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Vocabulary: Make it Engaging AND Age Appropriate

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I know we have been talking about expressive vocabulary, but I have to take a brief time out to reiterate my passion for age-appropriate tasks / vocabulary.  If you work with students with developmental disabilities, you know the challenge of making materials that are appropriate for both developmental skills and chronological age.  This can be tough for some students, but it is my passion. If students like things that are younger than their age, that’s absolutely fine.  I mean, after all, I’ve seen Frozen–have you?  However, I believe we have a responsibility to introduce them to age-appropriate activities. Older students have the right to dignity and to not have their classrooms look like a preschool class. Conversely, thought that doesn’t mean their environments and materials have to drab and boring.  Even basic skills can be age-appropriate but interesting.  While materials for younger children may not be appropriate for older students, many materials designed for older students would be appropriate for younger students.  So, what do we need to think about in creating materials that are age-appropriate across the board and still at a basic developmental level?   

First, the vocabulary has to be appropriate.  We only have so much time to teach–let’s focus on what the students most need to learn.  This is one of the focuses of a shift to a life skills or functional curriculum approach.  It’s also why we teach the Dolch list (or other sight word list) to young children.  Young children are most likely to encounter the words from those lists when reading.  For students who are not strong readers, we often make a shift to what we call environmental print.  Environmental print are the words we see around us.  Same goes for spoken vocabulary.  If we are teaching receptive (for discrimination on a speech generating device or picture exchange system) vocabulary, we need to focus on what the person would want to ask for or what they need to understand.  What are the things around them they would ask for or talk about? 
Second, the materials have to be appropriate.  That means we need simple tasks, like matching skills, that use real-life vocabulary that doesn’t look too, too cutesy.  I firmly believe that older students deserve interesting and colorful materials, just like younger students. However, we would want the characters in books to be 15, 20 or 30 years old, instead of 3.  Somehow the field seems to think that to make things simple and “older” the materials have to be less colorful and interesting.  I don’t see why that is true–I like colorful thing and I’m “older.”  We shouldn’t have to fight for the right to have interesting materials for older students!
So that brings me to my quest for interesting, colorful, and meaningful materials across the age span and my newest product of matching skills.  And I’ve made a video (which was supposed to keep me from writing a whole blog post, but you know me!) about it, what’s in it and what it’s good for.  Here’s a brief description and then check out the video to see what is included. 

New Product

This is a set of file folders that focuses on matching picture to picture for a variety of real-life, functional items. The pictures are a combination of photographs and clip art.  The set includes matching picture to picture for community signs, fruits, vegetables, fast food items, meat, sweets/desserts, furniture and clothes.  It also includes word-to-picture matching for signs, fruits and vegetables.  The items can be divided up as one folder for each set of vocabulary (10 matching pages/file folders).  They can also be set up to begin teaching students how to sort by having different items on each side (e.g., fruits and vegetables; clothes and furniture; fruit and vegetables picture match to words).  There are labels for 14 file folders combinations. You can check them out in my store HERE.

Until next time,

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