How to Teach Some Surprising Skills Along with Vocabulary

How to Teach Some Surprising Skills Along with Vocabulary!

When you teach multiple meaning words in your speech therapy sessions, there are surprising skills that can be learned along with vocabulary. Research shows that building deeper word knowledge helps students retain and use new vocabulary words. Incorporating language skills can help with this. Have you thought about using homonyms, or multiple meaning words, in your speech therapy sessions?

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Why We Need to Carefully Choose Vocabulary

The number of vocabulary words that upper elementary to high school students are supposed to learn each year is a staggering amount.  We couldn’t possibly increase vocabulary by this much in our hour or so weekly with our students.

Most of the new vocabulary for older students is gained through reading. Curricular teaching and vocabulary building programs used by English teachers also build vocabulary.

Many special needs students have difficulty reading. So they don’t expand their vocabulary that way. They often aren’t able to really grasp the complete meaning of words taught academically. So what are we to do?

Some SLPs have success aligning their other goals to the vocabulary being used in the curriculum. They are able to support their students’ academic progress this way.  But if you have students who take a long time to accomplish their goals and need much practice to retain new vocabulary, this may not work well for you.


Try Multiple Meaning Word Vocabulary!


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You can increase your students’ language skills in so many ways using multiple meaning words. Incorporating many different language skills lets students acquire a deeper level of understanding. It improves word association skills. This promotes vocabulary retention and use.

Want to read more? Download the free PDF “A Review of the Current Research on Vocabulary Instruction” from the National Reading Technical Assistance Council in 2010.

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What are the surprising skills to include with vocabulary?


1. Improving comprehension of sentence structure.

Many multiple meaning words have similar meanings and are just being used as a different part of speech.  To fill in the sentence blank with the correct word, students use sentence structure clues to help them figure out which word and meaning fit that sentence. This works on understanding the role of different parts of speech in a sentence.


2. Increasing the ability to make inferences.

When students figure out which meaning makes sense in a sentence, they infer from the context clues to make that decision. They need to find a connection between the definition and the other words in the sentence, a critical skill used when making inferences.


3.  Improving comprehension of nonliteral language.

Multiple meaning words are the first foray into the realm of figurative language. Students hear a word and have a particular meaning (and often picture) in mind. When that meaning doesn’t make sense, they have to draw a new picture in their mind. Then they realize that words aren’t as concrete as they’d like them to be. This works on flexibility! When your first idea doesn’t work, you need to come up with more ideas.


4. Realizing that not everyone thinks the same way.

‘I read that word in the sentence and thought it meant this. But that didn’t make sense. It really means something else. The author and I were having different pictures (and thus perspectives) of the same word.’ This thought process is another way to grow flexibility. Students who are very literal, like those on the spectrum, can have great difficulty even realizing that there is another way to think about things.


5. Improve main idea/summarizing/explaining skills and sentence structure skills.

When you ask a student to explain which meaning fits in the sentence or story context, they have to figure out the most important information. Next, to explain the meaning, they need to organize it into sentences that will help you understand the point they are making. If they use run-on sentences to get their message across, use sentence scripts to show them how to organize their thoughts.

Providing a definition is not enough to build vocabulary skills!


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Do you have students who can parrot a list of meanings but don’t understand the vocabulary in context?

This is exactly what got me started developing multiple-meaning sets that incorporate multiple skills. Using the same vocabulary in multiple contexts, with multiple language skills, did the trick for my SPED students who couldn’t retain word meanings.

Try out the BOOM Card free previews and take a look at all of the skills in the printable multiple meaning task cards and worksheet sets.

Did you find it surprising how many different language skills can be incorporated into learning multiple meaning words?


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I’m Linda, an SLP who loves helping you build effective communication skills for your students using strategies and visuals. Pictures are time consuming, so let me make your life easier!

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