by Julie A. Daymut, M.A., CCC-SLP
There are many ways to help students acquire, categorize, and generalize vocabulary words. One of the most engaging ways is to use pictures. Pictures bring
vocabulary words “to life” and provide a visual that can help students remember the vocabulary word. They can “picture” a word in their minds that can help with word
recall and overall comprehension.
Five Picture Levels
The following information, as adapted from Five Ways of Looking™ by Kristen Wixted, discusses five levels of images, ranging from the easiest to the
most difficult for a student to identify. Use images that are appropriate for each student’s needs and progress to more challenging levels as they improve their understanding
of the different types of images.
Level 1: Photo with No Distraction
- The simplest picture level
- A photo of an entire image on a white background without any distractions
Level 2: Photo with Distraction
- A photo that includes items that are distracting in addition to the main item
Level 3: Simple Drawing
- A drawing with some color and a few important details
Level 4: Cartoon
- A detailed color drawing that is disproportional or exaggerated (cartoon style art)
Level 5: Black & White Line Drawing
- The most difficult picture level
- No color cues – a pencil sketch with details but no distinctive lines
Teaching Vocabulary Using Five Picture Levels
The following activities, adapted from Five Ways of Looking™ by Kristen Wixted, are fun ways to help your students learn
vocabulary using photos and drawings!
Teach Vocabulary Acquisition
Use a Level of picture cards appropriate to the needs of the student. Use the following examples to help students learn
the vocabulary words.
Receptive – Present two to three cards and say, “Show me the ________.” The student points to the card that
matches the vocabulary word. It is important to present cards one Level at a time.
Expressive – Present the card and say, “What is this?” The student names what is on the picture card. It is
important to present cards one Level at a time.
Categorization with Cards
After the student learns the vocabulary, present six to eight cards from at least two categories. Ask the student to separate the cards by category.
For example, use three animal cards and three toy cards and have the student separate them.
Put a “stimulus” card in front of the student and say, for example, “These are (shoes).” Place three cards from the same Level to
the right of the “stimulus” card. One card should be the same item but a different image as the “stimulus” card (shoes), and two should be foils (dog and coat).
Point to the “stimulus” card and say, “Show me the other (shoes).” Continue with cards from various Levels to help the student learn to generalize.