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This Week’s Episode: Evidence-based Strategies for Basic Concepts

We are continuing with our new podcast series, Strategies You Can Use! I’ve been sharing different evidence-based strategies to help target specific skills.

Today I’ll discuss different strategies on how to target Basic Concepts!

I hope you’re enjoying this series so far and finding it useful and applicable to your therapy sessions. Let’s dive into the strategies we can use to target vocabulary, specifically, basic concepts.

3 Strategies to Target Basic Concepts

The strategies that I’m sharing will be coming from 3 articles that had very interesting approaches. You will see the articles listed below the strategies for basic concepts. 

1. Strategically teach basic concepts.

🍎 Circle time is a great opportunity to include some basic concepts teaching.

🍎 Strategies from Seifert & Schwarz, 1991
1️⃣ Direct Instruction (15 minutes) on two target concepts
✓ Provide examples of the two target concepts

2️⃣ Interactive Instruction (15 minutes)
✓ Art, drama, or game activities that are specifically designed to incorporate the target concept.

3️⃣ Incidental Instruction (Throughout the week)
✓ Teachers used concepts in natural contexts.

2. Modifications for Our Kiddos

🍏 If you’re working with a child who has low overall language or receptive vocabulary skills, trying to show the meaning of a preposition with a bunch of different words and objects might be confusing or distracting. 

Instead, you might limit the variety of the objects you use to show what it means, as well as what you call them (Nicholas, Alt, & Hauwiller, 2019).

🍏 Using iconic gestures (looks like what it means) can help 3- to 4-year-olds learn new words. Non-representational gestures weren’t helpful (Vogt & Kauschke, 2017).

Activity Ideas
Containers (Boxes, Buckets)
Dollhouse/Toy Farm
Pretend Food
Wind Up Toys
Toca Boca Apps

3. Co-Treat

🍎 Five different concept words were targeted by the SLP only, the adapted PE teacher only, or both in a co-treatment condition

30-minute large group lessons, 4 days per week for 9 weeks

“Out of the ten children, four learned more concepts in co-treatment weeks as compared to weeks when the SLP or PE teacher worked alone.”

Lund, E., Young, A., & Yarbrough, R. (2019). The effects of co-treatment on concept development in children with Down Syndrome. Communication Disorders Quarterly.

Need Basics Concept goal ideas?

🎯  Check out SLP Now Goal-bank for some inspiration

Additional Links

Seifert, H. (1991). Treatment effectiveness of large group basic concept instruction with Head Start students. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 22, 60-64.

Nicholas, K., Alt, M., & Hauwiller, E. (2019). Variability of input in preposition learning by preschoolers with developmental language disorder and typically-developing language. Child Language Teaching and Therapy.

Vogt, S., & Kauschke, C. (2017). Observing iconic gestures enhances word learning in typically developing children and children with specific language impairment. Journal of Child Language. Advance online publication.

Lund, E., Young, A., & Yarbrough, R. (2019). The effects of co-treatment on concept development in children with Down Syndrome. Communication Disorders Quarterly.

Free 14 day SLP Now Trial

SLP Now Material Basic Concepts 

Next Up in this Pod Series

7/5/22 Strategies You Can Use: Following Directions
7/12/22 Strategies You Can Use: Grammar
7/19/22 Strategies You Can Use: Syntax
8/2/22 Strategies You Can Use: Basic Concepts
8/9/22 Strategies You Can Use: Basic Concepts
8/16/22 Strategies You Can Use: Affixes
8/23/22 Strategies You Can Use: Narratives
8/30/22 Strategies You Can Use: Summarizing

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Thanks so much!


Marisha: Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now podcast, where we share practical therapy, tips and ideas for busy speech language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this week's episode.

Marisha: Hey, there it's Marisha and welcome to the SLP Now podcast. This summer, we are doing a series called Strategies You Can Use, and we picked different goal areas and we're going to do a blitz of three evidence backed strategies that you can use when targeting those specific skills. These are mostly strategies that have come from the literature, and we're just pulling out the ones that are most practical that might help you if you're feeling stuck or just wanting to try some new strategies when targeting some of our most common goals. So without further ado, let's dive right in.

Marisha: This week, we are sharing strategies to target basic concepts and the strategies come from three different articles that had very interesting approaches. Our first one is touching on how we can strategically teach basic concepts, and this comes from Cipher and Schwartz, and it is a 1991 article, but I love the studies that include really clear protocols. Even if they are a little bit older, they can give us some practical tips and inspiration on how we can structure our therapy, and of course, using the whole EBP triangle to make those decisions.

Marisha: But they had three elements of their treatment protocol. The first was direct instructions. They spent about 15 minutes every week providing examples of two target concepts. Head to the show notes at to check out the article for all of the details on how they selected the targets, exactly what everything looked like. They have some really amazing resources in the article that detail all of the things, but the main takeaway here is that they provided 15 minutes of direct instruction on two target concepts.

Marisha: Then they had 15 minutes of interactive instruction where they had art activities or games specifically designed to incorporate the target concept. One of the games that they talked about was throwing bean bags, where they worked on. There's lots of concepts that could be included in throwing bean bags. It could be far or loud or quiet or short. Lots of things that they can work on there. And then they also included incidental instruction where they did this with head start students, so in preschool, and they provided incidental instruction throughout the week. They worked on that generalization, made sure that the teachers were aware of the concepts, and gave them the support that they needed to be able to provide that incidental instruction throughout the week.

Marisha: It's really cool to see those strategies and feel like those are three things that we could easily incorporate into our sessions. In the SLP Now membership, we totally revamped our basic concepts instruction and the direct instruction that activities that we have are inspired by this article, and we also have different ideas for the interactive instruction and all of that. That's a great resource if you're feeling a little bit overwhelmed diving into this, but the article, like I said, does a really great job if you want to dive into that for some easy inspiration as well.

Marisha: Another article by Nicholas Alt and [inaudible 00:04:03] from 2019, a little bit more recent. This was also with preschoolers and they gave some strategies or some modifications that we can make, like a more generic approach for our students. If we are working with a child who has low overall language or receptive vocabulary skills, trying to show the meaning of a preposition with a bunch of different words and objects might be confusing or distracting. We might want to teach the target concept with less activities. Maybe we want to work on teaching it just with a farm animal around the barn. Instead of showing it with the farm animals, all the farm animals and balls and bean bags and all of the things, we might want to limit, the variety of objects that we use initially. We decrease the variability of that input and that can be a helpful strategy.

Marisha: One other strategy and possible modification that we can use for our kiddos, this was again done with three to four year olds and they found that iconic gestures, where they look like what it means. For on, we can make a fist and put our other hand on, if you can imagine what I mean, that is very iconic and that can help our students learn. We can pair that with our instructions so we can teach them on and under by making a fist and putting our other hand under the fist. So on versus under using those iconic gestures can be really helpful. Whereas non-representational gestures weren't as helpful. If we were to just make up a random symbol for on, that wouldn't be as helpful for our students, but that is a way to help them learn more of those words. That was our number two strategy and just some ideas for additional supports.

Marisha: Then our third strategy, this is an article by Lend It All in 2019, and they looked at co-treatment of concept development, and this is in children with down syndrome. The study setup was really interesting. They had three conditions. In one group, they taught five different concept words in three different conditions. It was either by the SLP only, by the adopted PE teacher only, or in a co-treatment condition. SLP, PE, or co-treatment, and they had 30 minute large group lessons four days a week for nine weeks. Not totally out of the norm of what we would be able to provide our students.

Marisha: There were 10 children in the study, four of the children learned more concepts in co-treatment weeks compared to weeks when the SLP or the PE teacher worked alone. That co-treatment was really helpful in empowering the students to learn those concepts, which was really interesting and I think that's a great. How fun would that be to go work with a PE teacher, build some community at this school and help our students learn more concepts? That sounds really epic. Again, that was from Lend It All in 2019.

Marisha: Quick recap, our first strategy is to strategically teach our basic concepts. To build a structure for ourselves, Cipher and Schwartz provides great inspiration on how to do that in terms of selecting the words and the specific activities throughout the week. And so it really is 30 minutes of instruction time, and then empowering the teachers to provide incidental instruction throughout the week, totally doable in terms of a model.

Marisha: Then the second strategy was ideas for modifications. Limiting the variability of the input when we're teaching those basic concepts, and then also considering using iconic gestures to help kids learn those words. And then our third strategy was to co-treat and consider working with a PE teacher or another teacher to implement some of that basic concepts instruction, and I think that the layout from Cipher and Schwartz that I mentioned in strategy one could be really helpful.

Marisha: These all kind of tie together and are just some strategies that we can consider when targeting basic concepts with our students and setting them up for success. That's a wrap on our ideas and quick blitz of strategies for basic concepts. Next week, we'll be back with more strategies on vocabulary growth in general. We'll see you then and have a great week in the meantime.

Marisha: Thanks for listening to the SLP Now podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your SLP friends and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episode sent directly to you. See you next time.


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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