How to Teach the Linking Verbs Is and Are in Speech Therapy

“Why is my student completely omitting the linking verbs is and are in her speech”, I thought to myself during an evaluation. This needs to be worked on, but how? Where do I even start?

As I pondered this question, I began to realize that WOW teaching linking verbs is a tricky skill!

My brain began categorizing all of the “rules” of correctly using linking verbs that I had never really paid much attention to. Suddenly I started to feel like that meme of the lady thinking with all the numbers swirling around her head.

Teaching linking verbs is intense, ya’ll.

Don’t believe me? Let me show you.

Here is a graphic I created to help me make a game plan on how to teach this skill. I think it does an excellent job breaking down the verb “rules”, YIKES. (Technically, has/have/had- aren’t linking verbs, but equally difficult to teach).

Chart breaking down the rules for teaching linking verbs

Do you see how convoluted that is!!

How on earth do we go about TEACHING linking verbs so that our students LEARN?

My days of doing endless speech therapy drills and *hoping* my student will just somehow “get it” are gone. I need a strategy before I start teaching any skill. Today, I am going to share my method for teaching the linking verbs is and are. I also have strategies for teaching was/were and have/has/had, but that is for another post!

Step 0: Creating homework.

We all know that repetition is the key to learning. I love having corresponding homework that relates to what we did in speech therapy that day. I knew I wanted to create something similar as I taught this skill. So, I made sure that for each worksheet I had a print-and-go homework activity on hand. All you have to do is slide in your student’s speech folder and send it home.

Step 1: Understand the Difference between “One and More than One”

As with all of my teaching guides, I start by peeling back the layers of the skill to its foundational level. It occurred to me that at its core, one of the main differences between the linking verbs is and are is that “is” is talking about one person or thing, while “are” is talking about “more than one person or thing.” So, before we do anything else, I make sure my student understands the difference between “one” and “more than one”.

Step 2: Recognize the sight words

This might sound strange, but for this skill, I wanted my student to be able to recognize and read “is” and “are” as sight words. Starting here will provide you with a written cue later on in the process. This also supports early readers in the classroom, which is an added bonus!

Step 3: “Is” goes with groups of 1 and “are” goes with groups of 2 or more

I created a series of structured worksheets that progress in difficulty that reinforce this concept.

Worksheet for teaching is and are in speech therapy

Step 4: Practice

Once your student understands the rules of using the linking verbs is and are, practice as much as you need to! You can use pictures in books, flashcards, videos, or real-life scenarios to practice this skill!

If your student struggles with is and are, you might also have noticed that your student also struggles with what I affectionately call the “little words”. These include is/are, have/has/had, was/were, and the time prepositions (at, by, on, in).

Step-by-step guide for teaching is and are in speech therapy
Step-by-step and strategic guide for teaching the foundational skills of using is and are

Because I have struggled to teach these skills, I want to share this process and my teaching guides with other SLPs. My hope is that maybe something will jive with you and your students!

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