instruction not only improves their vocabulary, it facilitates asking questions, critical thinking, and problem-solving. This can be used with individuals or adapted for a group activity.
4. Vocabulary Choice Boards
These usually have an array of at least 6 items, but some have more. These encourage students to participate in essential vocabulary activities by allowing them to make choices within specific parameters. You can easily make your own, you can use many of the options found on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here are some FREE examples:
There are electronic versions or Jeopardy or you can make your own the old fashioned way. Some suggested categories include: Defining Words, Labeling Definitions, Antonyms, Synonyms, Part of Speech, Describing. You can download free Jeopardy Templates here:
Allow your students to “scavenge” your room to find vocabulary words. Hide them so that they’re not too difficult to find so as not to waste all of your therapy time looking for the words. In order for the students to “claim” the words, they must be able to define them or use them in a sentence that demonstrates understanding. As students “claim” words, the words can be added to their personal “treasure chests” (I use the envelopes that they’ve decorated by coloring a treasure chest and gluing it on the outside.)
Kahoot is one of my favorite FREE online Speech therapy vocabulary elementary activities that is easily customizable. It can be used for vocabulary as well as other language and learning tasks. Get your free account here , and start the fun. Your students will absolutely love it!
8. Act it Out!
Some people call it “Guesstures”; some call it “Charades”. Whatever you call it, the students love it because it incorporates movement and creativity. You have to utilize guidelines for time and number of guesses or you could possibly spend the whole session on one word.
9. Word Clouds
Students can make word clouds on paper by drawing a cloud or using a cloud template then writing the vocabulary word in BIG print, and surrounding it by related words and definitions. There are also websites and apps for word clouds. A few of the websites are: Wordclouds, Wordaizer, and Wordle. There are also a few FREE apps that have similar options. A few of them are Wordsalad, Wordle, Wordables, etc. Simply search your store on your tablet using the search terms “word clouds” to see what options your particular device offers. It’s entertaining and addictive!
10. Vocabulary Toss
Using a bean bag or soft die, the SLP begins the activity by stating a word and tossing the bean bag or die to a student. Once the student has defined or described the word and/or used it in a sentence, he or she states a new word and tosses the bean bag or die to a peer in the group. If students have difficulty, I allow them to enlist the help of a peer in the group; however, I try not to help if at all possible because I like for my students to collaborate.
11. Musical Vocabulary Chairs
Play school appropriate music or educationally themed “hip” songs. YouTube has educational songs that fall in the genres students typically prefer. Just do a search and see what you find. When the music stops, allow each child to name and tell a designated number of characteristics/features of the vocabulary word on which he/she landed. Once the requirements are met, remove that word from the rotation for the session/day.
12. Vocabulary Feud
Use the Family Feud Game format to address synonyms, antonyms, related words, etc. You can create your own “low(no) tech” version like this one, or you can incorporate a lot of technology by using one of the many free or paid templates found online. Here is an example of a free template that has a tutorial.
There are many fun Speech therapy vocabulary elementary activities. I’ve found that the best way is to incorporate my students into the instructional process. With that being said, I hope the previous suggestions are helpful; but, my BEST advice is to GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS and use their interests to drive your vocabulary instruction! It may require you to “think outside the box” , be a little more creative, and invest a little more time in planning; however, their reaction and participation will make it all worthwhile. All the best Super Language Powerhouses!
Bio: Truvine Walker obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Speech-Language Pathology on the beautiful campus of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, GA. After 3 years of working in the public schools in northern Virginia, Truvine decided to broaden her horizons and explore the world of travel therapy. As a traveling SLP, Truvine has worked in schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities in a total of 8 different states. Truvine is finishing up her 17th year as an SLP, and is just as excited about the profession as she was in the very first year. In addition to loving learning about all things speech and language, Truvine loves bowling, reading, sightseeing, spending time with family, and of course, traveling.