Teaching the meaning of wh- question words
Answering wh- questions is a common skill for pediatric speech-language pathologists to work on in speech therapy. In this blog post, I’m going to share different activities for teaching the meaning of question words and teaching how to answer wh- questions in speech therapy. We will look at 10 + different activities that are great for practicing wh- questions (who questions, what questions, when questions, where questions).
Depending on the type of question, there are a variety of activities that can be used for teaching the meaning of question words, answering questions, and asking questions. “What” questions tend to be the easiest questions due to the answers being more concrete. “When” questions are often the most difficult due to their abstract nature.
The good news is that if you’re looking for more ideas, activities, and freebies for targeting wh questions in your speech therapy sessions, you’ve come to the right place! I’m sharing some of my favorite resources and activities for working on wh questions.
If you have students working on answering different types of questions in speech therapy, make sure you grab the Daily Cup of Speech year-round wh question free visuals set! I have found using visual support to be very helpful when teaching the meaning of wh question words. Read until the end for freebie links!
Want year-round wh- question visuals + a sorting activity for speech therapy? Enter your name and email at the bottom of this blog post to get the freebie!
Activities for Targeting Wh Questions in Speech Therapy
Wh question goals can be targeted through a variety of activities, resources, and tools! Below are some of my favorite ways to work on wh questions in no particular order! Depending on your students’ individual needs, some activities may be more appropriate than others.
1. Wh Question Boom Cards for Speech Therapy
This boom deck is great for teaching the meaning of wh- question words. If students don’t understand that “who” means a person, “what” is a thing, etc., they will not be able to master wh- questions. I always start at the picture level (as seen in the image above) and if appropriate for the student, move up to the text level with question answers.
For children who have gotten the basic question word meanings down, it is also important for them to able to identify more specific examples when answering wh- questions instead of general question answers (i.e. boy, girl, tomorrow). For example, knowing that in addition to common “when” answers such as “nighttime”, specific times such as “8:00”, could also answer a “when” question. Understanding specific peoples names such as “Karen” is an appropriate response for a “who” question is also necessary for expanding not just answering questions but also asking questions. It’s essential to build an understanding of question word meanings for the ability to accurately answer more complex wh- questions.
Boom cards are digital task cards that are interactive and fun for students! Included in this boom deck are a variety of drag and drop activities that are engaging and allow for students to practice with another format. Boom cards are great internet activities for speech teletherapy and they also work great pulled up on an iPad or on interactive whiteboards! Children love the fun illustrations and the interactive nature of the drag and drop activities!
One of my bestsellers is the wh- question word boom deck pictured above. These digital question cards allow students to get a ton of practice with the meaning of wh words. In this deck there is a ton of practice identifying what the question words mean. Included are a variety of drag-and-drop activities to get in lots of practice at the picture and text level while teaching the meaning of “who, what, when, and where”. This boom deck is a best seller in the DCOS teachers pay teachers store and includes picture choices, text level choices, and short stories for a variety of practice opportunities.
2. Wh Question Sorting Activities for Speech Therapy
In addition to using the wh question word boom deck, I like to begin teaching wh questions with sorting picture card activities. This allows me to make sure the student has a good grasp on the meaning of the wh- question words. If not, more practice learning the wh- question word meanings is crucial before moving onto more complex wh- questions and tasks.
The sorting activities pictured above are part of the wh- question town resource line. In addition to the pictured sorting activity, each unit has an interactive boom deck as well as 4×6 visuals. It is important for students to understand the question word meanings (i.e who is a person, what is a thing, etc). By identifying all the pictures of people and putting them with “who”, it shows the student understands what the question word that is being asked, before moving on to higher-level questions.
Often students who are struggling with wh- questions are confusing what the question word is asking. While some students are having difficulty with the vocabulary that is in the question, it is important to make sure the foundational skills of understanding the wh question word meaning is strong, before moving on.
In these wh- question units, we first work on sorting by question type with picture cards. After the student is able to sort by question type (who, what, when, where), we use the interactive wh- question town boom deck on an iPad to practice answering wh- questions. In the boom decks there are a variety of activity formats for practicing answering wh- questions. The main questions are leveled (answer choices from a field of 3 and no answer choices). There are also other interactive boom activities that allow for extra practice of questions.
3. Picture Scenes for Speech Therapy
Picture scenes are a great activity to use in speech therapy for targeting “who”, “what” and “where” questions. You can use any picture scene and incorporate wh- questions in to the activity. I like to prep some picture scenes and laminate them for long-term use. If you don’t like laminating you could also put them in plastic sheet protectors or dry-erase pouches. Pair them with a dry-erase marker or mini erasers to make the picture scenes a hands-on activity. You can also pull up a picture scene on your iPad or use a busy scene from a magazine or book to ask questions about.
The picture scenes above are included in the basic concepts bundle (picture scene + bin activities). Each unit includes picture scenes with corresponding prompt pages for basic concepts, following directions, and wh questions.
4.Wh Question Activities: Leveled Interactive PDF
Another tool I love using in speech therapy are Interactive PDF’s. They are a great no-prep way to target wh- questions. In the pictured wh question interactive PDF above, who, what, when, and where questions are targeted. There are two levels for differentiation. Interactive PDFs are a great therapy tool because they are no prep and once downloaded you do not need internet access to use them. Grab your iPad and pull up the interactive PDF for an easy wh question activity. Included in the pictured wh- question interactive PDF are leveled options with either a field of 3 answer choices or the question only with no answer choices. Students love the bright pictures and seeing the pictures when they select the right answer.
5. Sticker Books for Speech Therapy Sessions
Sticker books are another great way to target wh- questions! My favorite are these Melissa and Doug books! They are a fun hands-on activity that allows students to move the stickers around. In addition to practicing answering questions (i.e. What is the dog eating?), you can also work on a ton of other language targets such as following directions, spatial concepts, formulating questions and more!
Let students pick out what scene they like best to help with engagement. Then, grab your visuals and determine what wh- question type you are working on. If you are working on “where” questions you can ask specific questions about the sticker book picture (i.e. Where is the cat?) or you can ask questions related to what you see in the sticker book scene (i.e. Where would you put the trash?). This fun no-prep activity is great because it’s hands-on and can be adapted depending on your therapy needs!
6. Games for Speech Therapy
There are so many games that can be played in speech therapy. If a student needs extra practice with a specific question type (i.e. who questions), I will pick a game based off of that. Otherwise, most games can be use for a variety of wh question types. Zingo is a fun game that can be used for simple wh questions (i.e What is on the card?). Another game that is great for a variety of wh- questions is a memory game that has a variety of cards you can ask questions about!
7. Wh Question Freebie: Bookmark Visuals
While reading books in speech therapy sessions I love to pair these FREE wh question bookmark visuals with them! You can let students color the black and white version while you talk about the meaning of each question word or you can print and laminate the color version for multiple uses!
In addition to making a great therapy activity, these are also great to send home with students for review of the question words for homework. Encourage parents to have their child leave their bookmark in their bedtime books so that they can use the bookmark visual as a reference when reading.
8. Wordless Picture Books for Speech Therapy
Wordless picture books are great for eliciting language. In addition to asking wh- questions about the book, there are so many language targets that wordless picture books are perfect for (i.e. describing attributes, inferencing, etc). I also like to incorporate answering questions about story grammar elements when reading books. While looking at the pictures students can also talk about “what” they see, “who” is in the story, “where” the story takes place, and more!
9. Books for Speech Therapy
In addition to wordless picture books, I also enjoy using a variety of vocabulary rich books! I always try to pick out a couple of books that go with the theme I’m currently using in therapy. For example, if you’re currently doing a snow/winter theme, you can pick a winter book that has lots of opportunities for wh questions. Seasonal books are great because they can be used for a few months at a time and are more likely to go along with other therapy activities you have planned!
If you are not doing a themed therapy week, you can choose any book and ask the type of wh- question your student is working on as you read. I also sometimes like to use non-fiction texts with real pictures for older kids depending on the student’s level and what their goals are.
10. Sensory Bins for Speech Therapy
Sensory bins are great for asking simple questions as well as more complex! Students are often highly engaged with a sensory bin activity. I like putting picture card or mini objects as my manipulatives. You can either hide cards under your sensory bin base material or prop them up for students to see. The sensory bin materials pictured above are from the Basic Concepts 13 Unit Bundle!
11. Wh Question Words Speech Therapy Worksheets
Homework is so important for carryover and extra practice of skills being targeted in therapy! These Wh Question worksheets are great for teaching the meaning of the question words and for extra at home practice! This no-prep resource includes fun print and go worksheets, parent letters and an informal wh question word screener.
12. Answering Wh Questions Speech Therapy Worksheets
Answering wh- questions is a common language goal requiring skilled intervention for children with language disorders. Being able to receptively understand and expressively answer wh questions is important not just academically but also socially. Answering and asking wh- questions are important life skills that involve both receptive and expressive language.
This answering wh- questions resource includes no prep answering wh questions speech therapy worksheets, parent letters, and an informal answering wh questions screener.
Speech pathologists can use a variety of activities to target wh- questions. “What” questions tend to be easier to answer because they have concrete answers, while “when” questions typically are more difficult due to them involving more abstract concepts. I like to incorporate different levels of questions when practicing wh- questions such as starting with 2 answer choices, then providing 3 answer choices and finally moving to no answer choices. Depending on the different types of wh questions your student is working on will impact the activities you choose.
There are a ton of options when it comes to targeting wh questions in speech therapy. Using visuals paired with a variety of activities helps increase engagement and makes learning wh- questions more fun! It is important to collaborate with classroom general education teachers and special education teachers to discuss what they’re seeing in the classroom and other settings. Determining if students are having difficulty with the question word meanings, other vocabulary in the question itself, or with comprehension skills is important for planning skilled intervention based on a students individual needs.
What is your favorite way to target wh questions in speech therapy? Do you use a variety of speech therapy activities or do you stick with the same few?
Don’t forget to grab the free year-round wh- question visuals and bookmarks! Check out the Daily Cup of Speech TpT store for year-round wh- question activities!
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases and get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Affiliate links have no impact on the price for the buyer. All opinions are my own and should not be taken as evaluation, treatment or therapy advice. Please consult a licensed speech-language pathologist with any speech-language concerns.