Whether you are looking to increase the receptive or expressive vocabulary of your student, you need to create opportunities to practice new words. I know many of you have students how use PECS. If we only use visuals when the student want to communicate something – many of our students would be perfectly happy and content learning “I want”, “iPad”, “chicken nuggets”, and “juice”. If you’ve got yourself an iPad with a chicken nugget lunch – there isn’t much else you need in the world. But what about learning the word pencil or window or tree? These aren’t thing we would be requesting but they are important items that we see and talk abbot regularly. Let’s explore some ways to utilize picture flashcards to increase vocabulary:
When determining what vocabulary my student needs to know, I think about what words I say on a regular basis in the classroom. Think about directions you give, items you request, and materials you use. Make a master list of all of the items and words. Then make picture flashcards. With the power of google image – you have literally every flashcard at the tip of your fingers. You can google image the items, use Boardmaker, or take real photos of the things in your classroom. Make a big ole’ stack and get ready for lots of learning.
For students who are nonverbal or students who are verbal but have problems processing receptive language, this is a great way to expand vocabulary. Select a small (4-8) group of vocabulary words. Lay the flashcards out. Say, “show me the____.” If the student points to the correct picture, provide praise and a reinforcer. If the student does not respond correctly, provide error correction or some errorless learning. I like to divide that large set of vocabulary into these smaller sections of a few cards. Once the student hits mastery on each set, the words get moved to fluency instruction. I liked to organize these cards into two sections – known and unknown. Once we mastered a set, we grabbed 5 new cards from the unknown box. Having the whole set made up front helped this station run all year long with little extra prep or pausing for making new materials.
For working on naming the items, you can run this program the same way. Select small groups to work on at a time. Take data, provide reinforcement and error correction, and keep adding the ‘know’ box!
I absolutely loved teaching vocabulary this way because it was easy prep to set up for a paraprofessional to run. Once you made all the cards, the station just ran all year long. We kept learning new sets and adding new words to the known box. It was super satisfying to physically see the stack of flashcards in the known box grow. You can literally see the progress. This helped my reluctant communicators so much. They had a structured opportunity to practice frequently used words. I loved seeing this skill later generalized to the natural environment!