Vocabulary Building

Building Blocks

Vocabulary is an important building block for conveying meaning when communicating. Words are essential but they do not need to be spoken words. Meaning can be conveyed with sign language, pictures, or a written form.

Although expressive and receptive language typically develop together, there may be reasons why a person lags in one or the other. When working with individuals, it is important to consider both their receptive and expressive language skills. For instance, a person who appears as nonverbal may have good vocabulary and language understanding.

An ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) certified speech and language pathologist should be consulted if you have concerns about a student’s language development. These are professionals who can conduct an assessment and make recommendations based on testing results. If necessary, a program can be developed to address individual needs.

The materials on this page were made for use, under the direction of a speech and language pathologist to address vocabulary goals and enhance the vocabulary development of students receiving speech and language therapy services. The cards and activities may be useful to supplement classroom instruction. I can not guarantee they will correct deficits when used by nonprofessionals. The cards can be downloaded, printed on card stock, and cut apart for use.


Word Association Cards

Word association tasks can  enhance vocabulary development and  improve metalinguistic awareness.  Metalinguistics  awareness  is the ability to think about language beyond its structure. In these activities,  students compare and contrast  the meanings of  4 words and determine which one doesn’t belong. They get a better understanding of  meanings in the process. This promotes  a higher level of thought process and awareness of word meanings beyond memorizing  definitions. Why is this important?  It has been found that reading comprehension and metalinguistic skills are strongly linked (Achugar, Schleppegrell, & Oteíza, 2007).

Word Association Task Cards / Text Versions

Association Cards on Teachers Pay Teachers

The cover pictures are links to products in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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Silly Sentences/ Text only

Silly Sentences are also a good meta linguistic task :  There are semantic errors in the sentences that can make them quite silly.  Students read the sentence, correct the error, and tell why the original sentence doesn’t make sense. They require students to make use of vocabulary and general knowledge to determine the errors. Students see these as puzzles and enjoy figuring out what is wrong. The cards listed below are text only.

  1. Miscellaneous
  2. Occupation and Sports
  3. Animal
  4. Transportation

Semantic Error Sentences

Cover for Semantic Errors Product
Click on cover for direct link to TPT

Concept or Directional Vocabulary

Concept Vocabulary is used when giving directions or descriptions. It is extremely important in the classroom environment and often difficult for language learners to understand. These are activities that can be used with small groups or in classrooms. I often used them with Kindergarten and Life skills programs.

  1. Spider Web: An activity that teaches the concepts above, below, over, together, left, right and shapes.
  2. Musical Penguins: Using a traditional children’s game, this activity teaches the positional vocabulary of before, after, 1st, last, and middle.
  3. Penguin Preposition cards: 2×2 inch squares that can be used in matching games or a Cariboo game.

4. One Cut Preposition Book

5. Skip and Pass: This is a dice game that reviews the concepts; every other one, skip one, left, and right.

5.  Stacking Blocks:This activity teaches left and right hands, tallest, shortest, beginning and end. this activity can be used in the classroom depending on the number of block sets you have. The Adaptive Spinners on TPT have an updated free spinner included. click here

6. Don’t Fall Through the Ice:  This activity teaches the concept words several, a couple, many, a few, heavy, light, dry and wet.   The Adaptive Spinners have an updated spinner for this one also. Click here

7. Matching or Memory: This is a resource for memory cards.  This activity teaches the concepts alike, match, the same, different, in a row, and not.

8. Question Chain: This activity teaches the concepts long, longer, longest, short, shorter, shortest, more,  most, least, less, and answering yes and no questions.

9. Bean Bag Toss:  This is a classroom activity that teaches concepts such as between, close, near, far, medium size, large and small.

10. Angry Turkeys: This is a bean bag toss game that can be used to teach prepositions. Directions and visuals are in a blog post. Click on the title and it will take you there.

11.   Never Ever Dinner Plate: A matching game to address negatives and food categories. Click here for preview

Click here for Sample Preview Click here for Teachers Pay Teachers Link

12. Hula Hoops and Jump Ropes: A class room activity that uses the concepts right, left, around, through, over, under, straight, forward, backward, sideways, and skip one.

Hula Hoops and Jump Ropes

13.Tiddly Winks:  This childhood game can be used to teach the concepts over, edge, closest, farthest, center, smallest and largest.

14. Cars and Maps: This activity teaches the concepts across, through, over, corner, beginning, end, and descriptive language in a board game format.  

15. What Animal is it Communication Board for asking questions. Can be used with Beanie Baby animals or plastic animals.

16. Half/whole, top/bottom, and front back:  I used  alpha friend cards (reading program that was discontinued)) and cut them in half. There are also some sets available on Teachers Pay Teachers. Jason’s Online Classroom has a nice set that would work. Unfortunately they are no longer free.

17. Play Clay:  Another classroom activity that uses the flexibility of clay to introduce concepts such as  long, short, whole, half, quarter,  straight and curved.

18. Password:   This is a simplified version of the game that uses pictures for a non reader.  It provides opportunity to compare and contrast items of the same category, name items of a category or label the category when given the items.

19. Will It Fit in a Jar:   This is the same card game that is in the Expressive  section. It is similar to a card game called “In a Pickle” but has pictures for non readers.  It promotes comparison vocabulary, word associations, and comprehending double word meanings.  

20. The Order of Things: This is for the older elementary or middle school students.  The student is required to use comparison vocabulary when placing items of a list in order. Click on the lettering for the free black and white print only  task cards. 

For Text Version click here

For Teachers Pay Teacher version, click on the cover below.

  • 21. Homonym List:  A list that goes with the pear tree activity described April 15 in the blog.  Here is a great site for homonyms
  • 22. BINGO and Lotto: a great way to learn vocabulary.  Speaking of Speech is a good place to find already made thematic boards.
  • 23. The Mission:  A card game to introduce exploration, new frontier, and science vocabulary from the 3rd and 4th grade curriculum.
  • 24. Antonym List (Excel) This list can be sorted and used for the bulletin board.  It’s easier to keep track of the words that have already been used.
  • 25. Antonym Reversal Sentences present vocabulary within a context. Student’s then use an antonym to reverse the logic.   Click here for a free sample.
  • Click on the cover below for the Teachers Pay Teachers full version
  • 26. The Core State Standards put a strong emphasis on vocabulary words that occur frequently in academic  text.  These are often referred to as Tier II vocabulary.   Understanding Tier  II words can  improve  comprehension of text and have a bigger impact  on a students academic performance when we concentrate on teaching them.   Students come across these words when reading Science, Social Studies and English text.
    • It is often difficult for our learning challenged students to stay focused for long paragraphs and then answer comprehension and word meaning questions. These task cards cards are meant for them. They introduce words in short paragraphs and have activities that include definition matching and comprehension. They can be adapted for learning styles.
    • Challenge I uses 3rd and 4th grade vocabulary, Challenge 2 uses 5th and 6th grade vocabulary, and Challenge 3 uses 7th and 8th grade vocabulary.
    • For a Free sample click here.
    • Click on the covers below to link to Teachers Pay Teachers for the full versions.
Link to Teachers Pay Teachers
Challenge 3

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