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How I Work on Receptive Language Goals in Speech Therapy

Updated: May 5

Hint: It's not WH questions or direction-following!

*free download below*

Several years ago, as an elementary school-based SLP, I was starting to feel a little stuck. I had many language-impaired kids on my caseload who were in the mid- to upper-elementary grades, and I was having trouble moving them forward.

a child working on receptive language skills in speech therapy

This felt especially true with respect to my students' receptive language/comprehension skills; they could answer basic WH questions all day long but I didn't see them actually thinking critically about stuff.

(While I'm here, does anyone else find WH questions kinda surface-level and boring? This may be an unpopular take, but I'm putting it out there. I know WH questions have their place, especially with younger kids, but I think they are overused as receptive language goals for speech therapy on IEPs. Once a child has mastered the concepts of who, what, where, when, why, and how, I think language comprehension work should evolve to become more complex and interesting for kids -- and SLPs!)

(And now that I've started this side vent, I think I'll continue! I think direction-following goals are overused too. Check out this short piece by Rowan LaForce in the March/April 2023 edition of the ASHA Leader about how direction-following goals may rely too heavily on a child's compliance, and may not reflect a child's underlying receptive language skills in speech therapy. Food for thought!)

So back to my students.

I wanted to get them thinking more deeply about information they were encountering and I especially wanted them to be using language to think and talk about language.

Once I recognized this need in my students, I thought of Bloom's Taxonomy. If you'd like to learn more about Bloom's Taxonomy, you can read more here. The graphic below, from the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, illustrates the continuum of thinking outlined in Bloom's Taxonomy.

an illustration of Bloom's Taxonomy

As you can see, WH questions live on the bottom, at the most basic level of Bloom's continuum. I wanted to move my students up to higher levels of thinking. Specifically, I wanted to develop their critical thinking skills by engaging them in work at the "understand" and "analyze" levels.

A new way to target receptive language goals in speech therapy

I developed StoryWhys book companions to help my kids use more complex language and vocabulary while:

  • thinking critically

  • interpreting

  • retelling

  • paraphrasing

  • explaining

  • comparing/contrasting

  • grouping

  • organizing

  • categorizing

Using high-quality storybooks as context, my students get the opportunity to engage in these higher levels of thinking, while also getting support to use novel tier 2 vocabulary as well as the sentence structures and concepts that they need in order to talk about them.

How has it gone? Why, thank you for asking!

I've seen positive changes in my students' language skills across the board:

  • they love the StoryWhys books (to find out more about how I choose them, see this post)

  • their tier 2 vocabulary has grown

  • they're better at recognizing text structures like problem/solution and cause & effect (thanks to the unique StoryWhys graphic organizers)

  • they can retell stories, identify main ideas and details, compare and contrast story elements, make inferences about character thoughts and feelings, and use complex and compound sentences

  • their morphological awareness has increased

  • their awareness of figurative language has increased, and

  • they can organize story elements into categories.

Now, I want to share StoryWhys book companions with other SLPs so they can feel as good as I do about my language therapy.

Want to try a StoryWhys book companion for free? Get your FREE, 71-page book companion for speech therapy on the free download page.

And explore all of the StoryWhys book companions for speech therapy in my store. You'll find comprehensive book companions that target many different language skills (there are now over 15 of them!) or Spotlight Series book companions that focus on one type of skill, all using high-quality, beloved storybooks that you can find right now in your school library!


Did you enjoy this blog post? Subscribe below to get the latest blog posts, which feature lots of speech therapy ideas for busy SLPs who want to provide fun, impactful, and meaningful speech-language therapy.

Have you heard? StoryWhys now offers the Speech and Spell series of resources. I am always trying to tie articulation work and spelling together in my therapy and I've never found any good resources out there to help me do this. So I made my own! Many more speech sounds and spelling rules to come. They'll be 50% off for 48 hours when new resources are added to the StoryWhys store. Find them here.


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