Targeting Descriptive Language In Speech Therapy for Classroom Carryover
Early on in my career as an SLP, I was really good with flashcards. I had hundreds flashcards for nouns, verbs and adjectives galore! My students could label those flashcards like a boss. At 90% or better, I was certain my students were gaining vocabulary skills quickly and effectively. However, the classroom teachers of those same students often reported "poor vocabulary" skills. I heard, "He can't write", or "She can't explain it". How could that BE? I mean, those flashcards, right?
What I've learned is that targeting nouns, verbs, and adjectives in isolation provides a terrific foundation for knowledge. What it doesn't lend itself to, however, is generalization. Learning this lesson led me to develop an easy, visual strategy to teach nouns, verbs and adjectives together to create longer, more descriptive sentences for writing and defining.
SLPs LOVE visual organizers, don't we? We love them because we see how effective they can be in our therapy rooms. Providing visual aids offer a dual modality for acquiring and using language. In the 2017 elementary classroom, our students are required to use MORE language, at earlier ages, to inform, persuade and describe. We want them to use these skills to write paragraphs and explain their answers in just about every subject. Helping our language impaired students by building their descriptive language leads them to produce better sentences for such tasks. And we START, by using vocabulary they already KNOW.
Take a look at the example provided below. We started with a simple noun. With the help of our visual organizer and some leading questions, my student was able to help me generate additional adjectives besides "orange".
Together, we worked to create a more descriptive sentence, using the adjectives generated on the organizer. My older students (grades 5-7), worked in targeted conjunctions in addition to the adjectives (i.e.; "The orange pumpkin is round and heavy SINCE it rained a lot in the garden this summer.").
After my students become really good at this skill independently, a few things spontaneously occur:
1) Vocabulary improves, as we have explored and discussed NEW adjectives that had been unfamiliar to them.
2) Most students begin to incorporate these new adjectives into their classroom writing assignments, especially when asked to create a descriptive or persuasive piece.
3) Some students begin to independently use the "web" strategy (as shown above) to lay out their ideas for writing, and create vocabulary to incorporate in their sentences.
4) Classroom teachers often report improved writing and defining skills, noting longer sentences, and use of more age appropriate vocabulary.
Buh bye, FLASHCARDS! This method has worked for me time and time again. Especially when I began to incorporate seasonal vocabulary in addition to the visual organizer. Students appeared more interested in the therapy once I began to use seasonal vocabulary....because pumpkins and reindeers are apparently WAY more fun to describe than a plate.
If you'd like to build more descriptive vocabulary with your own students, check out my Seasonal Descriptive Fun Bundle. It's NO PRINT, and NO PREP, and will allow you to target this skill throughout an entire school year. Simply display on your iPad or laptop. You can use dry erase markers on the glass screen, or use a pdf annotator to type descriptive terms in the organizer. Also perfect for teletherapy platforms.
If your students are in the beginning stages of identifying and learning adjectives, check out my Building Adjectives lesson. Students use multiple choice answers to identify appropriate adjectives for common nouns.
I'm certain that if you use this strategy with your language students, you can stop carrying around that giant box of photo flashcards! And, your classroom teachers will soon begin to thank YOU for creating a wealth of vocabulary in their students. They MIGHT even ask how you do you DID it. (Shhhhhh...it's magic:-).