Cues to Facilitate Word Retrieval

After a child or adult has tried unsuccessfully to find a word without cues, presenting a specific retrieval cue may help. The following types of cues may be used to facilitate recall and retrieval from long-term memory.

1. Phonetic Cues

  • Say the beginning sound of the intended word, as in saying m- to elicit the word “man”.
  • Say a word fragment containing one or more of the beginning syllables of an intended polysyllabic word, as in saying “hippo” to elicit the word “hippopotamus”.
  • Give a rhyming word cue, such as reciting “sing” or “wing” to facilitate the recall of an intended word such as “ring”.
  • Use phonetic placement; that is, show the posture and position of the articulators of the beginning sound of the intended word, as in pursing the lips for the sh- sound to elicit the word “shoe”.

2. Associative-Semantic Class Cues

  • Use of antonyms to facilitate the recall and retrieval of the direct opposites, as in saying “The opposite of day is ” to elicit “night”.
  • Use synonyms as cue words, as in saying “Another word for lady is ” to elicit the word “woman”.
  • Use an associated word which belongs to the same semantic class as a cue, as in saying “Bread and ” to elicit the word “butter”.
  • Use the name of a semantic (conceptual) category to elicit the name of a member of the group, as in saying “It’s a building”, “It’s a fruit”, “It’s an insect”, or “You can drink it”, “You can eat it for dinner”, and “You can use it to fix things”.
  • Use serial cueing, as in reciting part of a well established series such as “Tuesday, Wednesday, ” to elicit “Thursday”.

3. Sentence Completion

  • Use sentence completion, with a well known and established sentence pattern such as “We decorated the ” to elicit target words such as “cake”, “tree”, “package”, “present”, “table”, or “room”; “We set the ” to elicit the word “table”; or “We gave her a birthday ” to elicit the word “present”.
  • Give a nursery rhyme completion, using well established nursery rhymes such as “Jack and Jill went up the ” to elicit the word “hill”.
  • Use cueing by analogy; present a metaphor or a simile such as “as white as ” to elicit words such as “snow”, “a cloud”, “a sheet”, or “a swan”, or “It was like music to my ” to elicit the intended word “ears”.
  • Use proverb cueing, as in saying “all that glitters is not ” to elicit “gold”.

4. Melodic-Stress Cueing

  • Use melodic cueing; sing a well known tune to elicit a specific word, number, or letter or hum a part of the alphabet song to elicit the letter “g”.
  • Use cueing by tapping the syllabic stress pattern of a polysyllabic word, using a rhythmic pattern such as _ _ _ _ _ to elicit the word “hippopotamus”.

5. Multiple-Choice Cueing

  • Provide multiple choices for cueing, as in saying “Is it a house, a tree, or a chair?” to elicit the word “tree”.

6. Imagery

  • Visualize the meaning of the word. Think of where the object is usually found and who uses it.

Adapted From: E. Wiig & E. Semel. Language Assessment & Intervention for the Learning Disabled. Toronto: Charles C. Thompson, (1980)


Reviewed 2019

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