Pre-teaching Vocabulary

I love using books in therapy!  Vocabulary is great to target with children’s books. I highly recommend the texts by Linguisystems: Speech & Language Activities for Young Learners by Janet R. Lanza and Lynn K. Flahive and Speech & Language Activities for Grades 1-3 by Kristin Becker.  These books are stock full of activities to use along with children’s books to target phonology, vocabulary (expressive/receptive), grammar, WH questions, basic concepts, following directions, and many other skills. Each book includes vocabulary cards that go along with 10 must-read children books (books not included). The “young learners” book has preprinted picture vocabulary cards and the “grades 1-3” book is equipped with picture cards and matching definition cards.  The first thing I did was laminate all the cards.  They are nice, color printed cards on cardstock.  The authors did a great job at selecting the best target words from each book.  Funny story, a 4th grade articulation student working on all sounds in oral reading, decided to practice using one of the books.  Nevertheless, she got stuck on the exact words that were selected as target vocabulary words in the Linguisystem text. I like to pre-teach the vocabulary.  This way students can be prepared to comprehend the text as it is read, therefore not to get stuck on new words. I also use the vocabulary to incentivize students to pay extra attention during the oral reading by making it a competition.  One idea I use has the students push a buzzer every time they hear a vocabulary word, if they can define it they get a sticker.

The method I use to pre-teach target vocabulary goes like this: 1. Auditory bombardment. Read aloud the list of vocabulary and show the picture vocabulary cards. If a student group has a difficult time listening and staying engaged, I have them “raise your hand if you have heard the word before”.  This also helps me to gauge how many words are brand new. 2. Using PowerPoint, I make 1 slide per word.  Do a google image search and add 3-5 pictures that are relevant to my students. I use the “snipping tool” on my laptop to easily cut and paste the images without saving them individually. I input a definition using Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary  I find this site to have more kid friendly definitions.  I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it!  The kids love to comment on the pictures and answer questions to make
connections to life.  i.e., for the term “supper” I put several images of different meals.  Each student shared which meal he/she would rather eat for supper.  The pictures are good to spark conversation, especially if you know your kids well, then you can easily select the pictures that will get them talking. PowerPoint is also nice because we can swipe back to compare words and make further connections.  At Roosevelt Perry, which is a technology magnet school, I have a really nice TV Smartboard in my room to show the PowerPoint and allow the kiddos to interact with the technology.  At Maupin, I use the Crusade IPad. Both work great and have their advantages. 3. Depending on the group of students, immediately following the PowerPoint I will either do a receptive vocabulary task i.e., verbally give a definition to the student with field of 4 vocabulary picture card choices, or make the task more challenging with the entire field of cards.  Sometimes, I will do a sentence production task for students who need to increase MLU.  You could also do a card sort activity with identifying nouns vs. verbs vs. adjectives.  4. The next session, I will typically review the vocabulary cards at the beginning of the session – students like acting out the verb cards – and then begin orally reading the book.

Post-test: I have used to create vocabulary quizzes with the same target words.  I like this site because it is easy to use and free.  Also, you can choose the level of difficulty you wish to use; anything from picture cues, multiple choice, matching, all the way up to student typing in the definition.

– Katie Cohen (


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