Back to School Activities for the Development of Language Expressive and Receptive
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
After going through language therapy with both of my boys I have learned a thing or two about meeting speech therapy expressive language goals. As a Kindergarten teacher I have picked up on a few activities that help support goals for expressive language skills. I have found it beneficial to work on both areas of language expressive and receptive to strengthen language development for early childhood.
As a classroom teacher I find that all children can benefit from activities designed specifically for expressive receptive language disorders. I have also seen where children that have typical language skills can have a huge positive impact on those that struggle with language. Working through activities that require specific language cooperatively can be the best way for children to gain language skills.
Early intervention with speech therapy and language therapy is also vital to school success. My oldest son began working on expressive language speech therapy goals with an SLP at 3. He worked with his Speech Language Pathologist 3x per week for 2 years. I can tell you that this therapy was the single most important vocabulary building resource my son had. With targeted practice, oral communication modeling and one on one conversation my son made marked progress every week. He was diagnosed with severe cases of auditory processing disorder, receptive language disorder and expressive language disorder. Later we also found him to be dyslexic and dysgraphic (which we had suspected from his original testing.)
Expressive language and receptive language skills are vital to communication, socialization, and learning achievement. Children that have trouble with language often struggle in the classroom. They may use nonspecific language such as thing and over there. Some avoid talking and show frustration when they cannot find the words they are trying to express.
Understanding children with language delays can be hard for parents and teachers that are not familiar with expressive receptive language disorders. Knowing how to build language skills does not come naturally to adults who have already gained all of their language. Where do you start? How do you encourage language gains? When do you decide the child needs testing and therapy?
When I identify a child that I feel has an expressive receptive language disorder I talk with the parents and explain my experience. I always refer to testing since I am not a speech language pathologist. I offer to work with the therapists to best support the child and also discuss with parents what I am going to do to support language development in the classroom.
Vocabulary rich texts, visual literacy, specific language encouragement, language development activities etc. After seeing at least once child a year to refer to testing I have developed several resources I feel have a positive impact on language development. My students enjoy working with these activities whether they have trouble with language or not.
Visual Discrimination skills encourage specific communication. When I use my visual discrimination task cards with a student I explain to them what they are looking for, the exact same picture that matches the big picture. Once they choose a picture we talk about what the picture shows and why it does or does not match the original. We talk about details in each picture and what made them the same or different.
Positional words are key to describing where items are in space. They are considered core knowledge in early childhood learning. Introduction and practice with these words help to teach the child to use more descriptive words when speaking.
Opposites are important for children to know so they can begin to understand the relationship between words. The meanings of words in relation to each other, what words mean and how to use them are all imperative to early learning.
Making groups and eliminating what doesn’t belong introduces students to categorizing and finding like items. Grouping those that go together and deciding which one doesn’t belong gives students a visual way of categorizing, separating and identifying items. I always have my students say the names of each item orally while working through these cards nd ask questions about what other items might go with the group, what the given category is, what items go with the item that doesn’t belong in this group etc.
Sorting and categorizing familiar items strengthens vocabulary and describing. When students sort items by color they are not only learning what items common colors are but how to put color words with the item's name. Such as yellow owl or blue whale. I can remember when my son was little and he would do categorizing activities with his therapist he would always stumble on what and iron was and what it was used for. I don’t know exactly why that specific object was hard for him but I do remember celebrating when he finally remembered it.
Identifying objects, animals, people etc. are key to language acquisition. If we allow children to talk about objects as “things” they will not gain the necessary amount of language needed for achievement in school. Any activity we can do to encourage the proper use of specific language is beneficial to children, especially those that struggle with receptive and expressive language disorders. Requiring children to answer questions with specific language encourages talking patterns that will help them to use more specific language in everyday conversation. When our language is specific children also pick up on how to use words properly.
Activities that require children to name common objects, make lists, check off visuals, mark targeted vocabulary and match items to words are all beneficial. Working through activities like these often will not only encourage language development among struggling students but will strengthen language skills in all students. Each of my 16 task boxes focus on these skills in fun and engaging ways. Use for therapy, tutoring, small group instruction and independent practice. Some reading is required for a few of the activities when used independently. If used during your reading block, pair a high reader with your struggling student for support. I like to use each box as an activity during guided reading before using them as independent practice. My students ask for these task boxes often as well and my letter reversal and animal science task boxes. All of them are excellent for building foundational skills in young children!
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You may also want to pair my other task box sets for more language support, dyslexia letter reversals and animal vocabulary!
Here are some more resources for language development in the classroom!