Don’t spend all of your therapy time quizzing kids on concepts. Make sure you take the time to teach them the skills that they need first in order to understand these concepts. Do your students struggle with learning positional or spatial words and concepts such as: on, beside, next to, on top of? Students who have difficulties with language skills sometimes especially have a hard time with understanding spatial words. Students LOVE hands-on activities and they are proven to keep them much more engaged than a worksheet! Below are some ideas for teaching spatial concepts as well as ways to practice including 7 hands-on activities for teaching spatial concepts in speech therapy.
Some important things you should do when first teaching about spatial concepts in speech therapy:
- Use a stuffed animal
Children love to play at any time of the day, so when school and therapy feel like play, you are bound to get more out of them with their learning. You can use a stuffed animal to give them directions on what to do with the stuffed animal such as, “Put the animal on top of the cabinet” or “Put the animal on the bottom shelf.”
- Teach in opposites
Teaching opposite words can make spatial concepts easier for students to understand. For example- teach the words “on” and “off” at the same time or “up” and “down” and use contrast to further explain.
- Create a visual cue
Visual cues help students understand things so much easier (like a picture of a box with something in and something out.) It is important to keep your visuals consistent with each spatial concept that you teach so that your students do not become confused.
- Focus on one set at a time until mastery
Rather than trying to teach your students 10 different spatial concepts in one speech therapy session, focus on one concept for the week and make sure that they really understand it and have mastered the understanding of that spatial concept before moving on to teach them a new one.
- Use a multi-sensory approach
If teaching about the spatial concepts: top, middle, bottom, then have the student touch their head and SAY top, touch their stomach and SAY middle and then touch their feet and SAY bottom. This kinesthetic approach will help make these concepts “stick” in their brain.
After you have used the guidelines above to start the teaching portion of these spatial concepts, then you can really start to have fun with your students by playing and doing some more hands-on activities about spatial concepts in speech therapy that they will love!
Here are 7 hands-on activities for teaching spatial concepts in speech therapy:
- Following directions games (with seasonal objects)
Since it is fall right now, you could use leaves, apples and pumpkins as your seasonal objects. (Change these to fit the season that you are in.) Have your students put the objects in different places around your room. For example- You can tell them to, ”Put the pumpkin under the table” or “Put the apple next to the shelf.”
- Build with Plastic Bricks
Building with plastic bricks is always fun (and great for their fine motor skills also- which is a win win!) You can very easily work on the skill of spatial concepts in speech therapy while building with legos and your students probably will not even realize that they are learning because they will be having so much fun! As you are building, use language such as, “ Can you put this red brick on top of that blue brick?” After you work on spatial concepts during the building phase, then you can even add in other figurines and practice these spatial concept skills again. An example would be to use an elf at Christmas time and say “Can you put the elf on top of the sleigh that you built?” You can see all my plastic brick materials here.
- Build gingerbread houses
The holidays are quickly approaching! You can make teaching spatial concepts really fun and engaging during this time of the year by using this Gingerbread Concepts Activity. This activity helps target following directions and positional/spatial concepts while building a gingerbread house.
- Use books and the pictures
The book, “The Mitten” is a classic for teaching spatial concepts to students especially during the winter season. On each page of the story, a different animal crawls in the mitten to stay warm. You can make book companion cards to go with the story or use these for preschool speech and language. Another great book to read with young students is “If You Take a Mouse to School.” There is another book companion bundle for this story that you can check out here that has a spatial/ positional words activity to go with it.
- Use barrier games
Barrier games can be played with commercial barrier game materials such as MangeTalk Match-Ups from Super Duper Publications or using file folders that you create on your own. Barrier games are used to target a variety of speech and language skills including: following directions, deductive reasoning, giving directions, vocabulary, sentence formation, auditory memory, storytelling, basic concepts, categorization. This Winter Barrier Game is great for working on spatial concepts with young students such as preschoolers.
- Make books for repeated practice
Did you know that kids typically need to see something 8 times before they remember it? Repeated practice is always necessary with younger students, especially students that might have any speech and language delays. Making a book for repeated practice such as this Interactive Vocabulary Book: Kitty Positional Concepts or Interactive Vocabulary Books: Puppy Prepositions are really great ways for students to practice the skill of identifying spatial/ positional concepts many times during speech therapy. These Interactive Vocabulary Books can actually be printed and used with velcro or be used with Boom cards in a digital format. These books are especially great for minimally verbal students. They can show their knowledge without needing to verbally produce answers, just match. For kids just learning to express themselves in single words or simple phrases, pictures support that level of speech.
- Use Play dough
Learning should always be fun, right?! Try letting students use play-doh to successfully work on spatial concepts. This Dough and Data Set is one way you can do it. Tell the student to place the red play-doh on the apple or put the green play-doh apple between the red and yellow apples. Play-doh is a great way to keep students engaged, keep their hands busy and keep learning fun!
Teaching about spatial concepts in speech therapy does not have to be boring! Your students can absolutely have fun while they are learning and better yet-be participating in hands-on and engaging activities!
How do you teach about positional or spatial words during therapy?
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