Word finding can be extremely frustrating and debilitating to children both in and out of the classroom. Here are some general word finding strategies for Teachers and parents to support their children in any environment.


Encourage the child to circumlocute, that is ‘talk round’ the word. E.g. ‘Can you tell me a bit more about it?’ ‘What’s it for?’ ‘Where do you find it?’ Even if the child is unable to find the word, talking about it may give you enough information to guess what they are aiming for.


If a child cannot recall a word, tell them what it is and then check a bit later on if they have remembered. Check again an hour later, the next day and so on, until the word seems fairly stable.

Word Finding Difficulties 

Word finding difficulties can be extremely frustrating and debilitating to children.

Be Explicit

When using word finding strategies, be explicit about the category you are working with e.g. numbers, buildings, places. Be explicit about changing the category saying something like: ‘We’re finished with Egyptian buildings and now we’re going to think about Egyptian clothes.’

Describe Objects

Use any opportunities throughout the school day to use word finding strategies. Describe items for the child or ask the child to name items. This helps to increase their category knowledge and word storage, e.g. ‘The man in our story has a hammer; a hammer is a type of tool. Can you think of any other types of tool?’ ‘This Roman has a shield, can you tell me 3 things about a shield?

Prompt Card

Have a small card (about the size of a 15cm ruler) with the following letters written on it: a b c ch d e f g h i j k l m n o p q u r s sh t u v w x y z.

Make sure the child keeps the card in a place where it will be available if necessary. When the child is struggling for a word encourage them to look at the card and try to identify the first sound in the word. This may help them access the word. The child could decorate the card with something they like such as the logo of their favourite football team-this will make it more likely that they will use the card.

Initial Letter Prompt

Can the child tell you the first letter or sound? If the person listening to the child knows which word they are aiming for, giving the first letter/sound can help the child access the word. Other phonic information might also be helpful e.g. ‘It rhymes with …, it has.. syllables’

Description prompt

If the person listening to the child knows which word they are aiming for they can give some descriptive information e.g. What the target word looks like, what category it is from. This can be a useful way to support word finding strategies.

Answer in a Different Way

Consider giving the child an alternative means of answering, for example, if you are asking the child to carry out calculations in their heads you could give the child number cards or a number fan so they can show you the answer rather than saying the answer.

Ask a different question for child with bilingual or English as Additional Language Needs

Give the child a choice of answers.

Keep Trying with word finding strategies

It can take a child several attempts to find the word so encourage them to keep trying. The child may need extra time to answer a question.

Vocabulary Book

Key vocabulary could be noted in the homework book for follow up by support staff or at home.

Further reading around the evidence based practice can be found here click here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10371874.