Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

This Week’s Episode: How to Target Basic Concepts, Comparatives, and Superlatives with Preschoolers

Understanding words that we take in is helpful, right? That’s the theory we’re operating with when we target vocabulary goals using literacy-based therapy.

We’re going to talk about targeting basic concepts, as well as some comparatives and superlatives.

The research emphasizes how important these basic concepts are for future academic achievement, and early elementary and kindergarten teachers use basic concept terms with great frequency when giving directions.

The lack of vocabulary can be one of the biggest hurdles these students have in following directions, and we can use literacy-based therapy to help them get over that hurdle, so they can keep learning!

Ready to plant some seeds? Let’s get to it!

Strategies + Tips Discussed

How to Teach Basic Concepts (30 minutes)
– Direct Instruction (15 minutes) – Provide examples of the two target concepts
– Interactive Instruction (15 minutes) – Art, drama, or game activities designed to incorporate the target concept

If you want to nerd out and dive into more Basic Concepts content then check out this blog post: Using Books to Target Basic Concepts.


Evidence-Based Table

Bracken, B. A. (1988). Rate and sequence of positive and negative poles in basic concept acquisition. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 19, 410-417.

Seifert, H. (1991). Treatment effectiveness of large group basic concept instruction with Head Start students. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 22, 60-40.

Here’s what we discussed:

[5:40] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[8:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[9:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[9:52] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[14:14] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

Want to hear more about this topic? Click here to see this month’s content!

Links Mentioned

Add links (set to open in new tab)
Lola Plants a Garden
The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
Toca Boca (A fun app with opportunities for repetitive vocabulary practice!)
SLP Now Membership (The Vocabulary Bootcamp course is included in our Academy!)

Subscribe & Review in iTunes

Are you subscribed to the podcast? If you’re not, subscribe today to get the latest episodes sent directly to you! Click here to make your listening experience auto-magic and as easy as possible.

Bonus points if you leave us a review over on iTunes → Those reviews help other SLPs find the podcast, and I love reading your feedback! Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews,” “Write a Review,” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is.

Thanks so much!


Speaker 1: Let's dive into some preschool therapy plans focusing on vocabulary. So again, as always, we have a list of sample goals, and when we were creating these podcasts, I made a big list of all of the vocabulary goals that I see across my caseload and other SLP caseload's. And then I just split those up roughly by age group ,and we'll work through the progression of goals. So if you don't see the goals that you're targeting with your students, or if you don't hear them in this presentation, definitely stay tuned for the other vocabulary presentations, because hopefully you will have the targets that you need. And it was just a rough split just to make it a little bit easier to navigate the presentation and share as much helpful information as possible.
This week we're talking about just basic vocabulary, so naming objects, and then also some basic concepts, so spatial, temporal, qualitative, quantitative. All of those good stuff. All of those great basic concepts, as well as some comparatives and superlatives, so using like the bigger, biggest comparative/superlatives. And the text that we're using for this unit is Lola Plants a Garden. It's a very sweet strategic story, as the title suggests, about a girl who plants a garden. So let's dive into these therapy plans.
I'm going to embed as much information as possible on vocabulary intervention and the strategies that we can use. But we do have a three hour course diving into all things vocabulary in the SLP Now Academy, so if you want a deeper dive into these concepts, definitely check that out. It'll give you more information. And the SLP Now membership also has research summaries detailing all of the different goal areas and a summary of the strategies there as well, if you don't have time to sit down for a three hour course right now, which is totally understandable. But I will do my very best to make this as accessible and just as well explained as I possibly can.
So, as always, we're using our five step literacy-based therapy framework, developed by Dr. Ukrainetz. And we've got the five steps and we'll walk through those and I'll also share evidence-based strategies that we can use to target these early vocabulary goals.
And so just backing up little bit, so you can see that we're working on a lot of basic concepts. And the research emphasizes how important these basic concepts are for future academic achievement, and early elementary and kindergarten teachers use basic concept terms with great frequency when giving directions. So this is a quote from the Bohm article in 1986. They did a ton of research on all of these basic concepts, so that's a huge incentive to work on these basic concepts, to target them in therapy.
And just as a more practical example, a lot of times when I end up working on students with following directions, when I do a task analysis of the skill, the biggest struggle is that students just don't understand they're missing those basic concepts, and that's the hurdle in figuring and being able to follow directions, so they're just missing that vocabulary. That's a common thing that I've seen just in my own practice. And then I also see that it, like in math, there are an incredible amount of basic concepts. And so if our students don't have a good grasp of those, that vocabulary, or that lack of vocabulary, can make a big difference.
When I structure my basic concepts intervention, I use the Bracken 1988 article. They did an extensive amount of research. They looked at the development of all of the concepts. And I do an inventory of the basic concepts that my students have, and then I make a priority list of the concepts that we need to target. And a lot of times there's a pattern, so it makes it pretty easy to put that together.
And there's a lot of specific strategies for basic concepts, which we'll dive into in the focus skill activities, so that'll be our main focus. And I'll try and embed just like the basic vocabulary, as well as comparatives and superlatives throughout the unit. But the main focus for this unit will be those basic concepts, because the comparatives and superlatives build off of the basic concepts. So I think that makes the most sense.
So first, step one. We have our pre-story knowledge activation, and this is where we would do a quick book walk. We'd look at the front and the back cover of the book. We might look at a few of the pages. And this is my like temperature check to see what the students know about for this particular book, what they know about gardening. Do they have any of that vocabulary? Are they making comments? Are they having any naming errors? How are the students showing up? And then I use my clinical judgment to decide if the students need additional background knowledge to be able to participate in the unit. And if that's the case, I love to go on Edpuzzle and pull up, like for this, an example might be, I might find a video of a child giving a tour of their garden, for example. So that's something that I might pull so the students can kind of see the concept in action. And then that'll give them a little bit more structure and just a little bit more of a background before we dive into the other activities.
And if it's appropriate for the students, a lot of times at this level, a graphic organizer would be over their head, so I'm going to skip that part for now. But if you're curious about how the graphic organizer would work, tune in next week to hear my early elementary therapy plans.
And throughout these activities, again, I always say this, but these are not fluff. These are meaningful language activities, and in this step, I'll mostly just be modeling the target structures. So if we're working on qualitative concepts, I might pick some of the pairs that we're working on and start saying, like identifying which ones are big and which ones are small and comparing the plants that we see, and just modeling some of that vocabulary. Because the research shows that students, especially the students that we see, every study gives a different number, but a lot of times our students need upwards of 40 exposures to a specific target. So I want to start embedding that as soon as possible and just really modeling that. And I'm not expecting them to use that vocabulary yet because often times they haven't had enough exposure. But if I model and give them lots and lots of examples, I'm going to set them up for success.
And then that brings us to step two, where we do the shared reading. We just read through the book, this is pretty short and sweet. I might just emphasize or embed a couple of the basic concepts if they're not in the text itself. And then that's what we've got there. It's just a pretty short activity. And my biggest goal is just that my students are paying attention to the book. So with preschoolers, a lot of that is behavior management, making sure that they're able to sit and attend to the book, catching them being good is one of my favorite strategies. So a lot of times, like if we're in person, and we could modify this if we're doing virtual therapy, but when I was reading to groups of preschoolers, I would have tokens or little things that I would give. And they'd be out of reach, but they could see when they get them. And then I would just reinforce them for paying attention. And then if a student is kind of off in their own world, then that motivates them to participate so that they can get a token too.
And then for step three, we have some story comprehension. So for this level, I would focus on just some basic literal questions and I can use the question cards included in the unit. So I could ask questions using their vocabulary targets if we're there. But another idea is just to ask the questions, check for their comprehension, see if they got anything. I really like giving them question cards with multiple choice options so they can identify the correct answer. And more often than not, they have some kind of comprehension goal in addition to their vocabulary. So it can do that. And it's also great, if they're at that level, if they've had enough exposure, I might ask them questions related to embedding their basic concepts as well.
And then that brings us to step four, where we do the focus skill activities. So there's a really great study that details how we can teach basic concepts to our students. So it was published in 1991 and it was authored by Sipher and Schwartz. So I'll include a link in the show notes. We can modify this for our therapy groups, but I loved how they set up this instruction. So they first did, and they used this in a 30 minute session or group. It was done in a preschool, but they did 15 minutes of direct instruction where they provided examples of two target concepts. And they did a bunch of contrastive activities. And the cool thing is, because they had a bunch of stimulus items and cards that they organized, but in SLP Now we have, and you can absolutely make this happen. You can just grab some images from Google, print them out and organize your own activities using the concepts in this story. But in the SLP Now membership, we have no-print activities, where it includes stimulus items for that direct instruction. So if you spend 15 minutes doing that and then you spend 15 minutes on interactive instruction.
So they included a variety of ideas for art, drama, games, just a variety of activities designed to incorporate the target concepts. So if they were working on fast versus slow, they had the students do like a little race. And then they were able to identify who was super fast. And the article will do it much more justice, so definitely check that out for more examples. But I love how they set that up, the direct instruction and then the interactive instruction. And that works really well for our little preschoolers. And we can incorporate a lot of language. So even though we're targeting vocabulary, excuse me, we can still use it to target grammar, because we're using the same types of activities. We talked about similar things when we talked about grammar last month. And so it's very engaging, language rich. We can embed a variety of goals. And like the race example would be great to target comparatives and superlatives, like Sam was faster than Lindsey, and then Mike was the fastest. And so it's a really great way to incorporate all of those different vocabulary concepts.
And if you're working on naming objects, you can throw different gardening objects. You can throw a flower and a shovel. And maybe if you have like pictures of things, they can try and throw the dirt, or you can paste the pictures on a bean bag and have them throw them, like lots and lots of different options here. It could be super fun. The opportunities are endless, but this is just a really nice way to target that. And I may or may not build a vocabulary journal for these students, but if you're doing all of these interactive activities and you have the parent's permission, I think it would be really cool to take pictures that exemplified the different targets. So if you took a picture of the race, then you could kind of take a moment in time, and then you can circle the student who's fastest and the student who's slow. Maybe that's not the best example because some students might get their feelings hurt. But someone might be proud of being slow. That's definitely me when I run.
But it's really cool. If you can build, if you can have a page that includes the target concepts, and then you can add pictures of examples from throughout their school day and then throughout just all of the activities that we have planned. How meaningful would that be? And if they could share it with our parents and bring that home and just revisit it throughout the school year. I think that'd be so incredibly powerful and so fun too. And then in terms of virtual therapy, there are different games that we can play. And I think it'd be super cool to like make a list of all of the different ideas. If you have a way to connect, if you have an iPad and have a way to connect I think the Toca Boca apps are set up beautifully for this type of practice. They're very repetitive and there's lots of opportunities to target these types of skills. So that's what we've got for focus skill activities.
And then for step five, we can create, we can start, like I typically like to just model story grammar at this phase. If the students are working on very basic vocabulary, it's not always, I don't know. I don't always think that that's the best use of time necessarily. So I might provide like a lot of scaffolding and have it be a quick activity. Maybe in step three for story comprehension. But it could be really cool to make a little story embedding their basic concepts, maybe about something they did in the classroom. Like if they did a hands-on activity of building a garden, we can make a little story about that. But I think that's where I would leave it for this age group. If we're targeting more basic skills. If it's more advanced preschool, then I think that would be appropriate. But a lot of my preschool students needed just something a little bit simpler and really honing in on those foundational skills. So that's what we've got for our preschool therapy plans.


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *