Semantic Links, the STASS publication which helps children with word learning, word finding, categorisation skills, and semantic organisation in general, has been updated, and is now supplied with a CD so that individual pages can be printed off from the comfort of your computer chair. It’s the same price as it ever was – £80, including delivery.
I bought the book six months ago, when it still came in its gaudy yellow binder, without the very useful-sounding CD, so anyone buying it now is getting a relative bargain. As far as I can tell, none of the pictures have been updated. The resource sounds the same from the description, with 240 graded worksheets that enable the child to weigh the relative connectedness of a range of objects and action words, arranged as spokes around a central idea.
My copy is printed on lovely high-GSM paper and all of the punched holes are reinforced. I’m not sure how the new version has been bound. The pictures are fairly good – nice and simple, black and white images that just about do the job. There is some inconsistency, particularly around the action words, which appear to have been drawn by someone else entirely.
Some of the choice of vocab (‘knitting’, for example) may not match the experience of your average 21st century-born learner. There are enough examples that you can skip anything that you feel might baffle.
I bought it because I can see myself trying to make something similar in the future (possibly using Boardmaker, or maybe even passing the project onto someone who can build apps) and I wanted to see what a large corpus of child-friendly semantic links looked like. Since then I have made quite a lot of use of it during therapy.
I do categorisation-based work with children who have autism, word finding difficulties, and even speech difficulties (usually using the excellent Black Sheep Press Categories pack), and this resource backs that up in its depth, and also in its different angle of approach. Furthermore, it is a fantastic resource to pass onto TAs and parents – it’s simple enough that they can just pick it up and use it.
It’s a bit dry, but if you provide a few colouring pencils, I find that children engage very nicely with it. I always model for the child the nature of the connection – ‘apple and orange go together because they are both types of fruit’, ‘hammer and nail go together because you use a hammer to knock in a nail’. I want the child to be able to explicitly describe the nature of the connection. Unfortunately, there is nothing here in the material that scaffolds the child to achieve this.
To this end I went through the examples, broke them down into the different types of relationships, and boiled it all down to a few archetypes which I could then present in an analogous manner to prompt the child as they go about making their explanations.
I’ve written enough in my other posts about why I work on semantic knowledge. It’s the other side of the phonological awareness coin, it’s the z-dimension to the x and y dimensions of ‘input’ and ‘output’ phonological features. There is an interesting study from Tim Pring and many more in Child Language Teaching and Therapy which shows that a small amount of work on a specific category can improve retrieval of untreated items from that same category.