Helping older pupils with word finding difficulties
Updated: Oct 13
I once worked with a pupil in year 7 who was referred to me for assessment because he was struggling in school. His behaviour had started to become an issue and he had stopped doing his homework.
We did some assessments and discovered that his comprehension skills were actually very good. His expressive language was not bad either, but he was struggling to find the right words he wanted to use and couldn’t name all of the pictures in one of my tests.
He was able to remember some of the words after I asked him “where would you find it?” or “what do you do with it?”. Other words came to him after I told him the first sound.
We talked about this and I asked if it happens often “all the time”, he said. He explained that when he is writing in his class books and he gets stuck because he can’t find the word he wanted to use, even though he knew it. It was like it was on the tip of his tongue.
He would get irritated with himself for not being able to think of the word and then lose track of what he was trying to write. He would throw his pen down and get very cross.
He stopped doing his homework because it would make him angry. Not because it was difficult or boring, but because he had word finding difficulties.
“Don’t worry, we can help you”, I said. I showed him a couple of strategies to help him think of words and then wrote a care plan to support his word finding and word retrieval skills. I included lots of activities that he can do at home and school to help with this difficulty. These included word webs, word association games, word links and memory games.
Most of these activities are low-prep and can be carried out in as little as 5 minutes but can be stretched out to a 30 minute session.
The SENCo loved the ideas and I was able to provide some quick training to a Teaching Assistant during the school break time. I've since developed this training into an online course, you can find more information about the course on my website or click here.
I was delighted when the school SENCo contacted me to say that the pupil has started working with the Teaching Assistant and is making some progress. What’s better is that his behaviour has improved and he’s even started doing some homework again!
I have created an e-book with plenty of games and activities to help you work on vocabulary and word recall with your pupils. You can find it in the resources section of my website or click here.
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