It can seem challenging – but in this post, we will discuss FUN speech therapy vocabulary games to keep sessions exciting for Pre-K – Kindergarten students. Vocabulary goals are very common. Some goals are broad and vague while others are well-written and provide specific information about the needs. Either way, when we receive young learners with vocabulary deficits, we have a lot to accomplish to help bridge gaps in both comprehension and expression.
When children with typical or average learning abilities are learning new words, they need a minimum of 12 exposures to the word before it becomes a part of their repertoire of words. Imagine how many times children with vocabulary and language deficits need to be exposed to words before they can comprehend and use them appropriately.
As a Speech-Language professional you know the amount of instruction and exposures required for a new word to be “learned” varies greatly. Therefore we must have FUN ways to keep vocabulary exciting for Pre-K – Kindergarten students. This particular post is targeting fun ways for early learners but be on the lookout for another post with ideas for fun ways to keep vocabulary exciting for elementary grades.
Keep Vocabulary Exciting – How do I do that?
Here are some suggestions for providing fun and engaging vocabulary instruction:
1. Thematic Instruction
Use weekly or monthly themes in which books, activities, games, poems/songs, snacks/treats are all related to the theme. Simply complete a search for preschool themes and you’ll find a vast array of choices and resources to get you started.
2. Picture Dictionaries
Help students create picture dictionaries by drawing or cutting and pasting pictures that express the meaning of the words. If students are drawing and need a visual model, it’s okay. Try to use words that can be used in multiple contexts, and show the vocabulary in multiple contexts.
Play music related to the vocabulary, if possible. 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.
4. Vocabulary Dice/Blocks
Another one of the fun ways to keep vocabulary exciting for Pre-K – Kindergarten students is to create dice or use blocks to create vocabulary dice. You can have the main vocabulary on one side and related vocabulary (ex. category, setting(s), function, or other vocabulary within the category) on other sides to expand vocabulary. To get the free template for the blocks featured above, click here.
5. Speech Therapy Vocabulary Games: Word Whacker
Use a poster board, anchor chart paper, large dry erase board or other large surfaces with targeted vocabulary words attached. Provide descriptions or ask questions about the words. Students can identify the correct vocabulary words by whacking the correct answer with a fly swatter with a hole cut out in the center. This is great for group activities.
6. Vocabulary Shows/Parades
Decorate paper plates to be word around the neck or crowns to be worn on the head with the targeted vocabulary words and related words in picture scenes. Explain to students that when their vocabulary word is being described they are to get up from their position and “model” the word. This gives each child a chance to participate and be exposed to all of the words.
7. Vocab Smash Mats
This idea uses the same concept as the “Word Whacker” activity, except with this activity the students use play dough balls to identify the targeted vocabulary words. This activity is great for individuals. Some free examples can be found here and here.
8. Speech Therapy Vocabulary Games: Vocabu-Bowl
Use a commercial plastic bowling set or make your own using empty water bottles. Attach pictures of targeted vocabulary words on the bowling pins. Have the bowler name the items of the pins that were knocked over after bowling two times. If pins are left standing, have the competition name the items on the pins left standing before “resetting” the pins. This is a great way to get multiple exposures in a session, and it works well with individuals or groups.
9. Vocabulary Roads/Bridges
Create a road or bridge with pictures of the vocabulary words along the roads. Let children drive to their destination by naming the pictures and/or describing the vocabulary items based on their levels of functioning. This works great for individuals and groups and provides each child with exposure to every word.
Ha! I bet you thought for once I was not going to mention books. Wrong! Books are great for almost all speech and language needs, especially vocabulary. When reading books, define and explain the meanings of words. Read with feeling, change your voice for the different characters – be animated. Children love to hear stories read with lively voices. When possible, find animated, interactive, or adapted books. Make pictures to go along with the vocabulary in the books and have students raise their vocabulary word when it occurs in the story. I call it vocabulary pop-ups. This type of activity encourages students to maintain attention during story time, and gives them a chance to move around a bit.
11. Vocabulary Scavenger Hunts
“Hide” targeted vocabulary in obvious places so that all words will be found. Depending on the size of your group, you may want to have more than one vocabulary picture card for the same word. Research has shown that showing vocabulary in a variety of contexts is a great way to teach and expand vocabulary, so if you have to repeat vocabulary words/pictures it would be a great idea to use different pictures of the same word rather than two pictures that are the same.
12. Speech Therapy Vocabulary Games: Mystery Bags
Little brown lunch bags work great with this activity, and they can be used in a variety of ways. If you’re using real or toy objects rather than pictures you can use one item per bag.
In a group setting, give each child a bag. In an individual session, let the student explore one bag at a time. Have each child reach in the bag and try to describe or guess the object in the bag based on the way it feels. If you’re using picture cards, you can include a certain number of cards in a picture bag. You can have one child draw a vocabulary picture from the bag without looking. The child who drew the card can ask questions of other students to try to guess the vocabulary word, or the other students can try to describe by telling action, color, category, etc. You may have to assist with questions and descriptions.
Please note that this list of fun Speech Therapy Vocabulary Games for Pre-K – Kindergarten is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other ways to keep vocabulary instruction fun and exciting. The key is learning the likes and dislikes of your students. Once you know their likes, figure out a way to incorporate them into vocabulary instruction. Many of these activities can be adapted for older students, but be sure to look out for the post specifically related to keeping vocabulary instruction engaging for elementary students. Keep it exciting Specialized Language Phenomenons!
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.