#079: Targeting Vocabulary Goals with Literacy-Based Therapy: Early Elementary

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This Week’s Episode:  How to Target Object Functions, Categories, Antonyms + Synonyms, and Describing with Early Elementary Students

So far in this month’s podcast series, we’ve targeted basic concepts, as well as some comparatives and superlatives with our preschool students.

As we spring forward with our early elementary students we will target object function, categories, antonyms + synonyms, and describing. The book we’ve selected is The Curious Garden. This is such a fun story that has great examples of object functions (things that you wear) and emotions (abstract).

Let’s get to planting those meaningful exposures, shall we? 🌱

Strategies + Tips Discussed:

As always, we’ll be following the 5-Step Literacy-Based Therapy Framework outlined by Dr. Ukrainetz. In this episode, I’ll share:

– Age appropriate activities for pre-story knowledge activation,
– How I use my story grammar graphic organizer to provide meaningful exposures,
– Using question cards for story comprehension,
– Putting visuals to use in focus skill activities,
– Creating a vocabulary journal, and more!


SLP Now Evidence Based Table

Here’s what we discussed:

[2:20] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[6:10] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[6:45] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[8:30] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[12:12] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

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

Links Mentioned

The Curious Garden by by Peter Brown
The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
EdPuzzle (This is a great resource for a prestory knowledge book walk + virtual field trip!)
SLP Now Membership

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Speaker 1: Let's dive into some early elementary therapy plans with a focus on vocabulary. As always, we have a list of sample goals that we'll focus on. And this is not a comprehensive list of goals, we made a list of the most common vocabulary goals that we see, and then we split them into rough age chunks. So, if you're not seeing goals that you're currently targeting with your caseload, check out last week's episode and stay tuned for next week's episode, we used a different picture book last week, and we'll be using a fiction article next week, but the strategies will still apply. And just a quick recap of the goals that we'll be discussing today. We've got object functions, categories, antonyms and synonyms, describing and then maybe a little bit of compare and contrast. And the text that we're using is The Curious Garden.
So, let's dive in to the actual planning. And if you want to follow along head to slpnow.com/planner. I highly encourage you to fill in the graphic organizer and then just type in the name of the text, the goals that you would like to target with your students. And then you can kind of check off the different activities that make sense for your specific group, and then just jot in some notes on what would be most helpful. For my therapy plans, if we're focusing on object functions, categories, antonyms, synonyms and describing, let's just talk about what we would do to target those vocabulary goals. And so, for step one, we have pre-story knowledge activation, and this is based on Dr. Yukon, it's this literacy-based therapy framework.
And so, for this age group, I would start off with a book walk. Where we look at the cover of the book, we look at the front and the back, and we flip through some of the pages. If we're doing virtual therapy, I would just pull up the video of the book and then just scroll through the video and look at the cover and then some of the pages and just open it up for discussion with the students and see what they notice, what they have to contribute. Do they have the vocabulary that they need? Are they clearly missing some background knowledge to be able to participate in the discussion? I just take a quick inventory here and use my clinical judgment to decide if they need more background information. If so, I'll do a little, like identify which gaps they have and find a video on Edpuzzle. And for this example, I think it'd be super helpful to have a video of a kid giving a tour of their garden, or just something related to gardening, because that's largely what this story is about.
And then, when that's done or if they had enough prior knowledge to jump straight into the graphic organizer, I would pull out my story grammar graphic organizer, that includes all of the story grammar elements. It has visual icons and definitions for each element. And then I have the students do, it's an inferencing activity and I have them guess who the characters are, when and where the story happens, the problem, et cetera, et cetera. And then, as I always say, this is not a fluff activity, there's meaningful opportunities to embed vocabulary here. So, at this stage, I'm probably doing a lot of modeling of the object functions, the categories, the antonyms and synonyms, the describing. And so, I'm providing the exposure here. And every study has a different number, but many of our students need upwards of 40 meaningful exposures to a vocabulary word.
So, I'm just modeling a way throughout this activity, trying to give the student as many meaningful exposures of the target concepts as possible. And I know it might feel a little bit overwhelming, how in the world am I supposed to figure out which words I target? And you absolutely do not need the SLP Now membership to make this happen, you can absolutely flip through the book and identify your own targets. But I analyze each book and create a cheat sheet with a list of the categories, the most common categories as well as the most common object functions. And then I also attach activity pages that you can use to build a student's vocabulary journal. And we'll talk a little bit more about that later. I think for early elementary students, it makes the most sense to just provide modeling when we're doing these initial activities.
Give them exposure, so they have something to hang, especially when it comes to object functions and categories. They need lots of exemplars first before they can start to piece it together. But then we would do those activities and I would just have a list of the targets that I want to emphasize. And I would just maybe have a sticky note or whatnot of the targets that I want to focus on. So, for this particular book, we would focus on of course, plants or flowers, and then there's a lot of emotions in the story as well. So, I think that could be a nice abstract category to focus on. And then in terms of object functions, we could target things that you wear or things that you... Yeah, things that you wear, I think would be the main focus.
And then for step two, shared reading, we would go through and read the book. And as always, this is very simple. We just try and maintain student engagement. If we're doing teletherapy, I would most likely pull up an Edpuzzle video of someone reading the book. And then just use that to keep students engaged, and then just pause occasionally and reel in the student's attention if I see them kind of zoning out or if their eyes are moving a lot and showing me that they're doing something else on the screen. But that's short and sweet activity, if I'm reading it myself, I'll just emphasize the concepts that we're targeting.
And then for step three, we dive into story comprehension. So, this is a great way to embed vocabulary concepts. And if it's an object function or a category or types of words that they've targeted before, then we can go ahead and embed questions. And then if not, I would just provide, have the students who have those concepts, they can model them, or I can just scaffold that student to be able to respond to those questions. So, some things that we can do if they need support and I can't just ask the question and have another student model, or if I want to give them the opportunity to practice on their own. I can give them literal questions and I create question cards for all of my books. It has the question and three answer choices with the icons and then it'll include the vocabulary concepts in there as well.
I can ask the question, they can have a field of three or I can narrow it down to two choices if they need even more support. And then, that's just the strategy that I like to use. I also really love incorporating story grammar into the story comprehension piece. So, I'll pull up my story grammar organizer and I create an organizer that has interactive pieces for each story. I can give, and it depends on the student's level, but I can give them a field of two choices or seven choices, whatever makes sense. And we can just move around the icons and answer the story grammar questions, like who's the story about? When did it happen? Where did it happen, et cetera, et cetera. And throughout those activities again, I'm either modeling or giving the student the opportunity to use their vocabulary words in an embedded context.
And then for step four, we dive into focus skill activities. This is where I might pull up the visual that explains what an object function is, what a category is, what an antonym is, what a synonym is, how we describe. And I just pull up the relevant visual. And if we're in person, I use the visuals, I laminate all of mine and I use them as mats, so that I know what the student is working on. And then instead of me having to always explain what a category is, what an object function is, I can point to the relevant part of the visual to help scaffold the student's performance. And then it helps me make sure that I'm actually teaching this skill initially. And then we might do a little bit of drill based practice, each book has a no print companion that includes kind of more drill based practice of the categories.
So, that can be a good opportunity to kind of start working on that skill and to drill the specific targets for object functions, categories, antonyms, synonyms. For working on describing, I might take a vocabulary card and pull up my describing visual. And I also created a little cheat book, I guess, for describing, where it has the different describing words that we like to use. And then I can give the student a field of choices, which is so incredibly helpful, describing felt like pulling hair before I had this. So, that made a big difference for me. And then another activity idea is to fill in a vocabulary journal. So, if we identify that we want to work on things that we wear, for example as an object function, the sheet and it's the same structure for categories as well, but we have 10 items on the vocabulary sheet.
And if we're in person, doing in-person therapy, I like to print this off and use a folder to keep track of all of the student's vocabulary pages. It's a great way to introduce a concept, whether it's a basic concept, category, object, function, whatever it may be. If we're working on describing, I like to print off a describing organizer and we'll put a picture of the item in the middle and then we'll come up with describing words. And then if that vocabulary word comes up in another story, we can add to it and build the description. And the same thing for basic concepts, object functions, categories, we'll constantly build on that. So for example, if we're working on things that we wear, we can identify the exemplars. So a dress is something that we would wear, a scarf is something that we would wear, an apple is not something that we would wear.
So, we can identify the exemplars and the non exemplars, just as a way to introduce the concept and give the students some practice. And then we would look at the book and find examples of things that we wear, or and this can be done with any category, any object function, any basic concept. And we would take screenshots of the book and add them in or we can draw them in, we can just write the words. It depends on the student's level, but then we keep this, whether it's in their physical journal or their digital journal and then we revisit this as we go through the unit. So this month we're reading The Curious Garden, if next month we read Froggy Gets Dressed, that has lots of things that the character wears. We can add to that page and continue building the understanding of that concept.
So, that's a super powerful activity and that wraps up step four and brings us to step five, which is the parallel story. For when we're creating the parallel story, I like to have students fill in a graphic organizer, they come up with their own character, their own setting, their own problem. And it's related to the story that we read. And since we've been working on a bunch of gardening vocabulary, we'd likely create a story that's related to gardening. Maybe we did an extension activity where they got to build their own garden, whether it's real or imaginary. So, we can create a story about that and we would then embed all of our vocabulary concepts. And we don't have to have it be about gardening, we can have it be around any category or whatever focus we want. And then that's an opportunity for the students to embed this vocabulary in a meaningful context.
And so, that wraps up the unit and one other strategy to give the student additional exposures is to reread the story. So, we can either reread the story in therapy, or if it happens to be a book that they're reading in the classroom, that's super helpful, that gives us automatic retell. Or we can share the video of the book with the parents and ask them to watch it at night, for example as a bedtime story. So, there's lots of options here, and we just want to think about how we can give the student as many meaningful exposures as possible, so that they can add that word or that concept to their inventory and successfully use it in our embedded activities and bring it into the classroom and onto the playground and home and all of that. So, that's our ultimate goal and that wraps up the unit.


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.

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