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    Building Vocabulary with U-Play Mat Lesson Plan

    Topics: Early Childhood Education, Autism & Preschool Lesson Plans, Autism and Language, Infant/Toddler (0-3), Elementary (4-12)

    Lesson Overview

    Students will use the U-Play Mat to practice identifying, categorizing, and communicating with vocabulary words. Each part of the lesson plan can be extended or shortened depending on the needs of the child.

    Download Lesson Plan:

    Stages Learning uplay vocab lesson plan

    Skills Practiced

    • Picture identification and vocabulary
    • Gross motor development
    • Conceptualization skills
    • Communication skills



    This lesson is designed for 1:1 instruction with a teacher or therapist. It can also be adapted for use with a small group of 2-4 students.

    Setupwoman using Stages Learning U-Play Mat with autistic girl

    To prepare, educators should clear a space on the floor and place the mat in a position that would allow the child to comfortably sit on the floor. Keep the decks of different categories of vocabulary words separated in neat piles in a place that is easily accessible to the educator but does not distract the child’s attention away from the mat.



    1. Choose a single card to place in a clear pocket. Either ask the student to identify the vocabulary word or say the word out loud for the student to hear and repeat.
    2. Give the student the card that matches the first card. Ask the student to match the card by placing it on top of the correct card in the clear pocket. You can continue steps 1 and 2 using different cards.
    3. After the U-Play Mat is filled with cards the student has correctly matched, point to different cards and ask students to verbally identify the cards.
    4. Once the student has correctly identified the cards, ask the student to find a card with a certain characteristic. For example, students can find a card that includes the color green, has stripes, or is a breakfast food. Encourage the student to point to the card in addition to saying the image out loud.
    5. Have students use the categories or other adjectives to describe the cards. Give students sentence frames such as “This __________ (vocabulary) is (a) ___________ (adjective or category).”
    6. Pick up a card from the deck that matches one on the mat and don’t show the student what the card is. Describe the card and have the student try to guess which card you are holding. You can help the student identify the card through a process of elimination, taking out any cards that do not match your descriptions.


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    Grace Chen

    Written by Grace Chen

    Grace Chen is currently pursuing an Ed.M. in Arts in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has been a teaching artist, curriculum developer, and research assistant focusing on innovative evaluations in out-of-school time programs. She hopes to develop resonant and empowering art programs by partnering with youth in educational research and practice.