Categorizing Goal Ideas
- Given individual images and category visuals, NAME will sort the items by category (e.g., animals, foods, clothing, furniture) with 80% accuracy across 2 sessions.
- NAME will sort given words by category with 80% accuracy in 3 consecutive sessions.
- Given 3 pictures (or given a list of 3 items), NAME will identify the category they all belong to in 3 out of 4 opportunities across 3 sessions.
- Given a category, NAME will name 3 or more items within that category in 2 out of 3 opportunities across 2 sessions.
- When given a familiar vocabulary word, NAME will name 2 or more word associations in 4 out of 5 opportunities across 2 sessions.
Read more about my goals here.
Teaching Categories and Word Associations
Like I shared above, one important part of vocabulary therapy is improving the organization of the words your learner knows with the goal being to build solid semantic networks so words are better organized, more easily retrieved, and understood in greater depth.
One way to target this skill is by working on categories and word associations.
There are two main ways words can be related to one another:
1 – Taxonomically Related Words (categories) Taxonomically related words share a similar category and can be organized hierarchically (e.g., dog/wolf). You can sort words into taxonomic categories by their perceptual features (e.g., blue things, things that are round, animals with 4 legs).
2 – Thematically Related Words (word associations) Thematically related words are related to the same event as one another (e.g., rain/umbrella), are spatially related (e.g., bathroom/toilet), or causally related (e.g., heat/melt).
Children show bigger vocabulary gains when words are taught in taxonomies especially when they are grouped by category, function, and perceptual features including color, shape, size, and parts (Hadley et al, 2019).
Directly teaching categories is an effective and simple way to introduce similarities and relationships between objects and words. Here’s some activities you can do to build categorizing and word association skills:
- Sort items by category (e.g., food, animals, vehicles).
- Sort pictures by perceptual feature (e.g., has 4 legs, things that are round, foods that are yellow).
- Sort words by meaning into groups of synonyms.
Categorizing in Context
Teaching categories and word assocations can be effectively targeted in contextualized activities including play and picture books.
The entire Hadley article is linked at the bottom of this page in case you want to read more in-depth information on a study that incorporated play, storybooks, and direct vocabulary work on categories. The results from that study “suggest that fostering deep vocabulary knowledge involves not only teaching single-word entities but also teaching words in conceptually linked groups.” (Hadley et al, 2019)
Here’s some examples of categories I might target alongside certain themes or story units:
🌷 Spring Unit – types of plants and flowers, things that grow
🚀 Searching for Home Story Unit – types of transportation (including rockets!)
🪐 Outer Space – planets, things in outer space
🍳 Cooking – foods and food groups, cooking tools, cooking verbs (mix, pour, etc..)
🌋 Volcanoes – hot things, landforms
🖍 The Day The Crayons Quit (picture book, *Amazon affiliate link) – school supplies, things you write with
Check out my story units and themed therapy units below to see examples of contextualized units made specifically for speech and language therapy sessions. These units make it super easy to directly teach relevant vocabulary, including categories, alongside themed or narrative units.