WH questions in speech therapy come up a lot! They’re really functional and seem to be easily noticed as a weakness by teachers and parents.
I wanted to share a few thoughts when targeting WH questions as well as a few of my favorite resources for targeting WH questions at a variety of language levels.
My biggest tip and strategy when targeting WH questions is to make it direct and explicit. Include visuals. Define each WH question for your student. For example, your students need to hear that “where means a place” over and over and over.
Where’s the real problem?
Another important thing to remember when you’re working with a child who has trouble answering WH questions is that in many cases, it’s less about the WH question words (who, what, where, etc..) and more about the rest of the question.
For example, factors like what vocabulary words are used and whether the question requires an inference to answer cause some WH questions to be much more difficult than others. Even a student’s background knowledge can impact their ability to answer some WH questions and not others!
If you’re writing a WH question goal, make sure the student is really struggling with WH questions (not vocab, inferencing, the syntax of the question, etc..). Otherwise a direct goal in that area might be more appropriate.
With all of that said, I’ve seen huge gains on targeting WH questions directly with students at a really wide variety of levels – preschool through middle school.
Answering WH questions is a functional academic and life skill for people of all ages!
Are all WHs alike?
We lump the WH questions together because they all start with the same letters and do a good job of giving us a complete picture.
But, is that the full picture? Are all WH questions the same?
Research shows that WH questions are not all the same level. “What” generally is the most concrete question of them all. That means that “what” questions are the easiest to answer. The hierarchy of WH questions from easiest to hardest (or most concrete to most abstract) is as follows:
- When and Why
Most of us know that a “why” question is going to involve deeper thinking, but it’s important to not treat all WH questions equally.
WH Question Goals
Here are some of my favorite goals to work on WH questions, from my speech therapy goal bank:
- Given 2-3 picture answer choices, NAME will answer simple WH questions by pointing to the correct picture in 3/5 opportunities given minimal cues.
- Given a familiar picture from her life, NAME will answer 2-3 WH questions about a personal experience in 70% of opportunities.
- NAME will answer simple WH questions about a short text with 75% accuracy given a familiar visual and 1 verbal cue.
You could add objectives for these goals to measure types of WH questions. Or, some good baseline detective work may let you know that the student is fine with “what” questions, but needs to work on “who” and “where.”
Or, if you realize that the hangup seems to be more related to vocabulary within the questions, then you might want to check out my goal bank for some suggestions on goals for that.
Remember, this is just a place to get started, but only your students can clue you in to what they really need!
WH Question Therapy Ideas
Here’s 5 activities I use all the time to target WH questions in my speech therapy sessions.
I created my WH Questions with Real Pictures – Targeting Who, What, Where, When, and Why packet to start answering simple WH questions with real pictures!
These super simple questions + two real picture answer choices are a great activity for directly teaching WH questions! I also love it for informal assessment or progress monitoring. There is also a Boom cards version included if you prefer to go no-prep and no-print!
Once my students grow in their ability to answer these types of simple questions, I try to move onto other more difficult (and functional) activities like the other ones in this blog post.
When I feel like students have established the basics of WH questions, I might move onto my WH Questions Interactive Book for Who, Where, and What Questions Speech Therapy resource.
This is one of my favorite formats for working on WH questions in speech therapy! I love that I can easily level it up or down by providing more or less icon answer choices.
In case you’re more of a digital SLP, I also included a Boom cards version in this resource! It’s a great way to save the time printing, laminating, and prepping too!
Due to popular request, I created an expansion pack as well! If your kids love these types of activities, make sure to look into my WH Questions – Interactive Book Version 2 as well!
Or, if you’re a big fan of this format, I did create the Simple Sentence Formulation Using WH Questions Boom Cards for Speech Therapy. It’s similar to the one before it, but is newer and includes different picture scenes as well as color-coding! It’s also completely digital and interactive!
For a classroom tie in with a community helpers unit, I love to use these Who and Where Questions – Around the Community Boom Cards for Speech Therapy. The best part is that you are getting just who and where questions, so for those kids who are at that level of the concrete-abstract spectrum, it’s perfect!
And one more: my What and Where Questions: Animals and Habitats Boom Cards for Speech Therapy can tie in with any animal unit in class!
3 – Leveled Sentence Formulation with Real Pictures
For older kids who don’t want the cutesy clipart, I love to use my Sentence Formulation and Building DIGITAL Sliders – Leveled with Real Pictures.
The great thing about this product is that it includes 3 levels (pictures, words, and fill in the blank!).You can start at the beginning and work your way up, or just start at your student’s current level.
It’s also so open-ended, it works for answering “what” questions or for using the present-progressive -ing or even for forming SVO sentences.
As important as answering WH questions is, being able to formulate and ask them is just as, if not *more*, important!
The Question Formulation Maps – Targets Grammar, Language, and Social Skills targets formulating questions to get more information.
It goes through each WH question, one at a time, to scaffold success with your students!
Once my students are older or at a higher language level, my favorite way to target WH questions in speech therapy is from texts!
To differentiate this activity for different levels, I might target narratives vs non-fiction texts (narratives are usually easier for most students!) or provide/remove answer choices for the questions.
I also love providing classroom teachers with the same visuals in case they’re helpful when completing classroom work as well.
All of that is included in my WH Questions from Short Texts resource which includes visuals, leveled options, and 60 unique texts (both narrative and non-fiction). You can learn more or see example pages by clicking here.
If you’re looking for even more ideas, I have quite a few resources that directly target WH questions in speech therapy in my TpT store. I also have WH question resources included in my themed units!