What Is Word Retrieval?

Click here to download the PDF word retrieval worksheet for these strategies!

Word retrieval means a person’s ability to think of the right word when he/she needs it, such as during conversation.  We all have those moments when we can’t think of the right word, in that instant, we’re having a word retrieval problem.  Some children have a wonderful vocabulary but in conversational speech they have trouble coming up with the right word.  This may cause them to have unnecessary pauses, use filler words like “um” and “like”, or use non-specific words like “that thing” or “that stuff”.  Here are some activities that you can do with your child that will improve his word retrieval and ability to come up with the right word when he needs it.

Word Retrieval Activity One: Fill in the Blank Associations

Have your child fill in the blank with common phrases and sentences.  This will teach your child to use other words in the sentence or phrase to trigger the word he wants to get to.  Here are some examples of fill in the blank associations you can use with your child.  Try these while you’re riding in the car or waiting in line somewhere.

    • A pair of _____
    • Peanut butter and ______
    • Close the _______
    • The elephants live in the _____
    • Head, shoulders, knees, and ______
Click here to download the PDF word retrieval worksheet for these strategies!

Word Retrieval Activity 2: Rapid Naming from Categories

Have your child list as many things as possible from a certain category.  For example, have your child list as many foods as he can or as many clothes.  You could write down how many he thought of each time so he can see the progress he makes as he does this activity more and more.

Word Retrieval Activity 3: Providing a Word from a Definition

Define a word for your child and see if he can guess what it is.  For example, you could say “it’s a red fruit that is juice and sweet and sometimes comes in green and yellow” and see how long or how many cues it takes for your child to guess apple.  You can switch this around and have your child define a word for you as well.

Word Retrieval Activity 4: List Things Needed to Complete a Task

Tell your child the name of a task and ask her to tell you all of the things she would need to complete that task.  For example, if the task is swimming, your child could say “goggles, swimsuit, floaties, innertube, pool toys, towel”.

Word Retrieval Activity 5: Finish Similes

A simile is when you say that something is ____ as a _____.  Provide the descriptive word for your child and have him finish the simile.  For example, you could say “sticky as a ____” and your child might fill in “peanut butter sandwich”.

Word Retrieval Activity 6: Antonyms and Synonyms

Tell your child a word and have her come up with one synonym (a word that means the same thing) and one antonym (a word that means the opposite).

Click here to download the PDF word retrieval worksheet for these strategies!

Doing all of these tasks on a regular basis will improve your child’s word retrieval and ability to recall words when he needs them.  Many of these exercises can be found the Linguisystems HELP-2 Handbook for Language Processing.

Where to Find More Info:

This guide, along with 38 others, is included in Ms. Carrie’s E-Book: Speech and Language Therapy Guide: Step-By-Step Speech Therapy Activities to Teach Speech and Language Skills At Home or In Therapy.  This guide includes detailed information on teaching various speech and language skills, including this one, along with worksheets, handouts, sample IEP goals, data collection, and video demonstrations.  You can also:

Click here to download the PDF word retrieval worksheet for these strategies!

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