I don’t know about you, but I have found those HedBanz questions pretty inadequate for teaching my students how to describe vocabulary.  Similarly, EET type guides or TPT visuals that focus on category, function, location, etc can be great for basic nouns but insufficient to teach students to describe the higher-level tier 2 vocabulary (including verbs, adjectives, and idea/concept nouns) that we are targeting at the secondary school level.

What is the location for the word “harm” for instance? What is the category?  I’d probably say location was not so relevant and the category is a verb or an action a person can do.  But those are not the kind of details our students with SLI might utilize when looking at a basic visual for naming attributes.

Describing Words for Middle & High School Speech Therapy Students

Thus, I made my own word-description guide.  It is a list of questions a student can ask his or her peer about the word they are expected to guess (and that the peer is giving relevant clues for).  It includes questions about synonyms, antonyms, part of speech, and also the typical category/group and function details.  I simplified some vocabulary and included examples for each part of speech so students can learn and get familiar with the concepts as they do the activity.  I was actually quite impressed with how quickly some students recalled parts of speech, synonyms, and antonyms after many fruitless attempts to drill those terms in their long-term memory in prior sessions.  I’m sure having to repeat the same questions for every turn and using them for a “fun” guessing game definitely helped with their learning and retention!

 Best Speech/Language Games for Word Describing & Semantic Mapping

I typically use this guide with a game like Don’t Say It or Taboo, but I change the rules so they are allowed to use the taboo, or forbidden, words.  That way students have some of those synonyms or key features of the target word right in front of them, reducing word-finding issues. Classwords has also been an excellent resource for academic vocabulary and these word sets are organized and sold by grade level.  I typically select the word set that is a few grade levels below my students’ grade (like this 4th grade set), depending on my students’ word-finding skills and vocabulary levels.  Of course, for those who don’t want to spend any more money buying games, there is this free online version of Taboo and this free Game Gal Word Generator for various word description games.  Keep in mind, however, that the latter activity only gives you the target word and none of the related clue words that students could use for extra support.  On the other hand, I like how Game Gal words are divided up into various groups like verbs, nouns, idioms, and sometimes level of difficulty depending on the game selected.

Hope this helps you all our with your middle and high school students struggling with vocabulary retention and semantic mapping.

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