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Some children struggle to understand spoken language at the level expected for their age. These children often have difficulty following instructions and learning new words and ideas.

A child needs to be able to understand words before they are able to say them – it is always really important to work on understanding first.

Some children find it difficult to understand what is being said to them. Try these top tips to help children to understand.

  1. Reduce the length of instructions

Keep instructions short, ‘chunking’ information into shorter, more manageable amounts:

e.g. “go and get your jumper and shoes and then wait by the door” could be broken down into “go and get your jumper”, “now get your shoes”, and then “now wait by the door”.

  1. Slow down the speed of speech

Slow down your speech and allow lots of time for the child to think about and act on what has been said.

  1. Use repetition

Repeat information and instructions, but do not change the language when repeating what has already been said.

  1. Be careful with vocabulary

Be aware of the words you are using – using unfamiliar or complex vocabulary will make it more difficult for the child to understand what is being said.

  1. Get attention first

Ensure you have the child’s attention before giving an instruction by saying their name and gaining eye contact.

  1. Use visual support

Use pictures, symbols or written words to reinforce verbal language. For example, for younger children, use gesture, or a symbol or picture of a coat alongside the instruction ‘go and get your coat’, or for older children, write down the steps they need to follow to complete their work task, or use picture sequences.

Spoken language goes away as soon as the instruction is finished. Visuals remain for children to refer back to if needed.

 For all activities supporting understanding, always gain the child’s full attention before giving an instruction. Complete activities little and often, using objects that are interesting and motivating for your child. Make the activities fun, and try to give your child a turn to give the instructions.

A key word, or information-carrying word, is a word that carries meaning. Many words in a sentence are not essential for getting the message across.

Sometimes a child does not need to understand any of the words because they can see what is needed from the context. For example:

  • When the child has something, and an adult uses gestures to signal ‘come here’ or points to the item and says ‘Give me that’
  • Only dolly available on the table and adult says ‘Give me dolly’ or ‘Show me dolly’
  • A teacher holds up a coat and says “put your coat on”
  • A parent hands a child an empty crisp packet and says “put it in the bin” – this is where they always go.

One key word

Even though there are a lot more words in the sentence, a child only needs to understand one (underlined) word to follow the instruction.

  • “Pass me the scissors” when there is a choice of scissors, pencils and paper
  • “Where’s the book?” when there is a choice of book, key and monkey
  • “Wash dolly?” when there is a choice of washing dolly or teddy
  • “Where’s your nose?” when there is a choice of other body parts

If there is only a dolly and a brush, then saying ‘Brush dolly’s hair’ contains no key words at all because there are no alternative choices and ‘brush’ is the natural thing to do.

Two key words

This is where there are two words in a sentence that have to be understood for the child to follow the instruction accurately.

  • ‘Put teddy on the chair’ when there is a choice of teddy or dolly and chair or table (see pictures below)
  • ‘Wash teddy’s ears’ when there is a choice of teddy or dolly and a range of body parts (ear, feet, face, nose etc)

Three key words and above would add in more detail, such as describing words and prepositions.

Understanding builds up step by step, so if your child can comfortably understand one key word at a time, we would try to develop their understanding to two key words, and so on. It is also important to reinforce understanding by adding more words at the level that your child can already understand.

The child is currently developing their understanding of single words. They still rely heavily on non-verbal cues from the speaker e.g. pointing. When modelling language it is important to:

  • Use short, simple sentences containing only 1-2 words (e.g. ball, catch ball, sit down etc).
  • Emphasise the key word and repeat it as often as possible – a child needs to hear words lots of times to understand their meaning.
  • Leave pauses to give them a chance to respond. It is important to observe, wait and then listen rather than talking continuously.
  • Use non-verbal cues (such as pointing, reaching and looking) to help the child understand in everyday situations.
  • Respond to the child’s non-verbal communication (e.g. reaching). For example, if they reach for a toy say "want train" and if they push it away say "finished…. no more train". Use simple words that you feel that they would use if they could.
  • Engage in lots of shared play to support the child’s understanding daily.
  • Incorporate key early words such as hello/bye, go, more, gone, stop, familiar names (e.g. mummy, daddy), common objects (e.g. car, ball, bubbles).
  • Incorporate symbolic sounds into play, e.g. brum brum, animal noises, eating noises.

Play ideas to develop the use of single words:

Common Objects

Car

Some opportunities to encourage the use of the word " car" are:

  • A toy garage (you could make your own from a cardboard box)
  • Soft cars in different colours sizes and shapes
  • Make a car from Lego bricks
  • Cut out pictures of cars from magazines
  • Roll cars down a slope and encourage the child to say "car" before rolling it down.

Ball

  • Roll a ball to each other
  • Take it in turns to knock down skittles with a ball
  • Make balls from paper or Playdough

Dolls / teddies / other soft toys

  • Give teddy a drink or something to eat
  • Wash teddy
  • Make the teddy do different actions, like jumping or sitting
  • Put teddy to bed

Social Words

Hello/Bye Bye

  • Toy telephone - talk into the receiver and say ‘Hello’ ’Bye Bye’
  • Puppets/Teddy - Make the puppet or teddy wave Hello and Bye Bye
  • Peek-a-boo games - hiding and reappearing.
  • Mirror play - look into the mirror with the child and say ‘Hello’ ’Bye Bye’
  • Jack in the Box - say ‘Hello’ as Jack-in-the-Box comes up and ‘Bye Bye’ as he goes down.

More

  • Playdough, food and drink - give the child a little bit at a time to encourage the child to ask for more.
  • Bubbles - encourage the child to say "more" before blowing bubbles again.
  • Blocks - give the child one block to build a tower and wait for an attempt at "more" before giving them the next one.
  • Balloon - blow them up a bit at a time and allow the child to ask for more before continuing.

Action Words

Gone

Emphasise and encourage the word "Gone" whenever the toys disappear in the following activities:

  • Posting toys into a box with a hole in the top.
  • Hiding games - cover objects with a scarf or under a box.
  • Hide finger puppets or toys behind your back.

Up

Encourage the use of "up" in everyday situations e.g. going up the stairs as well as in these activities:

  • Toy ladder and a man - make the man move up the ladder every time the child says "up"
  • Lifting the child up - wait for the child to attempt to say "up" before you lift them up.
  • Copying games - Up and Down; standing up/sitting down, arms up/down etc.

Stop

Make use of opportunities to use this word when the movement or music of the following toys / games stops:

  • CD player
  • Cars
  • Wind up toy
  • Chasing games

Here is a video made by NHS Elect for the Wiltshire Speech & Language Therapy Department, at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust about supporting the development of action words: Let's get moving: action words

Symbolic Words

Bang

  • Hammer and pegs or hammer and nails sets
  • Banging 2 blocks together
  • Banging a toy drum

Beep Beep/Brrmm 

  • Whenever playing with cars use the words beep, beep or brrmm
  • Vary your play activities - push a car into a box, over a bridge

Animal Noises

  • Play with animal figures and make the animal sounds
  • Look at animals in books and make the sounds

Familiar Names

  • Turn Taking Games - throw the ball to Mummy, Daddy and the child. Say the names as you throw.
  • Photographs - stick some pictures of the child's family on the fridge or in their room. Say the names together.
  • Hiding Games - Play Hide and Seek and use family names e.g. Where's mummy? Find Mummy etc.
  • If you are working in a setting e.g. nursery, include the child’s key worker and familiar peers within activities.

This short video made by NHS Elect for the Wiltshire Speech & Language Therapy Department, at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides further information and examples of how to support your child at this language level: Helping your child understand language: one information carrying word

The following advice and activities are aimed at helping the child progress from understanding one information carrying word to understanding two information carrying words. Children often try to copy language they hear. They may start to imitate and use one word or put two words together in a simple phrase.

General Advice

  • Gain the child’s full attention before giving an instruction.
  • Use words the child already knows when moving from one word level to two word level activities.
  • Activities should be completed little and often.
  • Start by using real objects or people, then move onto using pictures or photos.
  • Gather together objects that will be useful for working on prepositionsg. small box, bag, toy animals, action figures, pretend food, toy furniture.
  • Use objects that are motivating for the child e.g. their favourite toys/interests
  • Use choices to help the child use prepositions initially e.g. Do you want Emma’s coat or John’s jumper?” This provides a good model for the child to copy.
  • Make the activities fun and use them during the daily
  • The child should be able to complete all activities at this level before they are ready to progress to the next level.
  • Remember to give the child a turn to give instructions to practice their expressive skills.

Working at 2KWL means there are two words in a sentence that have to be understood for the child to follow the instruction accurately.

To test that they have understood properly, there must be a choice for each key word, for example teddy or dolly, chair or table.

  • ‘Put teddy on the chair’ when there is a choice of teddy or dolly and chair or table
  • ‘Wash teddy’s ears’ when there is a choice of teddy or dolly, and different body parts
  • Brush/wash teddy’ when there is a choice of different actions and different toys
  • ‘Give the apple to teddy’ when there is a choice of different objects and different toys

There are lots of different ways that two words can go together. Try activities from each of the sections to support learning about two key words.

Possession

Using a dolly, a teddy and a sponge, ask the child to wash different parts of the toys:

e.g. ‘Wash teddy’s feet’, ‘Wash dolly’s face’

 

Collect a few items of clothes from member of the household, e.g. Dad’s sock, Brother’s jumper, Mum’s shoe, Auntie’s coat. Put these items in a pile. Take turn at finding a specified item of clothing and returning it to the owner:

e.g. “Find Mummy’s shoe”, “Find Iqra’s jumper

 

Using a range of toy vehicles, ask the child to point to different parts of these.

e.g. ‘Show me the train’s wheels’, ‘Where are the buswindows’?

 

Using two soft toys, e.g. bear/cat/dog and some plain white stickers. Tell the child that the toys have been playing outside and hurt themselves and they need plasters putting on the bits they have hurt.

e.g. “On bear’s hand”, “On cat’s leg”, “On cat’s face

 

Person and Action

 

Using a dolly, a teddy and objects such as a cup, bed, chair, toy food, ball etc.

e.g. Make dolly drink’, ‘Make teddy kick’ ‘Make dolly sleep’

 

Using pictures of people doing different actions. Put out four pictures and take it in turns to find a particular picture.

e.g. “Find Mummy eating”, “Find baby crying
 

Absence / Disappearance

 

You need objects with a very obvious part missing e.g. one car with no wheels, one normal car.

e.g. ‘Which one has no wheels?’, ‘Which one has no mouth?’
 

Action to a Place

 

Using a teddy and a chair, table, bed.

e.g. ‘Make teddy dance on the chair’, ‘Make teddy sit on the bed’, ‘Make teddy stand on the table’

 

Playing activity games

e.g. ‘Jump in the hoop’, ‘Crawl to the chair’, ‘Walk to the table

 

Make up stories using small world toys such as a toy farm with sheep

e.g. ‘Make sheep walk to the tractor’, ‘Make sheep jump to the pond’
 

Object and Person

 

Using a teddy and a dolly and a selection of foods, give instructions such as;

e.g. ‘Give the apple to teddy’, ‘Give the banana to dolly

 

You will need two boxes with different animal faces drawn / stuck on to them. Cut out the mouths so that the child can post pictures through. You will need pictures of food. Give instructions to the child to feed the animals:

e.g. ‘Give the milk to cat’, ‘Give the apple to the dog

 

Ask the child to help give things out in class and in small group activities.

e.g. ‘Give Emma a pencil’, ‘Give James a book’.
 

Object and Place

 

You will need a variety of everyday objects (e.g. ball, spoon and key) and a range of containers e.g. box, bucket and pan.

e.g. ‘Put the ball in the box’, ‘Put the spoon in the bag

 

Put a table and chair in front of the child and place a teddy and dolly near them.

e.g. ‘Put the teddy on the chair’, ‘Put dolly on the table

 

Ask the child to help you to tidy up.

e.g. ’Put the pencil on the desk’, ‘Put the book on the table
 

Action on Object

 

You need a ball, plastic bottle, beanbag, etc.

e.g. ‘Throw the ball’, ‘Kick the bottle’, ‘Throw the beanbag

 

You need a sponge, a tea towel and a cup, plate, knife, fork.

e.g. ‘Wash the cup’, ‘Dry the knife’, ‘Wash the knife

 

You need a teddy, a dolly and two objects that you can perform actions with, e.g. a brush and a sponge.

e.g.     ‘Brush teddy’, ‘Wash dolly’, ‘Wash teddy

Understanding builds up step by step, so if your child can comfortably understand one key word at a time, we would try to develop their understanding to two key words, and so on. It is also important to reinforce understanding by adding more words at the level that your child can already understand.

This short video made by NHS Elect for the Wiltshire Speech & Language Therapy Department, at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides further information and examples of how to support your child at this language level: Helping your child understand language: two information carrying words

The following advice and activities are aimed at helping the child progress from understanding two information carrying word to understanding three information carrying words. Children often try to copy language they hear. They may start to imitate and use a bigger range of two words phrases and may start to use three or more words in a simple phrase.

General Advice

  • Gain the child’s full attention before giving an instruction.
  • Use words the child already knows to add the new language
  • Activities should be completed little and often.
  • Start by using real objects or people, then move onto using pictures or photos.
  • Gather together objects that will be useful for working on prepositionsg. small box, bag, toy animals, action figures, pretend food, toy furniture.
  • Use objects that are motivating for the child e.g. their favourite toys/interests
  • Use choices to help the child use prepositions initially e.g. Do you want Emma’s coat or John’s jumper?” This provides a good model for the child to copy.
  • Make the activities fun and use them during the daily
  • The child should be able to complete all activities at this level before they are ready to progress to the next level.
  • Remember to give the child a turn to give instructions.

At a three key word level you can start to introduce concepts such as ‘under’ and ‘big/little’.

Examples:

  • ‘Put big cat in the car’ (objects: big cat, small cat, big dog, small dog, car, boat)
  • ‘Make teddy stand on the table’ (objects: teddy, dolly, chair, table)
  • Wash/brush teddy’s foot’ (objects: teddy, dolly, brush, sponge)
  • ‘Put the spoon in teddy’s cup/box’ (objects: teddy, dolly, spoon, brick, two cups, two boxes)
  • ‘Put teddy on/under the table’ (objects: teddy, dolly, chair, table)
  • ‘Put dolly in/on/under the bag’ (objects: teddy, dolly, bag, box)
  • ‘Put the spoon in the red cup’ (objects: spoon, brick, red cup, yellow cup)
  • ‘Put dolly in the little box’ (objects: teddy, dolly, little box, big box)

There are lots of different ways that three words can go together. Try activities from each of the sections to support learning about three key words – remember to make sure there is a choice for every key word.

Person and Action and Place

e.g. ‘Make teddy stand on the chair’, ‘Make dolly sleep on the table’, ‘Make teddy sleep on the table’

Action on Object (inc. possession)

e.g. ‘Wash teddy’s foot’, ‘Brush dolly’s tummy’, ‘Brush teddy’s sock’

e.g. ‘Wash teddy’s sock’, ‘Iron dolly’s jumper’,‘Iron teddy’s jumper’

Person and Action and Object

e.g. ‘Make dolly throw the ball’, ‘Make teddy kick the bottle’, ‘Make dolly kick the bottle’

Object and Possession and Place

e.g. ‘Put the spoon in teddy’s cup’, ‘Put the brick in dolly’s box’

e.g. ‘Put the car in dolly’s box’, ‘Put the ball in teddy’s bag’

Action and Object and Person

e.g. ‘Kick the ball to teddy’, ‘Throw the beanbag to monkey’

e.g. ‘Push the car to ……………. (insert name), ‘Give the boat to ………….. (insert name)

Person and Action and Place

e.g. ‘Make dolly jump to the table’, ‘Make teddy walk to the chair’

Object and Preposition and Place

e.g. ‘Put the brick in the cup’, ‘Put dolly on the chair’

e.g. ‘Put the man under the box’, ‘Put the book in the box’

Preposition and Possession and Place

e.g.      ‘Put the spoon in teddy’s cup’, ‘Put the spoon under duck’s chair

e.g.      ‘Put teddy under Mummy’s bag’, ‘Put teddy on Daddy’s chair

Object and Adjective and Place

e.g. ‘Put the spoon in the red cup’, ‘Put dolly in the little box’

Adjective and Object and Person

e.g. ‘Give the little cup to teddy’, ‘Give the big ball to monkey’

e.g. ‘Give the little cup to teddy’, ‘Give the big ball to monkey’

Action and Adjective and Place

e.g. ‘Make dolly stand in the red hoop’, ‘Make dolly sit in the blue box’
e.g. ‘Make teddy jump on the big table’, ‘Make teddy sleep on the little chair’

Action and Adjective and Object

e.g. ‘Brush the little teddy’, ‘Wash the big dolly’
e.g. ‘Wash the blue boat’, ‘Push the red car’

Action and Adjective and Place

e.g. ‘Jump to the red house’, ‘Walk to the red car’
e.g. ‘Walk to the little boat’, ‘Run to the big boat’

 

This short video made by NHS Elect for the Wiltshire Speech & Language Therapy Department, at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides further information and examples of how to support your child at this language level: Helping your child understand language: three information carrying words

The following advice and activities are aimed at helping the child progress from understanding three information carrying word to understanding four information carrying words. Children often try to copy language they hear. They may start to imitate and use short phrases that include some elements of grammar.

General Advice

  • Gain the child’s full attention before giving an instruction.
  • Use words the child already knows to add the new language.
  • Activities should be completed little and often.
  • Start by using real objects or people, then move onto using pictures or photos.
  • Gather together objects that will be useful for working on prepositionsg. small box, bag, toy animals, action figures, pretend food, toy furniture.
  • Use objects that are motivating for the child e.g. their favourite toys/interests
  • Use choices to help the child use prepositions initially e.g. Do you want Emma’s coat or John’s jumper?” This provides a good model for the child to copy.
  • Make the activities fun and use them during the daily
  • The child should be able to complete all activities at this level before they are ready to progress to the next level.
  • Remember to give the child a turn to give instructions.

At a four key word level you can introduce colours and more complex position words such as ‘behind’ and ‘next to’.

  • ‘Give Alice the big red brick’ with a choice of Alice or Matthew, and red/blue/yellow bricks and cars which are big and small
  • ‘Put Sponge Bob in the box and Barbie in the house’, where there is a choice of Sponge Bob/Barbie/cow and box/house/basket
  • ‘Put the car behind the big tree’ with a choice of car/lorry, big/small tree, big/small house and different options for position (e.g. behind/next to/on).

When teaching prepositions, start with real objects as this is much easier to understand than pictures. Use the words in a choice e.g. “Is the ball on the table or under the table?”. This provides a good model for the child to copy.

Activities for in, on and under

Target- ‘in’

You need a box, a cup, a bag and a bag of small objects or toys. Let the child choose an object from the bag and ask them to put it in one of the containers on the table

E.g. “put the monkey in the bag”

“Put the ball in the cup”

Model and emphasise the new word ‘in’ as much as possible.

Use hand over hand support to guide them to put the object ‘in’ if needed.

Reverse roles so that the child has an opportunity to give the instructions.

Target - ‘under’

Gather objects that you can hide things or the child under, e.g. blanket, real/toy furniture (bed, table or chair) cup, plate, toys. Model putting the toys under the various places and describe where they are. Then take turns to hide a toy under something to encourage the child to start using “under”

E.g. ‘where is the car?’

‘where is mummy/teacher?’

Target ‘on’ and ‘under’

Gather together some toy animals and use a real or toy bed. Let the child choose an animal and ask them to put it on or under the bed:

E.g. ‘Put the cat under the bed’

‘Put the cow on the bed’

‘Put the sheep under the bed’

Target ‘on’ and ‘under’

You need pictures of fish with paperclips attached, a chair, a table and a fishing rod made from a magnet suspended from the end of a pole. Place the fish pictures randomly on and under the table and chair. Take it in turns to catch a fish:

E.g. ‘Fish on chair’

‘Fish under table’

To target ‘in’, ‘on’ and ‘under’

During outdoor play, in the garden, at the park, in P.E give the child instructions using “in/on/under”.

E.g. ‘Stand on the bench

‘Stand under the climbing frame

Activities for behind / in front

Outdoor games during outdoor play, in the garden, at the park, in P.E give the child instructions using “behind/in front” e.g. “stand behind the climbing frame”, “sit in front of the swing”

Play during play activities model the use of “behind/in front e.g. “the man is in front of the car”. Give the child instructions e.g. “put the horse behind the tractor”

Hiding games take turns to hide behind furniture. Talk about where you are hiding e.g. “you’re hiding behind the chair”

Activities for above / below

Daily routines describe/point out things around you e.g. “the timetable is below the whiteboard”

Play practical games use shelves in the classroom and play games where the child follows instructions e.g. “put the pencil on the shelf below the rulers”

Drawing draw a line across the centre of a piece of paper. Ask the child to put objects above/below the line or draw pictures above/below the line.

Animals talk about animals/insects that live above below the ground e.g. “does a dog/worm live above or below the ground?” Draw pictures of animals that live above/below the ground.

Plants talk about vegetables that grow above/below the ground e.g. potatoes/carrots vs. broccoli/beans and carry out similar activities to the animals activity.

Daily routine describe/point out things that you see around you e.g. “the dog is in front of the tree” “Jack is standing behind you in the line”

When teaching big and little, try to make sure that the difference in size between objects is really obvious to begin with, and use closer items as the understanding develops. Use the words big and little as a choice e.g. “Did I roll the ball to big teddy or little teddy?” This provides a good model for the child to copy.

Activities to try

  • Sorting: collect pairs of big and little objects including a big and little box. Support the child to sort the objects into the correct sized box.
  • Finding big/little toys once the objects are sorted ask them to pass the objects back you e.g. ‘Pass me the big cup’, ‘Pass me the big teddy’. When you first start working on this concept, ask for all the big objects first and then all the little objects. Once the child can do this easily, make it more difficult by asking for the objects in a random order.
  • Play model the use of big and little during everyday situations and when playing e.g. “that was a big jump” “are you going on the big slide” “you’re big and you’re baby sister is little”. Take turns to do big and little actions e.g. big/little stretch, big/little jump
  • Drawing take turns to draw big/little lines, circles, people etc
  • Playing ball You need a big teddy, a little teddy and a soft ball. Put the teddies in front of the child and ask them to ‘Roll the ball to the big teddy’ or ‘Roll the ball to the little teddy’
  • Pushing cars You need a big car, a little car and a teddy or action figure eg Buzz Lightyear. Ask the child to ‘Push the big car to teddy’ or ‘Push the little car to teddy’. Take turns and let the child tell you which one to push
  • Playdough Use Playdough and cutters of different sizes. Cut out a shape that is big or little and ask the child to cut out a shape that is the same size. Talk about the shapes you’ve made e.g. big star, little square
  • Lotto You need a set of cards of big and little pictures. Use the pictures to make Lotto boards and corresponding matching picture cards. Play Lotto in the usual way by taking it in turns to choose a picture and seeing whether or not it matches one of the pictures on your board. Comment on what is happening.

Adjectives are describing words. The main role of adjectives is to give more information about the noun in the sentence. This is usually the subject or object of the sentence.

Using adjectives is a good way for children to extend their sentences and give more information to the listener. Many adjectives are concept words which children will need to be able to understand before they are able to use them accurately in their expressive language.

Appearance 

Time 

Size 

Feelings 

Quantity

Beautiful     Old Big Calm Empty
Clean     Late Great Happy Full
Elegant Slow Tiny Scary Few
Sparkling Early Huge Brave Abundant
Dirty Long Scrawny Helpless Many
Short Ancient Slim Grumpy Sparse
Smart Brief Tall Jealous Heavy

Activity ideas to develop understanding and use of adjectives:

  • Use visuals (pictures/ gestures) to help demonstrate the meaning of the adjective.
  • For new words use a word web to discuss the meaning of the word and help the child to retain the word for future use (see toolkit sheet on developing vocabulary and word finding skills).
  • Give written sentences and ask the child to identify the adjective in the sentence.
  • Also encourage them to identify the noun that the adjective is describing (this will ensure that they have fully understood the whole sentence).
  • Give a word bank of adjectives for children to choose from when wanting to use adjectives. This can be done around specific curriculum topics in school.
  • Give example sentences for adjectives to be added in a given gap- this may need to be from a choice of adjectives to begin with but as the child develops their knowledge of adjectives they may be able to think of their own adjective ideas.
  • e.g. the custard was very __________________.
  • Ask the child to identify the parts of the sentence they may want to extend by adding adjectives. e.g. The boy walked to school. They can then be encouraged to think of suitable adjectives to describe the noun(s). They might need help at this point to work out where in the sentence the adjective should be added.

Same and different is a very important concept for many different areas of life.

Activity ideas to teach same and different

Threading beads

  • Get 2 pieces of string.
  • Make two piles of beads – one with identical beads and one with different beads.
  • Get the child to thread each pile of beads on the two pieces of string so they have one with beads that are the same and one with different beads.
  • When they have finished, hold up each one and say ‘These beads are all the same’, ‘These beads are all ‘different’ etc

Next……

‘Same’

  • Pick a bead.
  • Ask the child to find one that is the same.
  • Keep doing this with various beads until they can consistently match beads.

Different’

  • Do the same as above but get the child to find a different bead to the one you choose.

Pairs Games

  • Play with about 4 or 5 sets of picture pairs.
  • Throughout the game, comment on whether the pairs of pictures turned over are the same or different.
  • At the end of the game, select a picture and ask the child to find one that is the same or different to see if he has grasped the concepts. Repeat about 10 times.

Animal Feely Bag

  • Find some identical pairs of toy animals.
  • Put one set in a feely bag and stand the other set on the table.
  • Select one of the animals on the table.
  • Say, ‘Shall we find an animal that’s the same’
  • Get the child to put their hand in the feely bag and pull animals out one at a time.
  • At first, they are more likely to pull out a different animal, so comment that the animal is different (until they find the matching one).
  • When all the matching pairs have been found, pick up a random animal and ask them if they can find another animal which is the same or different.

Dominoes

  • Comment on pairs of pictures - whether they are the ‘same’ or ‘different’.
  • Later, point to a picture and then ask if they can find another one which

Fishing

  • Put paper clips on pairs of pictures and put them all in a pretend pond.
  • First get the child to catch 2 pictures at a time (any they choose).
  • Comment on whether the pairs they catch are the same or different.
  • Get them to catch 1 picture.
  • Ask them to catch a picture which is either the same or a picture which is different.

All the games can be reversed to encourage the child to use the words same / different.

An adverb is a word that describes verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, and phrases. They are used to describe how, where, when, how often and why something happens.  Adverbs typically express manner, place, time, frequency, degree, purpose etc. Here are some examples:

Verb - The cat climbed quickly up the tree. (quickly describes how the cat climbed)

Adverb - Mike worked very carefully on his paper. (very shows how carefully he worked)

Adjective - She is nearly ready to go. (nearly tells to what extent she is ready)

Examples of different adverbs:

She sang loudly (loudly modifies the verb sang, indicating the manner of singing).

We left it here (here modifies the verb phrase left it, indicating place).

I worked yesterday (yesterday modifies the verb worked, indicating time).

You often make mistakes (often modifies the verb phrase make mistakes, indicating frequency).

He did it accidentally (accidentally modifies the verb phrase did it, indicating purpose).

Examples of different ways adverbs modify language:

Adverbs can also modify noun phrases, prepositional phrases, or whole clauses or sentences, e.g.

I bought only the fruit (only modifies the noun phrase the fruit).

She drove us almost to the station (almost modifies the prepositional phrase to the station).

Certainly we need to act (certainly modifies the sentence as a whole).

Activities to support development of adverbs

For new words use a word web to discuss the meaning of the word and help the child to retain the word for future use (see toolkit section on developing vocabulary and word finding skills).

Give a word bank of adverbs for children to choose from when wanting to use adverbs. This can be done around specific curriculum topics in school.  

Activities to develop the understanding of adverbs

  • Give written sentences and ask the child to identify the adverb in the sentence.
  • Practice following instructions using adverbs. If the child is unable to follow the instruction, model this to them highlighting the adverb in the sentence.

                     e.g.     “sing your favourite song cheerfully

                               “bang the drum quietly

                               “say your name loudly

  • Simon says - play a game of “Simon Says” using instructions with adverbs e.g. “Simon says jump quickly”

Activities to develop the expression of adverbs

  • Give the child a sentence starter using adverbs and ask them to complete the sentence e.g. “Carefully, the queen
  • Give example sentences for adverbs to be added in a gap - this may need to be from a choice of adverbs to begin with but as the child develops their knowledge of adverbs they may be able to think of their own adjective ideas.
  • Give the child a sentence they may want to extend by adding adverbs. e.g. The boy walked to school. They can then be encouraged to think of suitable adverbs to extend the sentence. They might need help at this point to work out where in the sentence the adverb should be added.

Antonyms are words with opposite meanings e.g. fast and slow or light and dark

Synonyms are words with the same or nearly the same meaning as another e.g. happy and joyful, tired and sleepy

Practise in thinking about antonyms and synonyms can support students in understanding better the links between words. In turn, this helps with learning and retaining vocabulary.

Some students may need support in using a dictionary or thesaurus to support them when thinking of synonyms or antonyms for more complex vocabulary.

Activities to try:

  • Choose a word and try to think of an antonym or a synonym – start with cold, happy, fast or big
  • Play matching games with pairs of antonyms or synonyms.
  • Use picture support to match words that mean the same thing
  • See how many different synonyms you can generate for each of the words above.
  • Give pairs of words for the student to identify if they are antonyms or synonyms.

Some children find the concept of before/after difficult to understand. This concept can relate to both position and time. Below are some examples of how we use these words.

Before

preposition

Previous to in time; earlier than.

In front of.

In store for; awaiting: The young man's whole life lies before him.

Into or in the presence of: She asked that the visitor be brought before her.

Under the consideration or jurisdiction of: The case is now before the court.

In a position superior to: The prince is before his brother in the line of succession.

adverb

Earlier in time: They called me the day before.

In front; ahead.

conjunction

In advance of the time when: See me before you leave.

Rather than; sooner than: I will die before I will betray my country.

After

Preposition

Behind in place or order: Z comes after Y in the alphabet.

Next to or lower than in order or importance.

In quest or pursuit of: seek after fame; go after big money.

Concerning: asked after you.

Subsequent in time to; at a later time than: come after dinner.

Following continually: year after year. .

Past the hour of: five minutes after three.

adverb

Behind; in the rear.

At a later or subsequent time; afterward: three hours after; departed shortly after.

conjunction

Following or subsequent to the time that: I saw them after I arrived

 As you can see from the list the words before/after are used in many ways - not having a basic understanding of these words will impact on a pupil’s ability to generally understand what is going on at school and to access the curriculum. Many maths skills assume understanding of this concept. You should check that children with language difficulties do understand what before/after means in terms of position and time.

Suggested activities for position

Position of pictures

e.g. what picture comes before the plane?

       what picture comes after the dog?

Position of words in sentences

e.g. what word comes before his?

       what word comes after dog? 

Jack     took    his    dog    to    the    park

Position in familiar sequences (numbers, days of week, alphabet)

e.g. what number comes before 5?

       what number comes after 7? 

  • 2 3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

Try this initially with words written so pupils can see them. When the pupil can do this see if they can work out the answer without any written clues.

Position in class activities

E.g. who has a turn before you?

       who came after Andy in the race?

Suggested activities for time

Familiar sequences (picture stories)

e.g. what do you do after you wake up?

       what do you do before you get dressed? 

Use sequencing pictures to talk about before/after.

Before/after instructions

With objects

e.g. before you pick up the pencil give me the book

With pictures

e.g. after you point to the apple point to the house

Keep instructions short using everyday vocabulary

Familiar sequences (school day)

Look at pupils’ timetable – what lesson is before/after etc

 

Categories are a system for dividing and classifying items according to appearance or quality, they can be organised into types and further divided into sub-types. 

Words are stored in the brain in groups, a bit like a filing cabinet where words are stored together by meaning e.g. the words stored alongside the word ‘dog’ might be bone, bark, tail as these are commonly words associated with ‘dog’. Grouping these words together makes it easier for us to recall them. Most words fall neatly into categories that help this storage and retrieval, but some words are harder to categorise.

The use of categories also helps us to describe related words, allowing us to more effectively communicate our knowledge of these words. Categories that are typically learnt first are: food, drink, family members, animals and transport. 

Here are some activity ideas to support children’s understanding of categories. Developing understanding of categories can help children to further develop their understanding of key vocabulary as well as aiding in retention and retrieval of vocabulary.

Understanding categories

Identification of one member of a group

Choose a category to focus on and use objects or pictures. Show three pictures/objects to the child and ask, “Which one is a fruit?” You can extend this by picking out more than one fruit within a group, and so on.

Sorting

Provide a range of pictures/ objects of items in two different categories e.g. food/ clothes (3-4 items from each category). Ask your child to separate them out into two groups. This activity can be extended by grouping into sub-categories e.g. animals grouped into farm/ wild animals.

Odd one out

Concepts are developed by learning categorisation and sorting items according to their various properties, functions and attributes.  Show the child a group of pictures/objects and ask them to find the odd one out. , “Which of these is the odd one out? And why?” Answer, “The hippo is the odd one out because it is a wild animal, the pig and the horse are farm animals.”

Encouraging expressing in categories

Category labelling

Choose a category to focus on and use objects or pictures. Show three objects/pictures to the child and ask, “Which ones have wheels?”  You could also ask the child to name the category that the items all belong to. e.g. ‘what category/ group do all these items belong to? (transport/ food/ clothes etc.).

Labelling three members of a category

Ask the child, “Can you name three types of transport with wheels?” with or without pictures/objects.

Alternatively, other activities to elicit target words are detailed below:

Techniques to elicit target words, e.g. the word ‘cup’

  1. Provide an alternative - “Is it a plate or is it a cup?”
  2. Give the first sound of the word - “c…”
  3. Lead in with a sentence - “It’s time to have a ……of tea.”
  4. Use words associated with the target word - “It holds a drink, it has a handle.”

Odd one out

Show the child a group of pictures/objects and ask them to explain the odd one out e.g. “The hippo is the odd one out because it is a wild animal, the pig and the horse are farm animals.”

Vocabulary Building

These activities can also be extended to incorporate sub-types, e.g. show the child a range of pictures/objects and ask them to divide them into groups according to where they are found in the house, whether they are made of metal/wood, or associated with performing a particular task. For example, if talking about the bathroom at home, bathroom items and their functions can be identified. This can also be used to add vocabulary; e.g. “Which items are found in the bathroom, what are they used for, can you describe it, have you got one?”

A colour-coding approach such as Colourful Semantics can be useful when helping to develop understanding. Discuss this with your Speech and Language Therapist.

Here is a video from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to support you with understanding how to use colour coding as an approach to help children with sentence building: Colour Coding - South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

When developing understanding and use of sentences it is important for children to have a clear understanding of the question words and what they relate to, for example where relates to places and who relates to people.

Understanding question words such as what, where, who is a good first step. Children start by understanding concrete language – the here and now and progressing through to more abstract language.

The early stages involve understanding and using language for purposes of labelling or describing characters, objects, and actions, whereas the later more abstract levels involve using language for purposes of inferencing, analysing, hypothesising, or reflecting on and integrating ideas and information.

Asking questions out loud to yourself or directing questions to your child, if they are at the right level for their level of understanding, will help to develop their understanding.

Blank’s Levels of Questions

Blank Level One Questions: look at it' - talking about objects that are present.

Matching  Find one like this
Source of noise  What can you hear?
Naming objects  What is it?
Naming people  Who is that?
Naming actions  What are you doing?
Imitation  Say this
Remembering objects in book  What did you see?
Remembering seen/done  What did you see/do?

Blank Level Two  Questions: that require the child to focus on specific aspects and events and/or integrate separate components

Describe scene 


What's happened?
Remembering information  Who/what/where?
Finishing sentence  Finish this sentence… Jack and Jill went up the….
Identify and describe characteristics of objects  What size is it?
What shape?
What colour?
How many?
How does it taste/smell/feel?
Where is it?
Identifying object functions  Show me the one we use for …
Identifying differences  How are these different?
Naming object from category 
 
Tell me something that's a type of …

Blank Level Three Questions: that require the child to process information that is not perceptually present

Describe event might happen  What will happen next?
Give directions Tell me what to do
Assume role of another  What would/could/might he say?
Follow 2 stage directions  Do … and then …
Identify similarities  How are these the same?
Identify objects by exclusion  Which one is not …?
Identify alternative  Tell me something else we could use
Change pictures in sequence 

Make these into a story

Show me the first/middle/last 

Describe sequence of pictures logically  Tell me the story

Blank Level Four Questions: Encourages the child to think about the relationships between objects, people and events and give reasons as to why things happen.

Predicting  What will happen if …
Justifying prediction  Why?
Identifying cause of event  Why did it happen?
Provide solution to problem  What could you do?
Explaining obstacles to solution Why can't we …
Explaining observation  How can we tell?
Selecting means to goal  What could we use?
Explaining means to goal  Why should we use that?
Explaining construction of objects  Why is … made of …?

Here are some videos from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to support you to know about the different Blank levels of questioning: Blanks - South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Ideas to try at home for where questions:

  • Use a visual prompt to reinforce the ‘where’ question when you ask it. This could be a sign or a picture or symbol.
  • Hide something which makes a sound such as a toy or even your phone and hide it. Ask the question “where is it?” then encourage your child to see ‘where’ it is and talk about where you found it.
  • With play furniture and play house or farm figures and farm put the furniture or animals into a small bag. Get your child to pull an object out of the bag and ask them “where does it go?” For example the bed goes in the bedroom, cow in the field, bath in the bathroom. Use the where sign to help your child understand the question.
  • Looking at recent family photographs talk about where you were or where you went. ‘Can you remember where we were/went?’ … ‘We went to the zoo’
  • As you read familiar books with your child ask them where characters in the story are. For example, in Goldilocks and the Three bears - “where is Goldilocks?” Use the where Look at lift the flap books and ask where things are hiding.
  • Ask your child to follow little instructions for you. “Where are your shoes?” “where is Mum’s bag?” “where is your book?” They might enjoy being the ‘teacher’ and asking you some where questions too.
  • Hide and seek. Hide objects around the room. Ask your child to see if they can find where they are. ‘Where’s the ball?. Encourage them to tell you where they found the object.’

Ideas to try at home for who questions:

  • Use a visual prompt to reinforce the ‘who’ question when you ask it. This could be a sign or a picture or symbol.
  • Look at family photos, in favourite books or magazines and talk about ‘who’ you can see. E.g. ‘who can you see…(pause) .. I can see mummy and grandma’ extend this to ask ‘who is sleeping?’, ‘who is happy?’ ‘who has red shoes?’
  • Using family photos or pictures of favourite characters, blue-tack the photos on skittles or empty drinks bottles. Take turns to knock skittles over. Who have you knocked over?
  • Collect some photos of people or pictures of favourite characters and ask the child to close their eyes then take one away and ask ‘who is missing?’
  • ‘Who am I talking about’? Based on the idea of the game ‘guess who?’ gather some photos or family members and/or favourite characters. Give brief clues each time e.g. ‘they’ve got brown hair – who am I talking about?’ If they can’t guess encourage your child to ask for another clue.
  • When reading a story or saying a sentence encourage your child to listen out for the word that tells them ‘who’ the story is about.

Contact Us

For more information or if you have any questions please contact andrea.arnold@nhs.net

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