It’s another wonderful Wednesday here in metro DC, and you know what that means: it’s time for our Wordy Wednesday feature!!! I am so excited to bring you a set of pictures than can be grouped into conceptual categories. Mentally organizing
information into categories is a skill that is fundamental to our human abilities of language and thought. Without some sort of categorization scheme for storing our knowledge, our brains might be very chaotic places indeed. As a quick example, consider the following list of words:
Aardvark. Kitten. Mustang. Frog. Parrot. Clownfish.
You probably immediately thought: animals. And if several minutes went by and I asked you to tell me what was on that list, you might have some difficulty recalling the items, but you’d almost certainly remember that it was a list of animals and perhaps use that category label to help retrieve some of the specific animals listed.
Categorization, or conceptual clustering as it’s called in some academic circles, is a skill that develops over time. As children become verbal, some categories (like animals and body parts) are evident very early. Other categories don’t appear until much later, when a child has much more experience with the world and has more complex language skills to help reason about and organize those experiences. In fact, even as adults, we continue to form new categories of knowledge and add new information to existing categories all the time.
The impetus for this week’s words came from one of my very favorite therapy games, Things That Are ___. We use this activity very frequently, primarily with kids who struggle with executive functioning (organizing thoughts and actions and thinking about how one piece of information relates to another). The premise of the game is pretty straightforward. I say to the client, “Tell me some things that are round.” (I usually specify a certain number of round things I want to hear, depending on the individual’s level of competency at this particular skill). He or she might respond with a list, like coin, ball, globe, bowl. This week’s images can provide visual prompts while playing Things That Are ___; if your child or client is stuck on a category, show one image to help him along. In this activity, you present the category label, and the child must provide exemplars of items in that category.
On the flip side, you can ask what do these pictures have in common with each other? You present exemplars, by showing four cards that belong to the same category, and the child has to generate the category label.
Yet another categorization activity you can play is the old Sesame Street throwback: One of These Things is Not Like the Others. Present 3 cards that belong to one category and one card from a different category. Ask which one doesn’t belong with the set. Then have the child tell you why. Eg. “A snake, a dog, and a cat are all animals; a fire engine is not an animal.”
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to categorization activities. These pictures provide a great opportunity for receptive and expressive vocabulary with both nouns and adjectives. Practice receptive vocabulary by laying a few pictures out in front of the child. Ask her to hand you the coin (noun practice) or the one that is round (adjective practice). Work on expressive vocabulary by having the child tell you labels for each picture (nouns) or by having him describe the image (encourage lots of adjectives!)
Let us know what uses you find for our Wordy Wednesday pictures in the comments below!
Happy Wednesday from Melanie and Elizabeth