Receptive language refers to the ability to understand/comprehend language heard or read.  This is evident with our students in their ability to follow directions and recognize names of familiar people, object, and toys.  Initially a child’s receptive language skills are highly contextualized and he/she may rely on familiar situations and pointing to understand words.  As the child develops more language, less contextual cues are required and the child demonstrates understanding based on words alone.  It is important to build up our student receptive vocabulary skills so they associate meaning to words.  We can build up receptive language skills through different activities and modeling new vocabulary terms and concepts.

Picture Books – Reading simple books and naming items in the book can help build up those receptive language skills.  Point to and label the items in the book as you read it with your students.

Touch and Learn Picture Card Bank – These Touch and Learn cards from Lakeshore Learning are helpful to teach some common everyday item vocabulary terms.  The cards have different textures so the students can feel the card as you model the word.  Pick out different cards to practice with your student every day.  You can lay out 2-4 cards and have your student identify the different cards.  “find shirt” or “find pig”.  This helps build up vocabulary skills.


Simple Bingo Games – Have the student match the picture to the item on the board and model the name of the item.  There are so many different Bingo games you can use with your students.  They can work on simple common vocabulary terms, color concepts, shape concepts, or animal concepts.

Animal Bingo is always fun.  You can have your students identify the animal by the sound the animal makes.  This bingo has all farm animals but I have seen Zoo animals too.

Memory – Play a memory game with only a few sets of matches.  Name the item on the card each time the card it turned over.  This also helps the student learn the concepts of same and different.  “shoe and cheese….not the same” or “dog and dog….same”.  There are lots of different memory games which have common items to practice and learn vocabulary terms.

Alphabet Mystery Box – Some of you student may be able to do this Alphabet Mystery Box from Lakeshore Learning.  I love this activity.  Have your students pull an item out of the box and name the item.  Then the student has to identify the initial sound and place it on the correct letter of the alphabet to match the initial sound of the items.  Even if your student is non-verbal he/she may still be able to match the item to the correct initial letter-sound.  This is a great for building up vocabulary skills and phonological awareness skills.  You can also hold up 2 different items from the mystery box and tell your student to select a certain item or an item which begins with a specific sound.  For example, “find sun” or “take umbrella” to target receptive language skills.  You can also say “find the one that starts with the ssss sound”.


Puzzles which match the written word to the picture is another good activity.  Some of our students struggle with those phonological awareness skills and will memorize whole words.  This is a strategy which can be very functional for some students.  Practice with written and picture matching helps build those beginning literacy skills.

Our students need to build up those vocabulary skills so they will be ready to process the information when participating in book activities and listening to stories.

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