Showing posts with label Vocabulary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vocabulary. Show all posts

10 Fantastic Free Resources for Customizing Vocabulary Work

Links to useful free vocabulary resources from Looks-Like-Language
If your caseload is anything like mine, you need to have lots of resources to teach and maintain new skills, including vocabulary! While I use picture task cards, games and activities to teach new vocabulary, I like to have other resources on hand for homework and reviewing skills throughout the year. I explain and expose my students to any new vocabulary we encounter in the course of discussions, stories and activities during the year to ensure comprehension, but I like to target specific, functional words for vocabulary goals.

When choosing the vocabulary to target for students each year, there are some factors I usually consider.

Preschool students always need to increase vocabulary in basic categories and seasonal events.

For life skill students, I try to find out if there are themes being addressed by the special education teacher that year or if the students will have work programs related to specific job skills.

For my older, low functioning students who are still being tested academically, I like to pick either of these: vocabulary that can be addressed all year long and applied to varied stories and academic work or specific vocabulary that relates to the other speech/language goals for the year. For example, vocabulary for reading comprehension, such as cause-effect, problem-solution, and fact-opinion usually ties in to both reading skills and language goals, making it easy to apply the vocabulary all year long.

Because I target specific words, I especially like to find sites that let you customize your word lists, but I am providing some fun general vocabulary sites, too!

Free Picture Vocabulary Card Downloads

Free Games and Power Points to Customize

There are so many good vocabulary resources available on line. Did I miss your favorite? Please share in the comments! I hope you find these resources useful!

My 3 Favorite, Fantastic Books For Emotions and Perspective Taking

Need some help working on emotions and social skills with your students? My last posts shared some tips and some amazing links for free information to use with a slant toward older or more skilled students. For me, that happened to be my emotionally disturbed students, who lack the emotion vocabulary needed for interactions with their peers, especially in terms of conflicts and problem solving.

This week is for sharing some of my favorite books and resources for younger or more limited students. In my case, this is my students who are on the autism spectrum. Unlike the students from last week, who initiate interactions with their peers, but then misinterpret social cues and get into conflicts, this week’s post is geared more towards students who have limited interactions with their peers or who interact without ever realizing that everyone else does not have the same interests that they do.

Vocabulary- The Basics
Still start with emotion vocabulary. See the last post here if you’d like some great links for the vocabulary resources. Choose your vocabulary targets to expand their language ability for thinking about and expressing their feelings, with activities based on the students’ ages and cognitive skills, and keeping in mind what problems they are showing in their school interactions.  Make sure they can use more than the 4 basic emotions and that they express degrees of emotion!

3 fantastic Go-To books for students with autism!
Literacy- Apply the Vocabulary with Skill Practice

After students can use the new words expressively and identify the basic emotion group, try using stories! Using literacy activities is good practice, especially for a caseload of limited readers, and good stories provide a context for understanding emotions and situations in a way that vocabulary drills won't. 

Perhaps most important of all, applying the new vocabulary in discussion of story plots helps students to understand that people have different perspectives. What made the story character feel angry may make your student feel sad.

No, David, NO! by David Shannon is an all time favorite for young children. David's antics are always getting him into trouble while he is just trying to have fun.

The simple plot and pictures are great for eliciting sentences in a story retell while the situations lend themselves to discussing cause-effect and why mom does not see things the way that David does.

A Bad Case of Stripes, also by David Shannon, is another one of my go - to books.  On the surface, the plot is seemingly a straight forward story abut a girl who has back to school nerves. The pictures in the books can engender a lot of discussion about facial expressions as Camilla develops a bad case of stripes after deciding to avoid her favorite food, lima beans. The underlying perspectives behind the plot about what motivated Camilla in her decision making were difficult for my upper elementary and lower middle school students to understand.

Dear Mrs. LaRue, by Mark Teague, is another elementary level paperback that worked well for these grades. I have to admit that the first time I read it, I wasn't sure that a letter style book could keep my students interested, but I was proven wrong! The illustrations in black and white versus color were of great interest, helping my students to compare the perspectives of Ike the dog to his owner, Mrs. LaRue. The vocabulary used and length of the letters were great for expanding the language and listening skills for the students in the group without social goals. Even better, there are so many free activities to be found online!

More Books for Teaching Emotion Vocabulary
You can get more ideas for books to use at these links:

The website has both a book list and teaching resource guides!

This link has the names of books sorted by the emotion it teaches, especially useful for targeting specific vocabulary.

This PDF gives ideas for how to use books to teach about emotions.

One of my favorite purchased resources for stories that directly teach emotion vocabulary is Focus on Feelings from Attainment Company. The stories feature older people, focus on specific vocabulary targets and review them in later stories, use real photos and are short enough to maintain my students attention!  

Do you have a favorite that I missed?

Practical Tips for Emotion Vocabulary and Social Language Skills

Work? Who, me?

If you have a student population who is, shall we say defiant, then you'd probably be happy to get the polite rejection of the student in the photo.

After working with students who fit in the mainstream, switching to students with social/emotional disorders who need occasional hospital visits can be quite a change. Especially when they are middle schoolers, a trying time for all of us when we were there!

I'm not making any claims about perfection, but I certainly learned a few helpful tips.

1. Give your students some control over the content or the activities they are being asked to learn. 

2. This opens the door for  practicing language for negotiating and compromising, as well.

3. Take care of your students' needs first. They probably have a lot going on in their heads that they have to work through, anyway, before they can begin to focus.

4. Make sure to build a connection with every student that you can, even if they aren't on your caseload. Next year, they might be!

5. Don't bother trying to find just that right materials that will excite them into learning. Your relationship with them may help them be able to start the learning process.

Are You Jumping Hurdles?

If every session feels like they are making you jump hurdles, then maybe try incorporating their speech/language goals into activities that allow them to reflect on the issues that are filling up their thoughts.

How about vocabulary for identifying and expressing the intensity of the emotion they are experiencing at that moment? This blog article has a great Emotions Wheel with tons of words to choose from!

Use Some Hands-On Activities

Your students can do some hands on activities for learning the chosen vocabulary.

* Make a personalized dictionary.
* Play games with photos of different facial expressions or situations.
* Find images to make a picture dictionary.
* Look up synonyms using a great online student dictionary.

Do Some Social Problem Solving

‘How big is your problem?’  

Students who explode over every small incident need lots of varied vocabulary for angry emotions to be able to think about the severity of the problem. 

Explaining their reasoning for their answers helps them internalize the language and thinking skills for their own future use. Fortunately, there are resources out there to help you get started!

This website has a wealth of information on problem solving, including problem solving steps, a video of this in action (with a lovely Aussie accent), scenarios and some downloads.

This is an animated YouTube video about the steps to problem solving. The voice is a bit mechanical, but students may like the animation.
This site has an easy to use chart for the size of the problem as well as videos with students. - 
more problem scenarios

Check out the Problem Solving section of my store for more help! 


Awesome Links for Social Skills: Emotions and Older Students

The longer I have worked with moderately-severely involved students, both those on the spectrum and those with emotional disabilities, the more I realize how important a role that weak social language/pragmatic skills play in their inability to function in a mainstream environment.  

It is hard to find resources for older kids, much less free ones!
While these skills are important for both disabilities, I have observed that the way that they impact my students differs. 

My emotionally disturbed students tend to flare up easily.  They misunderstand idiomatic language and inferences their peers are making, misread body language cues, facial expressions, and gestures, interpreting situations as more negative toward themselves than they may actually be.  

Another situation that occurs is that they are correct in reading the social situation as being negative, but then don’t have the language skills to work out compromises and negotiate solutions peaceably. They often understand the basic emotions but lack the nuances and vocabulary for sophisticated emotions to be able to regulate their emotions using language. 

For example, if you can only think about angry and furious, how do you think/talk it out that what happened is aggravating and not worth getting in more trouble over? Of course, in reality, it is not this simple, but the language for emotions does play a role in the big picture.

Research is starting to show that the majority of students with emotional disorders have social language difficulties that were not able to be identified due to behaviors and noncompliance that masked the problems. Food for thought.

Students on the spectrum may not even realize that non-verbal communication exists. They often have poor eye contact, so they spend less time looking at facial expressions, to begin with. 

Between interpreting the language they understand very literally, and misunderstanding the facial expressions, gestures and body language people use to communicate, it is not surprising that many students would rather live in their comfortable space with their preferred topics. So much of what goes on around them is so confusing!

Despite the impacts of these deficits displaying themselves in different ways in these populations, the materials that I use for building vocabulary for emotions are the same. The differentiation occurs in choosing the materials and vocabulary level based on the cognitive skills/maturity of the students, and then in how the vocabulary is elicited in application activities afterward.

I have found these resources to be so helpful that I have been spending time yearly to make sure that the links are working, and adding any new sites that I've found. So be sure to check back, and let your friends know about this post!

This post features links that could be appropriate for older students (middle/high) depending on their level. For fun stuff for younger kids, check out this post.

Free Resource Links

Check it out:

I found that my older students responded really well to these types of facial expressions and there are so many to choose from, as well as different types of printables.

Check it out:

Mark, the force behind this website, is amazingly prolific in the number of materials he shares for free. (Although donations are gladly accepted.)

Be sure to check out his game website, too!

These resources are great for teaching nuances of emotions, how we can feel combinations of emotions, and that they vary in intensity. Find more free resources on this site!


This website was made for middle school level but is appropriate for many special needs high school students, too.

There are a variety of lesson plans and online activities here.


Comic strips are a great therapy tool for older kids. There are many goals that can be worked on, making them useful for mixed groups, too.

This site is my favorite for creating comics since it is easy to use and has lots of options. Let your students decide on the problem, choose the appropriate character to show the emotion, and use their vocabulary in the speech bubble dialogues.

Other sites you might like are:

6. Teen Social Inferences and Problem Solving Free Unit 

This puts many of the skills our students are lacking to use in real life problem scenarios. This free unit is helpful whether you are in a classroom or running social skills groups, so click now to download it for free! 

If you love it, kind feedback is always appreciated as a thank you!

For links to use with younger students, check out this post.
If I missed any great resources, I’d love it if you would share your faves in the comments!


3 Easy, Awesome Tips for Multiple Meaning Words

Combining materials and coming up with new ways to meet students’ IEP goals is a great way to make use of the materials you already have. Plus, I find that when my students are having fun in activities that apply the varied goals they have worked on all year, that they really consolidate their growth in a functional way. Don’t you think so, too?
So here are some tips for getting your students to use their multiple meaning vocabulary while applying other skills, or just having fun!

Catch it!
My students had to  use their knowledge of the word meanings to make inferences when they listened to my clues for the words.  When they thought they knew the word, they had to catch it and use it in a sentence with the same meaning I was giving clues for. The student with the most cards won.

Use colored dice!
Any drill becomes more fun when there are dice to be rolled. My students particularly  love to be able used the colored dice!  I took my definition sheets and color coded each with a colored pencil to match the dice I own and  added a ‘roll again’ for a different number on each set. Pop the page in a page protector or a reusable pocket and you are ready to go.

Students took a die out of a bag (without peeking) and rolled it. 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 to get initials on all 4 colors was the winner!

Make an organizer fun!
When I played the colored dice game, I realized that some of students were confused about what I was asking them to do. Have you noticed that happening if you don’t mix the tasks up enough? My students learned to do each task, but when they were combined, they didn’t know which answer to give.

So, I made a quick organizer, popped it in a page protector and adapted a set of dollar store dice. After rolling, they had to pick one of their words from their target list and use it in the specified way. If their answer was right, they got to write the word in the box with their color. If not, I modeled the correct response but their turn was over. The student with the most words on the organizer at the end of the session was the winner. To carry it over, now we can play with the die and the word cards, not using the organizer.

These games will be fun with any set of vocabulary words, but using multiple meaning words really makes your students have to think! If you don’t want to make your own word lists, click here to check out mine! What is your favorite activity for getting students to use vocabulary they have learned?

5 Surprising Skills Aligned with Multiple Meaning Words

No doubt about it, young children who are language impaired need the help of SLPs to expand their vocabulary!  Words are the basic building block of sentences and all communication. But what about as students get older? Have you thought about incorporating homonyms, or multiple meaning words?

Expanding vocabulary using homonyms - tips from Looks Like Language!
The amount of vocabulary words that upper elementary to high school students are supposed to learn each year is a staggering number that we can’t even begin to remediate in our hour or so weekly. 

Much of the new vocabulary for older students is gained through reading, curricular teaching and  vocabulary building programs used by English teachers to help with college entrance exams.  

Many special needs students have difficulty reading and 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 and are able to support their students’ academic progress this way.  My students take so long to accomplish their goals and really understand new vocabulary that this method hasn’t worked well for me.

This is why I LOVE multiple meaning words! 


Whether or not my students have specific goals for building vocabulary, I have found that I can increase their language skills in so many ways using this vocabulary. Learning to understand and use multiple meaning vocabulary at a deeper level lets us incorporate many different skills. 

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

Using homonyms in many contexts is validated by the National Reading Council research review.

1. Improving comprehension of sentence structure:

Many multiple meaning words have a similar theme to their meaning and are just being used as a different part of speech.  When students have to fill in the sentence blank with the correct word, they are using sentence structure clues to help them figure out which word and meaning fits that sentence.

2. Increasing inference skills

When students have to figure out which meaning makes sense in a sentence, they are inferring from the context clues to make that decision, by finding a connection between the definition and the other words in the sentence.

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 and realize that words aren’t as concrete as they’d like them to be. Flexible thinking!

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.'  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. Improving main idea/summarizing/explaining skills and sentence structure

When you ask a student to explain which meaning fits in the sentence or story context, they have to figure out the important information and  organize it into sentences that will help you understand the point they are making.

Make your life easier and try out this multiple meaning set with free previews!
Do you have students who can parrot a list of meanings but don’t understand vocabulary in context? I did, so I started developing my multiple meaning sets to be able to help my students out. 

Using the same vocabulary in multiple contexts, with multiple language skills, did the trick for my SPED students who couldn’t retain word meanings or din't understand them correctly in real life situations.
 Try out the BOOM CardTM  free preview in this set!

It is a bit surprising how many different language skills can be incorporated into learning multiple meaning words! Coming up next week are some therapy tips for making it fun!

Enjoy! Linda
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