You can easily make your vocabulary activities more fun in speech/language therapy with a few simple changes. Let me show you how!
All you need is a few basic supplies that you can combine with materials that you already own to come up with new activities for meeting students’ IEP goals. Even in mixed groups! Plus, when students are having fun using learned skills in activities, they really consolidate those skills in a functional way. Don’t you think so, too?
Fun Ways to Respond in Vocabulary Activities:
(Or why SLPs love the Dollar Store and the Target Dollar Spot.)
Keep a variety of these around to change out how students can respond.
- colored dice.
- different colored tokens for covering responses.
- foam cubes with sounds/pictures/words to roll.
- dry erase pockets and markers to write answers.
- miniature themed erasers to toss or place on the answer.
- fly swatters to swat the answer.
- mini basketball hoop or a seasonal container to throw pompoms in.
- static clings for windows (if you are lucky enough to have one in your room)
- miniature magnifying glasses to place on the answers.
- answer buzzer buttons.
- small erasable boards.
Try using vocabulary like multiple-meaning words, synonyms, and antonyms because these build associations between concepts. Younger students usually start with opposites and move on to synonyms. Older students benefit from learning multiple meanings, as this is the beginning of learning nonliteral language.
If your students can’t read, use your picture supported vocabulary game cards. Older students who can read can make their own index cards of the vocabulary that they need to review. If you have enough ‘stuff’ you can even use objects for preschool fun.
Some of these are great movement break activities that also keep students learning. If you have young students, or students with attention problems, try keeping a container handy with everything you need. That way you can grab it quickly when their eyes start to glaze over or they get a bit too wiggly in their seats.
It is important to set ground rules for movement activities, though. Tell students exactly what behaviors you expect to see. Lay out consequences for inappropriate behaviors, such as bumping into others or going off task. These could include earning no points in this activity or having to sit out the next movement activity.
You will be amazed at how well a few minutes of active learning can help students get through the session.
Find It! Vocabulary Activity
Supplies: matching sets of vocabulary words, with some extra pairs, and empty windowsills or table tops.
Give each student one of the vocabulary cards and place the remaining cards on surfaces around the room. Set a timer for 2 minutes. They walk around the room to find a card that is associated with their word. When they find it, they pick it up and return to their seats. Then they have to explain how the 2 words go together.
Give a variety of points to make everyone feel successful:
- completing the activity with the expected behaviors.
- being the first student to find an acceptable match.
- providing a cohesive explanation for the match.
- finding the most unique word association.
- beating their previous time to find a match.
- instead of points, give a pompom to throw
To make this activity more challenging, lay out all of the cards on surfaces. This way students have to think even more as they find a match.
Keep a running point score for the month if you work with older students. They love to see their name displayed for positive achievements!
Show it! Vocabulary Activity
Make an array of cards face up in front of the students.
For mixed groups, put a separate array in front of each student. This way you can use different types of vocabulary and articulation cards in the same activity. For special education teachers, you can mix and match math fact cards, spelling words, and Fry reading words.
Give a clue for students to find the answer card. These can include:
- a definition.
- a fill-in-the-blank sentence.
- a riddle.
- an inferential statement relating to the word.
- an opposite or synonym.
- a question.
- a phonemic clue.
- For special ed: the math answer for the problem, the beginning, middle, or end sound, a spelling rule, or any of the above that work.
Students love choices, so let them pick which of the basic supplies they want to use to show their answer. When everyone has indicated their responses, each student says or explains their answer out loud. They get to keep the card if their answer is correct and the student with the most cards wins.
Coded Worksheets & Dice
Any work becomes more fun when there are dice to be rolled.
Try putting a worksheet in a page protector to pass around. Students take turns rolling a die/dice and then answering that number question out loud. When they roll a number that has already been answered or is not on the page, they get to choose one of the remaining items.
Do any of your worksheets have grids? They are great to use with colored dice! Try color-coding each square with a number, using colored pencils that match the dice colors you have. Then put the worksheet in a dry erase pocket and you are ready to go.
This is shown in the picture with a page from one of my multiple meanings sets. In this example, students took a die out of a bag (without peeking) and rolled it to find their square. They read the matching definition, told the word, used it in a sentence, and explained what they meant by the sentence. Then they got to initial that definition. The first student who got initials on all 4 colors was the winner!
Interactive Vocabulary Organizers
Organizers are a great visual way to help students build word association skills for new vocabulary. But, like anything else, they aren’t automatic. Students need to learn how to complete organizers, including gaining an understanding of the ways in which words can be associated. SO, why not teach this in a fun activity?
Pop one of these easy organizers in a page protector and adapt a set of foam cubes, or use colored dice. Each student uses one of their target words during the activity. They roll the cube and give the corresponding information that is in the box. If their answer is right, they write their initials in that box. If not, model the correct response and their turn is over.
When time is up, the student with the most words on the organizer is the winner. There are 2 free versions of this organizer. The 12 response boxes are for older students. They have two spaces to fill in for each number on the dice. Then, for homework or during the next session, they can fill out the organizer for the word that was practiced.
For younger students, use the organizer with 6 boxes to fill in. Let each student have their own organizer. On the first day, do the activity and give oral responses. On the next day, students fill in their responses about the same word. When all of the answers are written, they supply a description of the word and get a sticker or star in the last box.
If you’d like your own copy of this fun activity, it is easy! Just sign up for my email list here and get the free download sent to your inbox!