Monday, March 16, 2009

Study guide for Bracken Concepts Scale

An Associate Behavior Analyst from Canada recently contacted me regarding the possibility of posting study resources that correspond with sections of commonly used language tests. I thought this was a great idea. Because I’m in the US I’m going to work with those tests that I, as a parent, am familiar with. I am not a speech therapist so my understanding of the material is limited, however I hope to compile resources that are both useful for parents seeking to improve their child’s language and for speech therapists looking for new or additional materials. This post won’t conform to my standard “printables only” so you will find a variety of materials.

I’m also working with a very tetchy internet connection, so there’s a good chance that this project will be completed in spurts. I’m not sure if I will break sections apart for navigation or if I will leave it in total. I would love some reader advice on this.

I’m beginning with the Bracken Basic Concept Scale. This scale is copyrighted by The Psychological Corporation and was recently used to evaluate my son’s ability to understand various concepts. I am working from the record form that was completed using my son’s input, so if anyone has any additional suggestions please feel free to contact me. It is my hope that therapists and educators will find my resource list useful enough to refer parents to it.

Bracken Basic Concept Scale

Resources for Subtest 1: Colors

In this subtest my son was asked to identify colors by pointing to the correct color on the chart.

Colors seem like such a simple concept to teach, but for a child that has problem making generalizations the variations in colors may make identification difficult. For example: Grass and limes may both be green, but they are not the same shade of green and children realize this. To further complicate the identification of colors, colors are subjective. Varying shades or tints of colors can be registered differently by different persons. Colors like puce may seem reddish to some, brownish to others, or even purplish. Learn more about teaching children colors.

It is my personal opinion as a hack artist that children should initially be taught colors using the primary and secondary colors of the color wheel along with a 64 color box of crayons. The primary and secondary colors of a color wheel are the most recognizable colors and will be used often in elementary school. The standard 64 color box of crayons is an amazingly versatile learning tool which will provide many opportunities for categorization of colors, exploration of tints and shades, and chances to increase interest in color and their variations.

If your child likes to color these printable color recognition worksheets would be a great way to introduce your child to variations in colors. Spend time sorting crayons with your child, putting those 64 crayons into groups according to their similarity. Match them to the color wheel. Expand the lesson by using groups of similar crayons (shades of blue, for example) to color the worksheets. Create your own color flash cards by coloring index cards with varying shades of each color. I prefer this over using printable color flash cards because the variations in screen colors and printer colors can lead to issues where colors are hard to distinguish.

Take time to explore colors in the “real world.” Walk around the house and match the colors in your 64 box to those colors you see in your home. Expand the lesson by having the child gather household items and arrange them in a color wheel.

Songs for Teaching has songs about colors set to popular tunes that you can sing with your child. The lyrics are free and the songs are available for download at a reasonable cost.

Quick Lesson Plan


Print out a color wheel. Use this wheel to identify the various colors. If a color wheel is over whelming try using a rainbow.

Using only the primary and secondary color crayons have the child match the crayons to the color wheel or rainbow.

Have the child match the colors of the crayons to objects in the room.

Using small toys or objects arrange the toys to make a color wheel or rainbow.

Help the child create “flash cards” on index cards using the crayons by coloring the blank side of the card while talking about the color and objects that are that color.

Lay colored construction paper on the floor (a few colors at a time) hold up a flash card and ask the child to hop to (throw a bean bag on, pick up, etc.) the matching color.


If the child has mouse skills play these games from Sheppard software.

Help the child sort the crayons in groups of colors (ie. Shades of red)

Using objects in the room or small toys sort piles of similar shades (things that are shades of red)

Using colored modeling clay explore the various colors.

Attempt to have the child identify the colors on the color wheel or rainbow.

Using photos of familiar scenes (the child’s room, parents, family car) try to identify the various colors present.

Help the child create finger paint using one of these recipes paint a picture. Identify the colors as you go.

Resources for Subtest 2: Letters
In this subtest my son was asked to identify, by pointing, various letters on the chart. The letters were a mix of upper case and lower case, beginning first with the upper case, then continuing with the lower case.

If I had a favorite online resource for teaching children about letters it would be StarFall. While this site is geared towards early reading the delightful colors, illustrations, music, simple push button interface and visual rewards make it a great website for engaging the child’s attention. For reinforcing these lessons First School comes to the rescue with hundreds of printables ELS Flash cards has a nice set of simple, no nonsense alphabet flashcards featuring upper and lowercase letters. Don’t forget to identify those letters in your alphabet soup or cereal and on road signs!

To be honest though, I owe my son’s letter recognition to the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set that graced our refrigerator door during his early years. The combination of physical manipulation of letters and the instant reward of music makes this toy a must have for children who need help identifying letters or letter sounds. This toy taught my son his letter way before I thought he was “ready” to learn them and led to an almost obsessive interest in letter sound identification that eventual corresponded to reading. We had an older version of this toy than the one listed on Amazon, but from reading the reviews I am assured that they both function the same. You can purchase expansion packs to cover the lowercase letters.

Most any big box or toy store will have flash cards, puzzles, games, and toys for teaching letter identification. Look for those items that are multifunctional and can be used to teach other concepts like colors, shapes, or vocabulary words so that they are still useful after your child has mastered their letters.

Quick Lesson Plan


Spend some time using Fisher Price’s Learn the Alphabet game. The child sees the letter and hears the name when he or she presses a key on the key board. This game uses capital letters. For lower case letters try Magic Mailbox. A new letter will appear each time the child clicks the mailbox with the mouse.

Use this printable from Do2Learn to create a letter matching game. Do only a few letters at a time. Using the letter dots tracing printable to help the child trace the letters with their fingers. Capital and lower case letters are available.

Create puzzle letters for the child to assemble. Lower case. Use objects like pencils, crayons, or yarn to create letters.

Make some Alphabet Art. There are a variety of mediums that you can make letters from.


Try creating a letter fishing toy. I recommend completing the bulk of the tedious bits of the project for the child. You don’t want them to get bogged down in the cutting, paper clipping, or painting portions. Use a photocopier to shrink down these letter fish if you want something cuter than just plain letters. Have fun catching and identifying the letters.

For children learning the lower case try this nice matching game.

Borrow a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to read to the child then watch the video (if for some reason this video link breaks, try searching for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Cartoon on YouTube.)

Use letter flash cards for quick recall and study.

Go on a letter safari. Using a digital camera (instant gratification) help the child find and identify letters in the environment. This can be actual letters on signs and labels or items that look like letters. Capture photos of the letters, arrange and print the captured letters for the child to review. Classrooms, homes, hospital therapy rooms, etc. all have tons of letters waiting to be discovered.

Resources for Subtest 3: Numbers/ Counting
This test involved two different skills. My son was asked to identify numbers in the same way that he was asked to identify letters, include double digit numbers. He was also asked to identify and count sets of objects such as 9 bubble bees.

For number identification and rote counting there is no greater tool than the humble ruler. A yard stick is my favorite because it is more interesting than a ruler (kids like sticks!) and has double digits. We often used a yard stick as a road on which my son drove his toy cars. Sometimes they stopped at 5, sometimes at 36. Sometimes they backed up to 16. It made the yard stick more fun.

Tlsbooks (which is likely to be mentioned in a post by itself soon) has a GREAT assortment of number flash cards, worksheets, counting practice, etc. worksheets to download and print.

Don’t forget the value of counting during play time. Count beads when you and your child string them, count cars when they are being rolled across the tables, count everything! Here are ten creative “real world” ways to incorporate counting into daily activities.
Quick Lesson Plan
Print out and color the numbers posters from ABC Teach.  The posters for numbers 1-10 are at the bottom of the page.  Do two or three posters each day (what ever the child has patience for) and hang them up.
Read books about counting.  There are too many books about counting on the market for me to narrow it down, so just find books about counting that interest your child.  They can be of a particular subject matter (like trains or animals) or interactive (moving parts) or they can make noise. The best way to find books that interest your child is to take them with you to the book store or library.  Lay out several books that accomplish your goal (counting and number identification) and let the child choose which one they want to read.
Count objects in the home.  Count toys, beads, appliances, clothes, or what ever is around.  Count the steps you take, fingers and toes, just keep counting.
Make a file folder game for matching numbers.  You can use these instructions for an apple file folder game or you can print this watermelon themed game from Preschool Printables.
Once the child has a good grasp of numbers one through ten you can expand your lessons to include double digit numbers.  I find that once a child gets past counting the teens and into the twenties and thirties the rest is easy.  This is where the humble yard stick comes into play.  With a yard stick a child can see the progression of numbers up to the double digits.  Practice identifying the numbers on yardstick, once the child is secure in numbers 1-36 ask the child to guess what comes after 36.
Create a 100 numbers chart.  Read the numbers with the child and cover each number with a tile.  Use the same color tiles for the same sets of numbers (for example, at the numbers in the thirties could be green and all the numbers in the fifties could be red.)  Explore the numbers with the child.  This is not so much for rote memorization but for the child to learn the pattern of counting into the double digits.
For Both Simple and Complex
The good people at PreKinders have created a great list of activities, books, and ideas for counting.  I highly suggest giving them a visit.



Little Ol' Liz said...

Wow - killer amount of info for the little learning set. Is it standard 5 yo testing - or just for helping define special needs?

Nice to see you back online ;-)

I am Jamie Sue! said...

I'm glad to be back, albeit partially due to a crummy internet connection. How cool is it that someone gave me a comment welcoming me back! That makes me feel special!!!

As far as the Bracken Concept Scale goes the summary says the following:

Bracken Basic Concept Scale-Revised (BBCS-R) is a revision of Bracken Basic Concept Scale (1984). It is used to assess to basic concept development of children in the age range of 2 years 6 months through 7 years 11 months. It is used to measure comprehension of 308 foundational and functionally relevant educational concepts in 11 subtests or concept categories: colors, letters, numbers/counting, sizes, comparisons, shapes, direction/position, self/social awareness, texture/material, quantity, and time/sequence. The test is individually administered, and the concepts are presented orally within the context of complete sentences and visually in a multiple-choice format.

Of the 11 subtests, the first six compose the School Readiness Composite (SRC). The SRC can be used to assess children's knowledge of those readiness concepts that parents and preschool and kindergarten teachers traditionally teach children in preparation for formal education.

The BBCS-R is a developmentally sensitive measure of children's basic concept acquisition and receptive language skills. The scale enables you to assess important conceptual and receptive language abilities in children rather than only their knowledge of common vocabulary words (e.g., astronaut, jumping). The concepts assessed with the BBCS-R are acquired in a developmentally predictable fashion that is consistent across cultures and languages studied (Bracken, 1988; Bracken, 1996; Bracken, Barona, Bauermeister, Howell, Poggioli, & Puente, 1990).

A Spanish adaptation of BBCS-R items and a Spanish record form are available. The test items themselves are largely pictorial. The normative sample matches current U.S. population parameters.

Tahirih said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tahirih said...

Hi Jamie Sue,
I often help parents teach words from the Bracken List. I rarely give the test because kids with autism do so badly with standardized tests but I love the list of words. I always teach parents to follow the Rule of 3, teach new vocabulary with 3sets of materials or different activities, in three places, and with 3 people. Then you know the child has acquired the concept.

Jamie Sue, Do you have a printable for learning the parts of the face?

Anonymous said...

The Bracken Basic Concept Scale is designed to be followed-up with teaching the concepts its tests. This is not the typical design for a standardized tests, though, so 'teaching to a test' in general is not a good idea. It reduces the validity of the instrument. So, for instance, if we go out and train the content items in the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, we can no longer use the test reliably.

I am Jamie Sue! said...

It is not my goal to 'teach to the test' or invalidate the test in any way, but to provide parents whose children have taken the test ways to help their child work on the concepts they didn't understand.