Featured Segment: Expressive Language-Verbs




Welcome to Speechtivities first Featured Segment.  Our first series of segments will focus on Expressive Language and this particular segment will give you the ins and outs of targeting VERBS.  Now, depending on your background you may or may not know what Expressive Language entails so we will start with a run down of what Expressive Language is and what areas fall under Expressive Language.

What is Expressive Language?

Expressive Language is an individuals ability to communicate meaning to others by putting their thoughts into words.  It encompasses both verbal and non-verbal communication (word, gestures, facial expressions, writing, etc).

Areas of Expressive Language include:

  • Phonology: the study of how sounds are organized and used within language
  • Syntax (grammar): the set of rules that govern the way we combine words, phrases and clauses to form sentences
  • Morphology: the study of building words out of meaningful pieces known as morphemes (ex. “cat” is made up of the individual morphemes “c”..”a”..”t”)
  • Semantics: the meaning of language
  • Pragmatics:  The social use of language

Why is Expressive Language so important?

It is our right and need as a human being to be able to express ourselves.  To relay joy, frustration, pain, excitement.  To tell a significant other that we love them. To let someone know that we are hurt.  To answer a question or protest against something we don’t like.  Inability to do these things can lead to frustration for all involved.

What does it look like when Expressive Language is impaired?

An individual with an Expressive Language Disorder may exhibit any or all of the following:

  • Overuse of “jargon” (made up words)
  • Difficulty being understood by those unfamiliar with the individual
  • Word finding difficulty
  • Immature use of sentences (decreased mean length of utterance)
  • Difficulty retelling a story
  • Decreased vocabulary
  • Difficulty remembering words
  • Overuse of fillers (um, like) and/or non-specific language (that, this, thing)

What causes an Expressive Language Disorder?

An expressive language disorder that is developmental in nature does not have a known cause.  However, an acquired expressive language disorder results from specific trauma to the brain due to a stroke, traumatic brain injury or a seizure disorder.

What about those Verbs?

Now that you know a little about what Expressive Language is lets get into the specifics regarding Verbs.

Verbs are the words we use to describe the action that a person is taking.  For example, run, walk, hitting, sat, etc.  These words are extremely important.  When a 2 year old starts to put words together, they are typically adding in verbs.  For example, “car” becomes “car go” and “dog” becomes “dog sit”.

If we didn’t use verbs, our stories would lack action because our characters wouldn’t be doing anything.

What type of verb tenses are there?

Early Developing

  • Regular-Simple Present 3rd Person: “He talks”
  • Regular-Simple Past: “He hopped”
  • Regular-Present Progressive: “He eating”

Later Developing

  • Simple Future: “She will swim”
  • Irregular past tense verbs: “He caught, She ate, They fell”

Complex Verb Tenses:

  • Verb phrases used with a single auxillary verb: “I am swimming, We were running.”
  • Verb phrases used with at least two auxillary verbs: Past perfect tense (Subject + Had + verb in past participle form: “I had not slept in the last 3 days”) and Future perfect tense (Subject + Will Have + Verb in past participle form: “I will have relocated from Oregon to Hawaii”)

Whats Common Core have to do with it?

Below you will find the Common Core standards for verbs in Kindergarten to 5th Grade.  These standards were taken from the Common Core website.  Feel free to check out the website for more information on Common Core.


  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.B: Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.B:Demonstrate understanding of frequently occurring verbs and adjectives by relating them to their opposites (antonyms).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.D:Distinguish shades of meaning among verbs describing the same general action (e.g., walk, march, strut, prance) by acting out the meanings.

1st Grade

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.C: Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He hops; We hop).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.E: Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.5.DDistinguish shades of meaning among verbs differing in manner (e.g.,look, peek, glance, stare, glare, scowl) and adjectives differing in intensity (e.g., large, gigantic) by defining or choosing them or by acting out the meanings.

2nd Grade

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.1.DForm and use the past tense of frequently occurring irregular verbs (e.g.,sat, hid, told).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.5.BDistinguish shades of meaning among closely related verbs (e.g., toss, throw, hurl) and closely related adjectives (e.g., thin, slender, skinny, scrawny).

3rd Grade

4th Grade

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.4.1.BForm and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.

5th Grade

Need activities that target verb production?

Look no further, we have many products available on the site that target Verbs.  Some are paid and some are FREE!  Don’t miss out on these and remember to leave feedback when you download a product.  Speechtivities Feedback Giveaway is coming up soon!

 What can I do in therapy to teach verbs?

  • Once a child is utilizing an expressive vocabulary of about 20-25 words, begin focusing on the addition of verbs to help move them to the two word phrase.  You can do this by describing what others are doing, naming the actions you see in books and play games that incorporate action words
  • Utilize books and have your student name what a character is doing or receptive id: “show me which one is dancing”
  • Act out the verbs.  Have some fun get out of your chairs and “jump”, “dance”, “wink”, “spin”!
  • Practice verbs in following direction tasks “smile”, “clap”.  “Smile then clap your hands”, etc.
  • Bust out the flash cards..I know, I know..but flash cards are BORING!  Use the flash cards to play card games, hide them around the room and have your students find them, Lay them on the floor and have your students toss a beanbag and practice the one it lands on.
  • Work from working on the single verb to putting it in a phrase, in a sentence then on to conversation and carryover.
  • Download awesome products from Vendors on Speechtivities!!
  • Make up stories.  What did the characters do today, yesterday?  What will they do tomorrow?
  • Utilize stuffed animals or plastic animals and help them perform actions.
  • Utilize iPad apps.  This can work best with the older population: middle school through adults but the younger ones enjoy it too!
  • If they are old enough, have your student write out sentences using their target verbs.

Like to use I-pad apps for therapy?  

Here are a few that target verbs: (DISCLAIMER: This list is to be used as a resource.  We are not endorsing any of the apps that are listed here.   Please take the time to research these apps and read their reviews prior to purchasing. NOTE: Affiliate links are included.  All proceeds are used for additional features/improvements to the site.  Thank you!)

We’d love to hear any tips and tricks that you use to work on verbs in therapy, comment below!

JennG-1-2 (1) CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR:  Jennifer Getch, MA. CCC-SLP has been practicing Speech Language Pathology in the medical field since 2004 and in private practice since 2009.  She graduated from The Ohio State    University with both a Bachelor’s and   Master’s degree.  She is the founder of NW Speech Therapy and currently works with children with various speech and language disorders.  In her spare time she creates therapy  activities and spends time with her husband and 2 children.  She blogs over at www.nwspeechtherapy.com/blog and you can follow her on Facebook here.