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35+ Activities to Teach Categories for Speech Therapy

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If you’re looking for materials or resources to teach your child or student different category activities for speech therapy then you’ve come to the right place.

The target categories outlined below are for speech-language pathologists to use during their speech therapy sessions with their speech therapy students as well as for family members of younger kids or older students looking for a great way to work on their child’s language skills.

Through learning the foundational skill of how to categorize new information and new vocabulary words our language kids are able to demonstrate better comprehension skills.


Language Development of Categories

As speech therapists working with children with language disorders, it can be helpful to teach categories from more concrete concepts or basic concepts and work towards more abstract concepts of learning thereby increasing the difficulty levels as you go.

When children learn new information or new vocabulary words they categorize that information into a type of filling system in their brains. However, our special education students who struggle with language processing often struggle to categorize what they are learning which in turn makes it hard for them to demonstrate their academic performance. 

Receptive Naming vs Expressive Naming – Receptive language is when the student is given visual cues or images and then asked to identify/point to all of the items in a category. For example, if you give a student a page of images and ask them to point to the 3 animals that would be receptive naming. This will be easier than to expressively name 3 animals.

You can do all of the following categorization activities either with receptive naming or expressive naming.

Convergent Naming – This is when you have the student identify the category by giving them a list of items in a category. For example, “a dog, a cat, and a horse are all…)

Divergent Naming – This is when you give the student the category and have them list items in that category. For example, “Name 3 different shapes.”

What Goes Together – This is when the student is instructed to find 2 or more items that would go together and explain why. Using a matching activity would be perfect practice for working on why two similar items would go together. For example, you could give the child or student an image of a fork and a spoon. They could then match those 2 pictures together and explain why they would go together well.

What Does Not Belong – This is when you give your child or student a list of items or images and ask them which item doesn’t belong and have them explain why that item doesn’t below. For example, you could have different forms of transportation and then have an image of a toaster and have the student identify that the toaster is the item that doesn’t belong and that is because it isn’t a form of transportation like all of the other images.

Compare and Contrast – You could also take a couple of items and complete a compare and contrast Venn diagram to have your child or student explain which items are similar and which items are different and then have them explain why.

Sorting Activity – Another fun way to practice categorization is to take a couple of objects or pictures and then have your child or student sort the items in ways in which they are similar. For example, if you give them a car, fox, airplane, train, and polar bear they could sort the car, airplane, and train together and categorize them as forms of transportation and then place the fox and polar bear together and categorize them as animals.

Categories List

Ready to start practicing or simply in need of a category list to get started? Here are a few of our favorite lists to get you started:

Beginner Level List of Categories

This list of different categories is a great list of target words for Kindergarten and 1st grade. 

AnimalsBirdsBody PartsColored Items (Blue)
Colored Items (Green)Colored Items (Red)Colored Items (Yellow)Days of the Week
DessertsFarm AnimalsFoodsFruits
SoundsThings with ButtonsThings you Turn on/offToys
VegetablesWild AnimalsWordsZoo Animals

Early Elementary Grade Levels List of Categories

This list of new words is a perfect list of groups of items to practice categories for 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. 

Classroom ObjectsClothingColorsColored Items (Orange)
CondimentsOcean AnimalsDrinksElectronic Goods
EmotionsFirst NamesJobsKitchen Utensils
MeatsMonthsMusical InstrumentsNames for a Dog
NicknamesPetsPlaces to EatPlanets
ReptilesSchool SubjectsSports / GamesTelevision
Things at the BeachThings with PocketsThings with WheelsTools
Types of TransportationTypes of BreakfastWays to ExerciseWeather
School SuppliesJungle AnimalsRooms of the House

Late Elementary Grade Levels List of Categories 

Here is a list of items to practice categories for 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade. 

Bathroom ItemsBedroom ItemsBuildingsCars
Comic Book HerosDairy FoodsFamous AthletesFast Food
Furniture HabitatsHolidays & CelebrationsHotels
Junk FoodLanguagesLiquidsMammals
PresidentsShopsStates in the USTextures
Things Found Under the BedThings Made of FabricThings Made of GlassThings Made of Metal
Things Made of WoodThings that Are AliveThings that FlyThings that Float
Things that GrowThings that Use BatteriesThings that Use ElectricityThings you Hang on a Wall
Things you Plug inVerbsWays to CookGrocery Store Items
Good Luck Items

Middle School and High School Grade Levels List of Categories

This list of categories is perfect for your older students in 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, or 12th grade. 

AdjectivesAdverbsBoard GamesCareers
CitiesClothing StoresCollege MajorsCountries
CuisineFamous MusiciansFamous PeopleFemale Names
Fictional CharactersGardeningGassesGenres of Movies
HobbiesInternal OrgansLanguagesMales Names
Music TypesNationalitiesPersonalitiesRecipes
RestaurantsSong TitlesStatesTechnology
Terms of EndearmentThings Found on a MapThings Found in a MallThings that Sink
Book PartsMeasure UnitsParts of SpeechMythical Creatures
Ancient CivilizationsFamous LandmarksGovernment TypesMountain Ranges
Tall Tales StoriesYoga Poses

SEE ALSO: 430+ Free Multisyllabic Words List Activity Bundle

Vocabulary Games for Category Activities for Speech Therapy

  1. Back-to-School Vocabulary Board Game: Naming Categories by The Speech Spot Creations – This resource is perfect to add to your back-to-school activities.
  2. **FREE** FUN CATEGORIES/VOCABULARY GAME OR FOR ENGLISH CLASSROOMS! (NO PREP) by Vanilla Rosebud Co – A print and go activity that your students will enjoy. This is a great way to work on categories.
  3. Give Me Five: Naming items by category and attribute by Speechbloguk – 24 cards that help your student practice categories while playing a fun game.

Speech Therapy Ideas for Low Prep

If you’re on the hunt for low prep category activities for speech therapy then you’re in the right place. Simply look below for a few ideas.

  1. Snowstorm Categories Freebie for Speech Therapy (No prep worksheets) by Panda Speech Therapy – A simple, no prep, cut & paste activity. You can use this to practice categories and subcategories.
  2. Category Freebie- Monster Faces No Prep Speech Therapy by The SLT Scrapbook – A monster themed activity that is perfect to use in your classroom. 
  3. No Prep Color By Category – Spring by Speech Therapy Plans – Color each circle by its category and see what the final picture will be!

Category Card

Using category cards is a great way to work on vocabulary development. Here are a few category cards to try.

  1. Pirate Category Cards FREEBIE : Speech Therapy by Panda Speech Therapy – a pirate theme to go along with your category lessons.
  2. FREE Categories Card Game: Name Things That … by eSpeechy – a fun game to use one-on-one or in groups.
  3. #slpvalentinehop Freebie – Category Activities and Blank Valentine’s Day Cards by Speech Wonderland – Fun category cards for Valentine’s Day.

Hidden Words: Category Activities for Speech Therapy

Using hidden words scenes is a fun way to name items in a category and work on word finding.

  1. Green Screen Speech – Language Activities FREEBIE by Speech it Simple – Green screen backgrounds plus manipulatives.
  2. FREE What Doesn’t Belong? NO PREP Scenes Speech Therapy by Allison Fors – You can laminate these and use them over and over.
  3. Winter Themed Green Screens (Day 2) by Speech Therapy with Cait – Free green screen hidden pictures. Perfect for your virtual classrooms.

Building Blocks

Playing with building blocks is a fun game to work on language therapy and your child or student’s category skills.

  1. Builders FREEBIE: An Open Ended Activity by Panda Speech Therapy – Use building blocks to practice categories in a fun way.
  2. Therapeutic Building Blocks Game (Getting to Know You FREE Sample) by Social Worker World – Use this with any categories that you are working on with your students.
  3. ABC and 123 Roll, Say, Keep FREEBIE! Building Blocks & Race Track Fun! By Jennifer Drake – Work on letter and number categories with this fun game.

Flash Cards: Category Activities for Speech Therapy

Are a great way to send home extra practice or to give to a child’s teacher so they can continue to practice within the classroom.

  1. FREEBIE IRLA Aligned “2G” Category Flash Cards – Color & B/W w/ Editable File by Teaching at the River – You can choose between color and black & white cards that are editable to fit your needs.
  2. FREE SAMPLES- 500+ Category Flash Card Bundle with Real Images by Partshala Learning School – Many different categories are represented in this resource that uses real images to help your students.
  3. Category Flash Cards For Speech Therapy by SHINING SPEECH THERAPY – 27 Illustration cards to practice categories and descriptions.

SEE ALSO: 179+ Free Speech Therapy Wh Questions Printable

File Folder Activities

File folder activities are the best way to do category naming on a busy day because it is a simple grab-and-go lesson plan.

  1. Free Alphabet Game Letter Matching Uppercase and Lowercase File Folder Game by Promoting Success – Help your students practice categorizing capital letters and lowercase letters with this file folder game.
  2. Sorting Categories File Folder with Color Prompts Set A by ABA Learning – This resource has use for various different levels. 
  3. Color Category File Folder Game by Speech017 – This game starts with colors, but can be used for many other categories.

Answer Questions: Category Activities for Speech Therapy

Another great opportunity to work on category activities for speech therapy is by answering questions. 

  1. Answering Yes/No Questions About Categories by Ms Lane – Have your students practice categories with these yes or no questions.
  2. FREE Blank Jeopardy Game Template: 3 Category Jeopardy by Teaching With Heart Forever – Have fun practicing categories with this jeopardy game.
  3. Which One Doesn’t Belong Categories *FOODS* -TaDah by TaDah – Practice different food categories with this game.

Name Game

  1. Name Game – Simply name a category such as farm animals and then tell your child or student that the game is to see how many farm animals they can name. This is a perfect activity for parents on the go. You can do this during everyday tasks, such as while driving your kids in the car, while waiting at the doctor’s office, while in line at the post office, etc.

Boom Cards

If you’re in need of some language games to work on your child or student’s category skills. Then here are a couple of boom cards that include category activities for speech therapy.

  1. FREE No Prep Categories and Attributes Speech Therapy Activities by Two Sisters Therapy – Nicole Absher – These boom cards include visual supports that help with category identification.
  2. Categories BOOM CARDS™ | Digital Task Cards by A Perfect Blend – This includes 10 cards with 2 categories on each card.
  3. BOOM Cards™️ Valentine’s Day Describing Webs Category Function Attributes FREE by Very Visual SLP – Valentine’s vocabulary in this no print, no prep set of boom cards.
  4. Spring Categories FREEBIE with Sentence Strips | BOOM CARDS by Language Encounters – This will give your students the skills they need in categorization.
  5. FREE SAMPLE – Category Sorting: Real Pictures for Speech Therapy Boom Cards™ by Mau SLP – a drag and drop activity using real pictures.

SEE ALSO: 133+ Categories List for Speech Therapy

Word Search: Category Activities for Speech Therapy

Another fun idea would be to do a word search about items in one category to work on your child or student’s vocabulary skills.

  1. Food Group Word Search by Garden Pea Designs – Here are two different word searches using food groups.
  2. Summer Olympics — Word Search by Michelleana – category words for the summer olympics in a word search.
  3. FREE Summer Worksheets Packet Vocabulary Word Search School Activities by Promoting Success – This resource allows you to make your own word search with the category words you’d like to focus on.

Matching Pictures

Playing a matching pictures game is a great idea for working on category naming and vocabulary words.

  1. Body Part and Clothing Category Match Game for Language Development by The Speech Coop – This is a simple and fun activity to practice body parts and clothing.
  2. Thanksgiving Speech Therapy Games: Don’t Eat Tom! By Speech Sprouts – A fun game using holiday food words.
  3. Bubble Categories by Carrie Manchester – Practice categories with this bubble game!

<< Click here to download your free leveled category lists! >>

Roth, F. P., & Troia, G. A. (2005). Vocabulary instruction for children and adolescents with oral language and literacy deficits. Paper presented at the 2005 Council for Exceptional Children Annual Convention, Baltimore, MD.

Want Even More Language Speech Therapy Activities?

Want the Best of the Bests?

Leanne MInton

Wednesday 1st of February 2023

Thank you so much, these lists were really helpful.


Tuesday 29th of March 2022

hello.i want hearing loss iep plan

Melissa Berg

Wednesday 30th of March 2022

Hello Shahneela, I currently don't provide IEP plans, however, I do have an IEP goal bank that you might find helpful. You can visit that here: All my best, Melissa

Greta Platt, SLP

Tuesday 29th of March 2022

These options are absolutely amazing. I thank you for sharing your creative gifts for our review and use with our developing SLI scholars!

Melissa Berg

Wednesday 30th of March 2022

Hi Greta, I'm so happy to hear you like this list! Wishing you all the best, Melissa

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