Thursday, September 27, 2012

Embracing Colorful Semantics

One would think that a person with an English degree would be totally in love with grammar. I confess, that was definitely not the reason I chose to study English as an undergraduate. I loved studying literature and writing papers due to the wonderful themes and doors that books open. My taste ranged from Shakespeare to post-modernist to multi-cultural (mostly Native American) books. Poetry was not my thing even though I did try a creative writing course. I just didn't enjoy being constantly judged on the composition of my papers/creative writing pieces. This makes it a little easier for me to relate to my students who struggle with grammar. It's hard and stressful to be hampered by structure when all you want to do is get out this great message.

Grammar is not something that is easy to teach in my opinion. There are so many rules to remember and most of them are very abstract. The goal of therapy for sentence structure is pull those concepts down to a level that the students can understand. I have found that the majority of my students need visuals and in the past I have used cues for the meaning of wh- question words. The trouble was figuring out a visual system for word functions. It took roughly a year and a lucky find on pinterest to set me on course with Colorful Semantics....

I'm turning all of our activities into a grammar notebook for the students to keep. 
We made these little color picture cubes during therapy and this was the "homework"...write  the outcome.

Colorful Semantics is a program developed by a British SLP that uses a color coding system. It indirectly targets grammar by focusing on word meaning. I've tried it for about two weeks now and it seems to be catching on with my older students. I did alter the colors slightly after looking at the Alien Talk program and trying to coordinate it with my Story Grammar rope.

Orange- Who? People and Animals
Yellow- What ____ doing? The action
Blue- Where? The place
Green-To what? The object receiving the action
Purple-Describe. Tell me more about the person, animal, object, or the action
Red- Emotions- How do the characters feel?
Pink- How?
Brown- Why?
White- When? -Time

I used 4' die cut circles to make this craft. I wrote our target question words in black.
The blue writing is my hint for what the question words are asking about.
I wish I could afford the Alien Talk program, but I will just have to make do with my homemade version. I found these aliens via Microsoft Word's clipart. I made them all black and white so I could have the colors I needed. 
I've found some cute alien figurines for .25 at Michael's that I'm going to try to re-color.
Hopefully, the art project will work out well. You could also look for small stuffed animals. 

  1. London Speech & Language Therapists site of the free printable pack
  2. Speechie Speaks 1 and 2
  3. Integrated Treatment Services Resources
  4. Sandurstspeechies Resources
  5. Power Point Presentation by the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne 
  6. You-tube Video with more explanation
  7. Alien Talk (similar program)


  1. glad you find the program useful! the kids respond well to the structure and visual cues. so simple yet effective.

  2. I am just beginning to use this program with my students- however I feel as though they may get confused by the colors, since I also have used Expanding Expressive Tool. Do you also use EET and has it been a problem for you?

    1. I don't have the EET (sadly) so that issue hasn't come up for me. I have added colors and taken colors away depending on the student's level. If they are already used to a specific color representing something, I would certainly stick to using that color in every situation. Blue for do so use that color for action words instead of the yellow. The key is to be consistent.

  3. Interesting read! As a teacher, I found E&H Semantics to be very useful when teaching Early Literacy Skills to my Year 1 and 2 class. I know in the UK, these resources are extremely popular, particularly with Speech and Language Therapists and teachers alike. Hope I have been some form of help! Here is the address: