Strategies to Develop Expressive Language Skills in the Classroom

Working in a small district, my Speech-Language Pathologist is only in the building a couple days a week. Which makes collaboration with her very hard. I have a couple of students who have significant expressive language delays that make learning and making progress in reading very difficult for them.

I have used some of these activities to build both background knowledge and vocabulary to help with their comprehension of what they are reading. I have found that their first reads or cold reads of an instructional level text are at a frustrational read but by the second read its an instructional level. My SLP believes that this is because of their language delays.

I have decided to make a point at the beginning of each book to focus on their expressive language as part of their pre-reading. My hope is that by the end of the month these students have moved up a reading level.

Strategies to Develop Expressive Language Skills in the Classroom

  • Opportunities to speak and time to rehearse before speaking
  • Visual clues to help children order ideas effectively before expressing them
  • Vocabulary lists to help with word finding difficulties. Use appropriate and consistent vocabulary
  • Color coding different groups of words/sets of pictures
  • Giving correct models of language structures
  • Repetition and reinforcement of correct language structures
  • Small group work to give children confidence to express themselves
  • Appropriate questioning to give children the opportunity to reply
  • Self-questioning and the development of learning scripts (e.g. What do I know already? What do I do next?)
  • Rhymes
  • Word play
  • Restrict your language to short unambiguous language
  • Story telling – cutting up picture segments and retelling stories
  • Try and keep children ‘on topic’. Be specific, remind children e.g. ‘We are talking about…’
  • Discussing what they have seen or done with an adult or more verbally able peer
  • Puppet play/drama etc.
  • Sharing books
  • Revise links and associations between ideas and vocabulary – categorization/function/
  • context/similarity/association
  • As part of the partnership approach, it is important to detail which of these strategies have been most effective.

Barrier games

  • This can be used for both talking and listening. The child or children either side of the barrier have identical sets of equipment.
  • One child has a picture or constructs an assembly of objects and then gives instructions to the other to enable him/her to duplicate the picture or assembly.

How do I feel?

  • In a small group imagine a situation and talk about how you would each feel and what you might say (speech bubbles resource is good here).

Silly Stories

  • Collection of objects/pictures, e.g., horse, lady, man, child, dog, ball, pirate, dinosaur.  Adult starts story “Once upon a time there was a dinosaur”. Next child (house) continues the story “He lived in a house made of chocolate”.  Next child (ball) “One day he found a ball under his bed” …..


  • Color Coding approach.  Children take one color question ‘Who, What, Where, When’ and sequence a story using their own ideas.
  • Mind Map Activities: An excellent way for supporting new vocabulary and talking.

Defining and describing

  • Have a range of objects in a bag or a range of pictures. One child takes an object or picture and is allowed to give 3 pieces of information to describe their item. The rest guess.

Question Question

  • Barrier game. Once child has an object or picture and the rest ask questions to find out what it is. You cannot say the name of the item.
  • A good resource is Clowning Around or Guess Who?

What do you know?

  • Use a composite picture and take turns in the group (mini circle time). Each child giving a new piece of information about the picture. Extend by talking about a particular object or event in which everyone has been involved.
  • Tell me how to do it
  • Use a classroom activity or event which has already been experienced and get a child to re-tell the event in his/her own words.
  • Allow a child to explain to the others how to play a particular game.


  • In a small group it is possible to think about how we behave during a conversation and make explicit the skills we need. There are a couple of good resources for this.

I look forward to sharing how the next four weeks go. I wish everyone safe travels and a Merry Christmas.

Stages of Reading Development Plus a freebie

Being mid-year, I find that I'm explaining why I'm selecting the text that I am. I walked into out book room and someone asked what I was looking for and I said no more than 2 words on a page with strong (if not in your face) picture support. I have a student that I've been working with on not adding to the text (she loves adding extra words to the story). The teacher in the book room pointed my to the a shelf on Level As. Knowing what text looks like at each level helps me find the right text for each group. I hope this helps you out or something you can share with parents.

Early Emergent Readers (Levels aa-C)

Readers are just beginning to grasp the basic concepts of book and print. They are acquiring a command of the alphabet with the ability to recognize and name upper- and lowercase letters. They are also developing many phonological awareness skills, such as recognizing phonemes, syllables, and rhyme.

Early Emergent readers are beginning to learn sound/symbol relationships--starting with consonants and short vowels--and are able to read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, as well as a number of high-frequency words.

Books at this level have:
strong picture support
carefully controlled text
repetitive patterns
controlled, repeated vocabulary
natural language
large print
wide letter spacing
familiar concepts
limited text on a page
is acquiring book handling skills and concepts of print
is acquiring knowledge of letter names
uses pictures to create meaning
beginning to understand sounds of the language (rhyming, same/different, etc.)
beginning to understand letter-sound relationships
typically can read some environmental print (example: “stop”)
uses one to one matching (connects spoken and written words)
uses left to right progression
recognizes some known words and uses picture clues and print to recognize new words
understands the difference between letters and words
has control of most consonant sounds
typical titles at this level have very simple text, less than five words per page, are predictable,
have strong picture cues

    Emergent Readers (Levels D-J)

    Readers at this stage have developed an understanding of the alphabet, phonological awareness, and early phonics. They have command of a significant number of high-frequency words.
    Emergent readers are developing a much better grasp of comprehension strategies and word-attack skills. They can recognize different types of text, particularly fiction and nonfiction, and recognize that reading has a variety of purposes.

    Books at this stage have:
    ·         increasingly more lines of print per page
    ·         more complex sentence structure
    ·         less dependency on repetitive pattern and pictures
    ·         familiar topics but greater depth
    ·         beginning to use knowledge of letter sounds to solve unknown words
    ·         uses language, memory, pictures, and print as major cues to read and understand text
    ·         is able to predict what comes next

      Early Fluent Readers (Levels K-P)

      At this stage, reading is more automatic, with more energy devoted to comprehension than word attack. Readers are approaching independence in comprehending text.
      These readers are experiencing a greater variety of text and are able to recognize different styles and genres. Independence often varies with the type of text being read.

      Books at this stage have:
      ·         More pages
      ·         Longer sentences
      ·         More text per page
      ·         Richer vocabulary
      ·         Greater variation in sentence pattern
      ·         Less reliance on pictures
      ·         More formal and descriptive language
      ·         Analyzes new words and checks them against what makes sense and sounds right
      ·         Uses meaning to begin to self-correct
      ·         Uses known words and word parts to figure out unknown words
      ·         Begins to retell the major points of the text
      ·         Decreases the use of finger pointing as fluency and phrasing increase
      ·         Uses prior knowledge and own experience to make meaning

        Fluent Readers (Levels Q-Z)

        Readers have successfully moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Their reading is automatic and is done with expression and proper pauses. Their energy is devoted to understanding, and they have good command and use of the various comprehension strategies.
        These readers read a wide range of text types and do so independently. They will continue to refine and develop their reading skills as they encounter more difficult reading materials. But for the most part, they are capable of improving their reading skills and selection of materials independently through increased practice.

        Books at this stage have:
        ·         More text
        ·         Less familiar, more varied topics
        ·         Challenging vocabulary
        ·         More complex sentences
        ·         Varied writing styles
        ·         More description
        ·         Reads silently; reads fluently when reading aloud
        ·         Initiates topics for discussion about books
        ·         Begins to use comprehension strategies (retelling, monitoring for meaning, making connections, making mental images, making/revising/confirming predictions, questioning, determining importance, inferring, summarizing, synthesizing, critically evaluating) across genre and subjects
        ·         Consistently develops new strategies and new knowledge of texts as he/she encounters greater
        variety of texts
        ·         Is in a continuous process of building background knowledge and realizes that he/she needs to
        bring his/her knowledge to his/her reading
        ·         Sustains interest and understanding over long texts and reads over extended periods of time
        ·         Notices and comments on aspects of the writer’s craft
          I hope everyone has a great week going into Christmas Break. Have a great holiday break and enjoy the Sight Word freebie below.

          Favorite Things Blog Hop

          With Christmas approaching I always take time to reflect on some of my favorite things. One thing I have come to love is snow shoeing. Last year my parents retired to the Colorado Rockies, this was our first Christmas ever spend in the mountains. Go figure-right. I have lived in Colorado most of my life and have never spent Christmas in the mountains. As a family we went show shoeing. We took the dog-mine being Italian Greyhounds-had a grand time.

          I'm donating a gift card from one of my favorite stores-Target. I need a 12 step program.  I love their $1 bins. They are perfect for everything from dressing my dogs to filling my treasure chest. I have to work at staying away. I get most of everything I need from Target. Have fun and enjoy the shopping trip.

          I have a group of struggling learners who have had a hard time showing growth on Nonsense Word Fluency from Dibels. I created a set of cards that I can give students that have them sound out the nonsense word and then blend it back together again. They are perfect for reading centers, RTI Intervention work or struggling readers who need extra practice with nonsense words. This has do wonders to bring student scored up from an average of 40 sounds and no whole words to 15 whole words read correctly. This item is at my store for 50% off. Click on the picture.

          Enjoy you Blog Hop! Have a great and safe holiday!

          Because we value our followers and wanted to treat you to our favorite things Oprah style, we have put together the best giveaway of the season! My bloggy friends and I welcome you to the best, biggest, most cheerful event of the season:

          7 winners for 7 prize packs!

          Come and enter the giveaway and check out my bloggy friends' favorite things:

          a Rafflecopter giveaway

          Pinterest Pick 3 Linky

          This month I'm hooking up with Lisa from PAWSitively Teaching for a Pick 3 from Pinterest. The items I have picked out are ones that I can see my students doing over the next three weeks. Click on each picture to take a closer look on how these teachers created each Pinterest.

          Each December my building has a Christmas/Winter Theme door contest. One of my fifth grade teachers had hers up last week. I have heard that I can expect lots of great ideas and tough competition. I know this is a board but I can see it on my door. Lights and all. I wonder if I could get a group of students to do it for me. 

          I work with preschool students and students who need to practice counting and one to one correspondence whenever I can build it in. Making snowmen would be perfect to tackle both of those. I could even see them cutting them out to work on fine motor skills. Who knew by creating snowmen that I could cram all those skills into them.

          I love the idea of taking a snowman and building it to be the length of a student name. My preschool students are working on letter identification-most importantly the letters in their name. Most can write their names but with stamps student could do it on their own.  Shape identification could also be done, I'm not sure because of the size of the circles I would have students cut out their own. But the could dress it without any problems. 

          Have a great week. Be sure to stop by the other blogs linking out this month to get other great ideas that you could use in your class.  

          About Me

          Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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