Making language more colourful - using colourful semantics

What is colourful semantics?

Many Speech and Language therapists use a therapy approach called Colourful Semantics (CS), created by Alison Bryan. You may have already heard about it or even be using some of its principles with your child. CS provides an easy to use framework to support language structures and it does this by giving each part of the sentence a colour. This way your child tunes in to what they have heard but also to what they see! By giving them the extra visual hook to pin the language on to, children are then able make and produce their own sentences at the level they are working at.

To give you an idea of how It work, look at this sentence: Carolyn is writing a story at home.

There are different parts that make up this sentence:





Each part is given a colour as below: Question word Part of sentence Colour Who? Carolyn ORANGE Doing? Is writing YELLOW What? a story GREEN Where? At home BLUE  

What kind of things can I use Colourful Semantics for?

You can make it as easy or as complex as you like, depending on where your child is with their learning. For example, if your child is learning the concept ‘who’ you can focus only on this. Take one sheet of orange card and lots of different ‘who’ pictures. These can be from magazines, family photos etc. As you go through them place them on the orange card, saying ‘who is this?”, ‘It is dad/the dog/peppa pig that is who’. As your child learns to sort the who pictures they will start to identify the concept with the colour. You can do this with all the parts e.g. doing, what, where. Once your child is confident, you can mix up the pictures and see if you can sort them on to the right coloured cards.

  1. CS is a useful tool for helping children to identify question parts and answer them. Emphasising the colours and the sentence parts throughout will help with this e.g. Who ate the sandwich? Can you find the orange word? You found the orange word, that is who!’.
  2. It can also help with imagination and vocabulary. Asking your child think of a different orange word or green word etc. can demonstrate to them how sentences can change and are flexible. A fun way to do this is to create silly sentences. Have words for each part of the sentence written on different coloured card that your child can chose randomly, then following the order of the colours, they can make their own silly sentences.
  3. This leads to the next benefit of CS. It helps with word order. Reinforcing to your child that one colour follows another will help them to put their words in the right order when speaking and writing. Using  a  sentence strip like the one below can prompt your child to put the pictures in the right order:

4. CS can also support story telling. Prompting your child to think about different aspects of the story e.g. who and where. Here your child can retell the story by putting the coloured pictures in the right order.

There are also some great resources for some of the traditional tales and everyday events that use the CS colour framework provided by Integrated Treatment Services (link provided below).For links to free resources and more information on CS look here:

Have fun making language more colourful!!

Written by Carolyn Fox, Children's Speech and Language Therapist

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