#080: Targeting Vocabulary Goals with Literacy-Based Therapy: Later Elementary

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This Week’s Episode: How to Target Idioms, Multiple Meaning Words, and Context Clues

So far in this month’s podcast series we’ve targeted basic concepts, as well as some comparatives and superlatives with our preschool students. Last week, our early elementary plans focused on targeting object function, categories, antonyms + synonyms and describing.

We’re going to focus on multiple meaning words with our later elementary students because the research that I’ve done lately indicates that teaching idioms and context clues don’t deliver the same evidence-based bang for your buck as multiple meaning words.

Let’s get to integrating our vocabulary intervention framework with *my favorite* Literacy-based therapy framework!

P.S. For more on our vocabulary intervention framework, bop on over to this blog post: How to Teach Vocabulary: A Framework.

Strategies + Tips Discussed:

Literacy-Based Therapy Framework 
Vocabulary Intervention Framework

Here’s what we discussed:

[2:35] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[5:35] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[5:44] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[6:55] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[10:05] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

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


SLP Now Evidence Based Table

Links Mentioned

The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
– ReadWorks Article: Miss Johnson’s Plant Experiment
– Virtual Field Trip on EdPuzzle
Wheel Decide

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Speaker 1: Let's dive into some plans for later elementary. As always, we're going through our vocabulary goals. This month we are focusing on vocabulary. We split up... We made a list of vocabulary goals that we tend to see, and goals that we thought were appropriate for this age group included non-literal language or idioms, multiple meaning words, context clues, and affixes. We'll be focusing primarily on multiple meaning words throughout this unit. If you are wondering about some of the other skills, we'll really be diving into affixes next week. And then we targeted a variety of other goals in the last two weeks, as well.
The article that we're using is Ms. Johnson's Plant Experiment, and that can be found on ReadWorks. Let's dive into a plan and be sure to head to slpnow.com/planner, if you want to follow along and fill in your own therapy plan. This plan typically is good for a whole month of therapy and then typically the students who need more therapy or who need more time with a unit, they are typically seen more times a week than the students who need less support. And so it ends up evening out, at least in my experience. So that's what we've got and we'll just dive into those plans.
So again, this is based off of Dr. Ukrainetz's five step literacy-based therapy framework. I dug through a bunch of the research to learn more about vocabulary intervention, and I worked hard to marry the two and figure out how to integrate all of these vocabulary strategies and implement them in a literacy-based therapy framework.
So let's start with step one, which is pre-story knowledge. We start off with a book walk or in this case, an article walk. We'll look at the article or the article title. This particular article has a picture to go with it. And we might just browse through the article a little bit, skim the passage to see what we can find. A lot of times students will, if they have some pre-story knowledge, they'll be able to share some of their experience. I really like using a KWL chart in this situation. So we'll do the book walk and then I'll see what they know about the topic and then what they want to know, and then at the end, we can fill in what they learned. But if they really struggle to fill in this chart, I will... and I'll use my clinical judgment to decide what type of virtual field trip we want to do, and if it's even appropriate, but I love searching for videos on Edpuzzle. I'll just look up a video that I think would be relevant.
So this is about a plant experiment, so I might have them watch a video about a plant experiment, because that would be super relevant and then they can see it in action and we can dig deeper into any concepts that they struggle with. This might be where we identify vocabulary that is particularly challenging, especially vocabulary that they need. So we might also pre-teach some vocabulary. And then I identify the key vocabulary words. I'll identify anything that's tricky as we work through the passage, but typically I do a pretty good job of predicting what they need support with.
I analyze all of my reading passages and pull out the multiple meaning words, and I pull out the relevant prefixes and suffixes. I can typically guess based on that list, what they'll need support on. And so I can take some time to pre-teach that. We can define the word, which is especially important for our students at this point. So we'll define it, we'll fill it in. At this age group pre-teaching makes sense. For our younger students they don't have as much of that basic vocabulary yet, and they really need exposure to the book before that really makes sense. That's typically what I try to do based on my own experience and what I read in the research.
Once we've done all of those activities, we can go ahead and fill in a graphic organizer. I pull up my story grammar organizer, and it includes icons and definitions of all of the story grammar elements. And then we identify who the story is about, when and where it happens, et cetera, et cetera. And we just fill that in. And it's an influencing activity because we've only glanced at the article. And so we make our best guess based on what we learned about the vocabulary and what we learned in our virtual field trip and our KWL chart and then we infer what happens in the story.
Then for step two, we actually read the article. We keep this really short and simple. We just read through it and we're good to go. Then for step three, we dive into story comprehension. You might be thinking, "What does this have to do with vocabulary?" So in step one, I modeled the target vocabulary words. I gave the students the definition. And then when we read the story, they had additional exposures to the target vocabulary words because they appear in the text. So then by step three, we would have gotten a decent amount of exposure. They should be familiar with the words. And so I want to ask questions, and this is a great activity because oftentimes the students in my group also have comprehension goals, but it's another opportunity to embed these vocabulary words.
I'll strategically split up the questions. I have lists of questions that I like to ask. I can find those in my cheat sheet. And I have a list of literal and inferential questions. I also have some worksheets with questions and I can pick the one or ones that make the most sense for the group. And we just go through that. And then when we get to step four, because in step three, we did the comprehension activities. They had a couple of opportunities to use their word in a meaningful context or their words. And then in step four, I do the focus skill activity.
This, especially in terms of vocabulary, I think if we're working on multiple meaning words or context clues or affixes, I would like to introduce the skill before I expect them to define it. So this framework doesn't necessarily have to go in order. So step four is something that I would probably... I would teach the skill as soon as we write that IEP goal, the first session after that I'd review their goals and introduce that. I think that progression just makes more sense. But when we get to step four, I would just review that skill. And then we would work on building the vocabulary journal.
For multiple meaning words, each unit includes several pages that I either print out and put into a physical journal, or I copy and put into a virtual journal in Google Slides and then I have the student do a bunch of exercises with the target vocabulary words. So whether we're working on multiple meaning words, context clues, affixes, or non-literal language, we'll do different activities with those targets. And then if we need additional... Because a lot of times students need 40 plus exposures. So the vocabulary journal will give us multiple exposures of each word and they've had exposures to the word throughout the unit, but if we need more than that, I might do different activities.
I like creating digital wheels where we add their words and then we spin the wheel and then they have to come up, they have to define the word, use it in a sentence, whatever activity makes sense or we do a combination of those. As always, all of these activities can be used. They're rich language activities, so if one student is working on defining the words that if another student has a grammar goal, they can create a compound sentence about the word. So we can be strategic in how we set these up. But digital wheels are really fun activities to get multiple exposures ChatterPix is a really fun activity, so we might take a picture of the teacher, for example, and we might have her... ChatterPix is... I used to use it with my preschoolers, but the older kids love it, too.
So you take a screenshot of a face, you draw a line for the mouth, and then you hold down the record button and you speak in a sentence. And then when you're done recording, it plays it back and then the mouth moves. The kids think it's hilarious. And it's very motivating. So what I have them do is, if we did their vocabulary journal, as a reinforcer, I can have them read their sentences and record them on ChatterPix and then they listen back to them and they think it's hilarious, so they're super engaged in that. That's a really great way to get multiple exposures and we're building on all of the activities throughout the unit. We can do the same thing with responding to questions. If we catch them using their vocabulary word, then maybe they get to record it in ChatterPix. And if multiple students are working on similar goals, they all get meaningful exposures that way, and it keeps them all engaged.
So that brings us to step five, the parallel story, where we fill in the graphic organizer and we create a story related to the story that we just read. So they come up with their own character, setting, et cetera, et cetera. We do our best to incorporate their vocabulary words, and then they can record themselves reading that. They can reenact the story. There's lots of different options to facilitate engagement and make it super fun for our students. And then that brings us to the end of the unit.
I just wanted to point out, I go into a lot more detail and dive into all of the research on the different vocabulary goals, but I just wanted to share what I found in my research. And this could be different, but when it comes to idioms, there is some evidence, but there isn't much to show that teaching idioms is effective. Idioms are used all the time in conversational speech and all of that. They don't show up a ton in a lot of our articles. So I tend to teach those more incidentally and I'm absolutely, I'm always looking in the literature because things always change and maybe since I did that research, there's been more evidence, but that's just what I found in my last round of research.
And the same thing is true for context clues. I have been able to teach context clues strategies that did have a significant impact on my students. So I'm not saying that we can never write goals for figurative language or context clues, but there is a lot more research for targeting multiple meaning words, which we focused a lot on and we have a lot of activities in our monthly units for those.
And then as promised next week, we'll really focus in on prefixes and suffixes. And again, if you want more detail on all of the strategies and ways to structure vocabulary intervention, I embedded pretty much everything I know about multiple meaning words in this snippet here, but do check out the vocabulary course if you'd like more detail.
That's a wrap. We'll see you next week.


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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