Word finding is the ability to access vocabulary from the long-term memory. These activities can help develop word finding skills and can be used in lessons for the benefit of all pupils

Some pupils have difficulty in recalling the right word when they need to use it. They often have to describe the word rather than naming it, eg. ‘It’s hot. You make tea. You put water in it.’ (kettle). This may be caused by difficulties associating an abstract label with a concrete object. The pupil may be able to describe the features of something, but not be able to ‘find’ the correct word in their memory bank.

Pupils who have difficulties in this area may have:

  • difficulty naming everyday items
  • difficulty relating words to actions
  • difficulty using age appropriate vocabulary
  • a tendency to substitute words that have a similar meaning (eg. ‘cup’ for ‘mug’)
  • kinaesthetic strengths, learning better through using concrete materials and practical experiences
  • visual strengths, learning better through using visual materials (charts, maps, videos, demonstrations).

Order the best-selling book A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher for lots more activities and help.

Activities to develop word finding skills

  1. Action songs – naming parts of the body (eg. ‘One Finger One Thumb Keep Moving’, ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’).
  2. Classroom labels using symbols – naming different areas, objects etc.
  3. Draw a person – name the body parts drawn.
  4. What is it? – identify classroom items by their use and name them.
  5. Tell me – in pairs, one pupil describes an everyday object by function and the other pupil has to name the object.
  6. Feely bag – one pupil has to describe an object by feel to the other pupils who must try to name the object.
  7. What’s misisng? – pupils look at a picture of a person and draw in the part that is missing, then name it.
  8. Mime time  – one pupil chooses a picture of an object, then mimes how it is used for the others to guess and name.
  9. Naming bingo – pupils take turns to pick up a picture card and match it to their baseboard, but they only keep the card if they can name the object on the card.
  10. What am I doing? – ask the pupils to name specific actions (eg. clapping, hopping, sitting).
  11. Listen and name – ask the pupils to listen to sounds made by specific objects and then name the object (eg. clock, telephone).
  12. People who work for us – show the pupils some object clues and ask them to name the objects and guess who would use them for their job.
  13. Where do I live? – match an animal to its home and name both animal and home (pictorial).
  14. How many things can you draw and name – in a bedroom, toy shop, garage, farm, etc. Relate this activity to particular areas of the curriculum being taught.
  15. Picture web – ask the pupils to draw pictorial reminders around a picture of an item that they have difficulty in remembering.
  16. Pairs – pictures that have semantic links (eg. knife/fork).
  17. Word for the day –choose a new concept word, then display it, both pictorially and written, use it in different contexts, relate it to experiential learning and check for recall at the end of each lesson, at the end of the day and at regular intervals throughout the week. This can help reinforce new vocabulary related to class-based topics.

From  A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher edited by Jacquie Buttriss and Ann Callander