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Supporting spoken language using shapes and colours

This series of videos explains why we use shapes and colours to support children’s spoken language and literacy development in the Speech and Language Therapy Service in Sheffield. The videos below demonstrate how to use the Sheffield shapes and colours system and have been created by Jaime Gray (Speech and Language Therapist).

1- Supporting spoken language using shapes and colours – an introduction

Time: 3 minutes


In the Speech and Language Therapy service in Sheffield, we use shapes and colours to support language and literacy development. Our shapes and colours system uses many of the features and ideas of the SHAPE CODING™ system developed by Susan Ebbels, but differs in several ways, so it’s not Shape Coding. In Sheffield, we:

  • Use shapes outlined in colours
  • Use a colour coding system to fit in with our use of our Sentence Maker colours
  • Use Communicate in Print symbols to provide additional visual support

For more information on the SHAPE CODING™ system please visit their website: Shape Coding™

The Moor House Research and Training Institute offers three accredited courses in the SHAPE CODING™ system for people working in education: Moorhouse School Shape Coding™

For accredited SHAPE CODING™ system training in Sheffield, please contact the Fusion SEND hub: Fusion SEND Hub

Why do we use shapes and colours?

We use shapes and colours in Speech and Language Therapy to:

  • Teach grammar, in a clear and visual way
  • Help expand and extend children’s spoken and written sentences
  • Help with the teaching and understanding of SPaG (Spelling Punctuation and Grammar)

Shapes and colours can also support the understanding and use of:

  • Tenses – for example, jump, jumping, jumped
  • Adjectives – describing words like happy, big and little
  • Subject-verb agreement – ‘who doing’ phrases
  • Question words, such as Who? What? Where? How? Why?
  • Vocabulary – it shows whether a word is a noun, verb, adjective
  • Spoken and written narrative skills

This system also helps children to check, edit and evaluate their own spoken and written sentences.

Using shapes and colours helps to show sentence structures used in English by:

  • Coding phrases with shapes
  • Coding types of words with colours
  • Coding plurals with a single or double line
  • Coding tense with arrows

Your Speech and Language Therapist can provide guidance on what sentence structure to work on with your child and when to move on. In the classroom, shapes and colours can be used at different levels to help with literacy activities:

  • To write an adverbial phrase
  • To write about topic work
  • To support story mapping and retell

2- Creating ‘who, doing, what, where’ sentences

A video that explains and demonstrates how to use the shapes and colours system to develop a child’s understanding of question words and ability to create sentences including who, doing, what, where.

Time: 5 minutes

3- Adding ‘when’ and ‘how’ to sentences

A video that explains and demonstrates how to add ‘when’ and ‘how’ to sentences using the shapes and colours system.

Time: 3 minutes

4- Using adjectives to extend sentences

A video that explains and demonstrates how to add adjective to extend sentences using the shapes and colours system.

Time: 2 minutes

5- Creating sentences using ‘because’

A video that explains and demonstrates how to create longer sentences including ‘because’ using the shapes and colours system.

Time: 3 minutes

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House.

Telephone: 0114 226 2333

Email: scn-tr.slt-sheffield@nhs.net

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL278

Resource Type: Article

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