6 Amazing Category Activities for Speech Therapy

Speech-language pathologists are often on the lookout for category activities for speech therapy. That’s because targeting categorization skills in speech and language therapy is a great way to help both younger and older students learn new vocabulary, organize new information, and increase language comprehension skills. Speech therapy students with language disorders often benefit from working on this skill area in speech therapy.

This blog post lists 6 category activities for speech therapy, and also provides a list of basic categories for speech-language pathologists.

Why Work on Categorization Skills in Speech Therapy

Speech therapists often work on category skills in speech therapy in order to increase language development and assist with academic performance.

Working on categorization skills helps increase language skills and vocabulary development because it allows children to learn new words. Children can be introduced to new vocabulary words when they are targeting different categories. 

Categorization helps children to understand the meaning of words because it allows them to sort words by different features. 

Words can be grouped or sorted by various features, and visual supports can assist with this.

Analyzing and sorting items by attributes and object function can assist with critical thinking skills. 

Targeting this skill area also helps increase overall language comprehension. That’s because not only do categories help us understand the meaning of words, but they also help us to understand word relationships as well as the meaning of sentences. 

This blog post is written for speech-language pathologists. It recommends 6 category activities for speech therapy.

Multisensory Supports for Category Skills

There are many different types of visuals and supports that SLPs could use to teach category skills!

Try using picture cards or vocabulary games that feature items in different categories. 

Picture cards could be used in sorting activities along with a sorting mat. I like to put them in a sensory bin for my students to find before sorting them onto a mat! Different flashcards sets could be used in interactive and engaging ways to target this skill. 

Try using tactile objects with younger students. For example, make the activity play-based by introducing toy food. Real clothing items could also be used. Hide groups of items in containers for students to find! 

Picture prompts could also be useful. For example, a picture scene with animals and the surrounding environment could be used for discussion.

If you have access to an interactive whiteboard, your students could drag and drop digital objects into the appropriate category.

File folder activities may also be an engaging way to target categories in speech therapy. 

For speech students learning to compare and contrast, why not use a venn diagram? Venn diagrams help show the relationship between two words or items. This provides an easy way to organize and compare different features. Check out this pirate-themed describing activity!

This is a speech therapy activity that works on explaining similarities and differences between two pictures using a venn diagram. Created by The Pedi Speechie

Another graphic organizer to try out is a semantic concept map. This is the perfect way to help your student discuss different features or related words.

Building Blocks for Category Skills

Is there a hierarchy for teaching category skills?

Most SLPs like to start by teaching basic categories.

One foundational skill is ensuring that a student can discriminate between items or objects that are different in some way.

Another skill is identifying objects or pictures that belong in the same category.

Students may also sort items or pictures by category.

Additional skills could include naming the category for pictured items or real items and describing the features or attributes of items.

After that, speech pathologists might introduce comparing and contrasting items and learning to classify items into more complex categories.

Basic Categories List for Speech Therapy

What are some examples of basic categories that SLPs might target in speech therapy? 

Here are some examples:

  1. Animals
  2. Food
  3. Drinks
  4. Clothing
  5. Furniture
  6. Toys
  7. Vehicles
  8. Body parts
  9. Shapes
  10. Colors

What are Subcategories?

Categories can be further broken down into subcategories. For example, you could go into more detail with animals and discuss farm animals, zoo animals, reptiles, birds, and more.

Abstract Concepts vs Concrete Concepts

Basic categories tend to be more concrete concepts. In other words, you can visualize them. 

Abstract concepts are a bit more challenging. They involve concepts like happiness, love, and sadness. A great activity for teaching abstract concepts would be reading a book, and discussing concepts such as friendship or courage.

Divergent Naming vs Convergent Naming

What is the difference between divergent naming and convergent naming? 

These are two common tasks that students may be asked to do when learning categories and they are very important skills.

Divergent naming tasks involve asking the student to name items in a particular category.

A convergent naming task, on the other hand, means that the student is asked to identify the category that a certain word belongs to.

Language Goals for Categorization Skills

Are you a speech therapist looking for some quick ideas for category goals for speech therapy? 

Here are a few suggestions to get you started. As a reminder, these are simply ideas! Goals should always be individualized for a particular student.

  • sort items or pictured items into two categories
  • label the category for an item or pictured item
  • provide a group of items for a named category 
  • state the object function for an item or pictured item
  • describe the appearance of an item/ pictured item (i.e. color, size, shape)
  • list 3 parts or associated parts for a pictured item or object
  • when provided with a group of items, select the item that does not belong 
  • describe an object by providing the category and at least 2 additional features (i.e. object function, parts, appearance)
  • complete analogies related to semantic class features (i.e. category, object function, parts, etc.)

Speech pathologists may also wish to write S.M.A.R.T. objectives. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Learn more about writing S.M.A.R.T. objectives for special education.

Need additional ideas for speech therapy goals? Check out these receptive language goals and 30 vocabulary goals for speech therapy

6 Category Activities for Speech Therapy

Speech pathologists are often looking for the best way to target category skills in speech therapy sessions! The most important thing is to have fun and utilize meaningful activities.

The suggested resources each provide a unique and fun way to address categorization skills. These resources can be used in individual or whole group settings.

Workout Category Activities for Speech Therapy 

Working with a student who likes to move around a bit? 

Good news! This Category Workout Resource was literally designed to work on category sorting, naming items in categories, and identifying what doesn’t belong… all while not staying still.

How does it work? It’s simple, really!

Your student might look at a picture, tell you the category, then do a few jumping jacks!

Get those students up and moving with this fun resource!

This is a category activity for speech therapy. What category is the picture in? After choosing, the student does a movement activity.

Binder Flip Category Picture Cards

Need some category picture cards to target categorization and describing skills?

Hate trying to sort through and organize all those picture cards?


That’s why I created this easy flip-and-describe category activity

Although the initial setup takes some time, the final results are worth it!

This is a category activity for speech therapy. Speech therapy students can work on category sorting and object function.

You can work on so many different speech therapy goals with your students, including:

  • naming items in a category
  • category sorting
  • identifying category when shown pictures
  • which one doesn’t belong
  • which two are the same
  • how are they alike?
  • how are they different?
  • what does it do?
  • what do we use it for?
  • answering what/ who questions
  • following directions (ex: point to the dog before you point to the cat)

Seriously, the possibilities are endless! 

Digital Describing Task Cards

Help your students learn to define and describe pictures in a structured way!

Your student will “fill in” the blanks using the provided sentence strips. 

For example, when shown a picture of broccoli, the sentence strip says, “Broccoli is a _____. We ____. It is _____.”

Your student is to first provide the category, then state the object function, and finally provide a little more detail- such as color or size.

Basic categories or subcategories are targeted using this no-print resource, which is available in The Pedi Speechie teachers pay teachers store.

Interactive Describing Worksheets

These interactive describing worksheets are going to be a hit in your speech therapy room with your speech and language kids! 

First, you will select an ocean animal together. What does your student want to learn about? High-interest topic choices include a crab, dolphin, jellyfish, lobster, seahorse, shark, or sea turtle. 

Next, your student will listen to (or read) the passage. The speech therapist will choose between leveled passages for each ocean animal.

One passage contains picture-supported text, which will be perfect to use with your young readers, non-readers, or students using alternative communication methods. Another version is text-only.

After your student reads or listens to the passage, he will describe the ocean animal using the interactive flip-and-describe activity.

Grab a few school supplies, like paint, scissors, and glue. 

We like to paint ours, but you can also use crayons or markers!

The describing answer page also offers leveled support. One version is a fill-in-blank option that instructs your student to identify any descriptive features (such as category or appearance) that were mentioned in the text.

Another option allows your students to choose between a field of 2 picture-supported answer choices.

Glue the ocean animal page on top of the describing page to complete the activity.

Pirate Describing Pictures Activity

Need a fun game or activity to try?

Think like a pirate with this describing pictures activity!

Your students will be able to work on skills such as identifying the category a picture is in, explaining object function, stating appearance, and identifying what items are made of.

This is a describing by attributes and features activity for speech therapy. Students will describe pictures by naming the category, object function, and more.

There are category coins, play dough smash mats, and more.

Your student will have a blast working on communication skills with this engaging activity set!

Analogy Category Worksheets for Speech Therapy

Looking for a categories activity that targets word associations? Check out these Analogy Worksheets, which feature mythical creatures and all things mysterious!

Your student will complete analogies based on categories, object function, parts, and location.

An example of a category analogy on one worksheet is, “Hammer is to tool as chair is to…(furniture).”

The best part? These worksheets have a fun theme- you’ll be discussing Big Foot, Yeti, UFOs, and the Loch Ness Monster!

This is a word association analogies worksheet for speech therapy. It can be used with elementary students with language disorders.


In closing, it is very important to work on categorization skills in speech therapy. Categorization skills help children to organize and sort items, learn new vocabulary, and increase overall language development.

Many multi-sensory supports can be utilized while teaching category skills. Category activities for speech therapy can help teach specific categorization skills.

Speech-language pathologists may wish to try these 6 category activities for speech therapy:

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