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Colourful Semantics activities to support understanding, vocabulary and speaking.

  • Colourful semantics is a visual method to show parts or ‘themes’ in sentences such as:
  • It can be used to support understanding of these key question types, such as: ‘Who wears a helmet?’, ‘Where is the ball?’, ‘When is lunchtime?’.
  • It can also be used to support a child in speaking/ writing in fuller sentences when they speak. Each card represents an element of the sentence and prompts the child to use that part.
    • “The girl is swinging”à
    • “The girl is swinging in the park at playtime.”
  • It may be helpful to use this structure to support vocabulary learning. For example vocabulary can be added to the ‘themes’ for learning and later use in writing/ speaking tasks.
colourful semantics

This structure can be used to support the child in sharing news or information with peers and adults.


colourful semantics

Colourful semantics activities to support understanding ‘WH’ Questions.


Work on understanding questions in the following order: who à what à what doing à where à when à why à how.

This allows the child to build their confidence in understanding questions from the easiest to the hardest.

Try to work on just one theme at a time to begin with to support consistency.

Show the visual cue card during each activity and each time you ask the associated question.

Activities could include:

  • Sorting packs e.g..’Where do you see a sofa/ toothbrush?’
  • Question quiz cards
  • Question spinners
  • Story book time with questions
  • Generating their own examples – finding examples around the school and from photographs/ books/ internet
  • 1 minute challenge “name as many places as you can in 1 minute


Colourful Semantics activities to support vocabulary skills.

Use a topic word map template including the cue cards to start to gather vocabulary from class/ playground that is relevant to the child.


colourful semantics

Try reviewing the vocabulary frequently and only adding a few pictures/ words at a time.

Activities could include:

  • Take a new story book/ topic information that will be worked on in class. Look at photocopied pages with the child cut out key pictures/words based on the core themes. This aims to familiarise the child with these key ideas before needing to answer questions about the information in class.
  • Use the collected ideas also as ideas for speaking and writing.
  • Generating their own examples – finding examples around the school and from photographs/ books/ internet.
  • 1 minute challenge “name as many places as you can in 1 minute’.



Colourful Semantics activities to support speaking and sharing information.


Use the cue cards to extend spoken/ written sentences.


  • Ask the pupil to listen to your comments about a picture and copy your model. Lay out a cue card for each part of the sentence.
  • Next ask the pupil to say “what’s happening?” Follow up their answer by showing them which parts they have included and what else they could add.
colourful semantics

Further activity: The News Time template can be a useful support for the pupil to share news.


  • Use home/ school photographs as starting points to gather vocabulary needed under the themes. Next structure sentences around these gathered words.
  • Example:
colourful semantics 6

Author: Sara Christmas, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist for Mainstream Primary and Special schools provision.

For Further reading on evidenced based approaches go to:


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