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*Handy Handouts® are for classroom and personal use only. Any commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Teaching Negation Should Not Cause Frustration!
by Amber Hodgson, M.A., CCC-SLP
Negation is part of grammar (the form and function of words). To negate statements or questions, we typically insert the words no or not into the phrase or sentence. For example, “The dog is playing” is an affirmative, or positive, statement. “The dog is not playing” uses negation, which changes the meaning of the statement. Negation can also occur with contractions. For example, can and not becomes can’t, would and not becomes wouldn’t, and have and not becomes haven’t. Other negation contractions include don’t, won’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, aren’t, weren’t, hadn’t, hasn’t, didn’t, doesn’t, and isn’t. Other common words that show negation include nobody, never, nothing, none, no one, and nowhere.
Ways to Teach Negation
Introducing Not – Use familiar items, such as food or toys, to help children learn negation. For example, if you have a cookie and a banana, say, “Show me which one is not a cookie.” You can also use attributes (features) of the items and say statements like, “Show me which one is not round.” Use different adjectives to describe the items—what they are, and what they are not.
Looking at Pictures – Provide children with pictures. For example, have a picture of a banana, a cookie, and the sun. Say, “Show me which one is not yellow,” or “Show me which one you do not eat.” To increase the level of difficulty, use picture scenes or picture books. Begin by asking yes/no questions. For example, if you are looking at a farm scene, ask questions like: “Is there a horse in this picture?” “Is the horse purple?” Then, introduce the word not with questions like: “Which animal is not little?” “Which animal does not have feathers?” “Which animal can you not ride?”
Following Verbal Directions – You can also teach negation while playing a game, like Simon Says. This game requires children to listen carefully and follow directions only when “Simon Says” is stated before the direction. Incorporate directions that use negation. You can say, “Simon Says, Do not point to the floor.” You can also give verbal directions that use conditional negation. These directions use the words if and not. For example, you can say, “If you are not a girl, jump up and down,” “If it is not raining, wiggle your fingers,” or “Turn around if you do not have blue eyes.”
Playing Barrier Games – Another game you can play uses a barrier board and picture scenes. Each side of the barrier has the same scene. You can sit on one side and the child can sit on the other. You should each have the same pieces that you will place on your own scene. The pieces can be magnetic, felt, or Velcro®. Your scene should closely match the child’s scene when you are done giving directions to each other. For example, if you have a beach scene, you can say: “Put on three people, but do not put them on the sand. Put on all of the beach toys, but not the shovel. Put the rest of the people on the sand, but not near the sand castle.”

*Handy Handouts® are for classroom and personal use only.
Any commercial use is strictly prohibited.

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