MC12 Intervention Overview

Using the SHAPE CODING™ System Subject + Verb + Object ‘With Instrument’ Intervention Outline

You will need:

  • Oval, long hexagon, 2x rectangles, flag, (diamond) shapes and/or SHAPE CODING app
  • Small figures, toys and props/instruments
  • Small pictures or text flashcards of people and objects
  • List of verbs/sample sentences for session

NB. If a child is inconsistent in production of this structure, they may not have a full grasp of a specific verb’s semantics rather than the knowledge of the syntactic structure itself. For example, they may be able to produce sentences with a verb such as cutting: He is cutting the paper with scissors but make errors with verbs like filling (e.g. producing “she is filling the milk in the bowl” rather than She is filling the bowl with milk) due to not knowing the full meaning of the verb filling and thinking it means the same as pouring. It is important to ensure the child understands that the oval acts on, and causes a change of state of, the direct object/first rectangle using the instrument in the with flag.

App settings: Turn on the change of state pattern including with flag.

Intervention steps:

In this case, focus on understanding of the
detailed meaning of individual verbs (see comprehension plan, below) as well as production of the
grammatical structure itself.

Key verbs: fill,
cover, decorate, build, pack, surround, break, block, wipe, wrap.


  1. Introduce the SHAPE CODING


Lay out the shapes above (note that the flag goes
outside the hexagon on the app due to space restrictions, if you are using
physical shapes, it is better if it can stay inside) and introduce one key
verb, e.g. cover.  Write the word cover
onto the blue line.  Lay out some
props, e.g. toy cars and give the child something to cover them with, e.g. a
blanket.  Ask the child to “cover
the cars with the blanket”. Point to the hexagon and its rectangles as you
give the instruction.

If the child does this correctly, say: “Good. We
are covering the cars with a blanket” and point to the oval + hexagon and its
rectangles as you speak.  If not, take
the blanket and demonstrate, saying: “I am covering the cars with the
blanket”. Ask the child to repeat this action.

Write or draw the objects onto the relevant
rectangles to support memory if necessary.

Be explicit
about the verb changing the ‘state’ of the toy cars (visible to invisible).
Explain the role of the flag, i.e. this is HOW we are changing the things (car) in the first rectangle, we are using the blanket – point out the ‘with’

Ask these
and ensure the child answers using the information from the
appropriate shapes:

is covering the cars? The people (oval)

are we covering? The cars (first

are we covering the cars? With the blanket
(whole flag)

are we covering the cars with? The blanket
(second rectangle, in the flag)

are we DOING? Covering the toys with a blanket
(whole hexagon).

Help the child to answer with the correct element
by pointing to/picking up the relevant shape.

  1. Repeat keeping the verb the
    first change just the objects being covered e.g. covering the floor with a blanket/ covering the phone with a
    and then change just the cover e.g. covering the cars with a coat/a rug/newspaper and then
    change both the object being covered and the cover e.g.
    covering the sandwich with clingfilm, balloon with paper.

Remember to include reversible sentences as the
child becomes more familiar with the verb/structure. E.g. We are covering the newspaper with the blanket/the
blanket with newspaper
. Include animate rectangles where appropriate
e.g. Peter is covering Adam with a blanket.

  1. Target different verbs one at a
    time using steps 1-2
    . Alternate between acting out the sentence yourself
    with asking the child to act out the scene. Keep asking individual
    questions to ensure child understands which part of sentence corresponds
    to which question/phrase/shape. Be explicit about each verb’s meaning.

As the child becomes confident with the verb
semantics and the different elements of the structure, focus more on expression
for this verb.

  1. Expression:


Lay out the full SHAPE CODING sentence template.
Ask the child to pick a puppet/cuddly toy to carry out the actions or present
some images using the target verb, e.g. The
Hulk is covering the cars with a blanket
or The woman is covering the pot with glaze.

Ask the child to describe the action using the
SHAPE CODING template as a guide. It does not matter which tense is used. The
important thing is the choice of verb and choice/order of the rectangles.

  1. Give explicit feedback:

a) If the child omits the first rectangle,
explicitly state that it is missing. For example, if the child says: “The
lady is covering (with) the glaze”. Say: “I heard, ‘The lady is
covering (with) the glaze'”, pointing at the relevant shapes as you
speak.  Indicate the error by saying:
“You need/don’t forget a red rectangle
word here”, pointing at the first rectangle. Give a forced alternative, e.g.
“Is she covering a pot or a plate?” Help the child reformulate using
their chosen object.

b) If the child omits the with but gets everything else in the right order, explicitly
state that they need a with inside the
flag to say what they used and help them reformulate.

c) If the child uses all 5 key elements but in
the wrong order, e.g. “The lady is covering the glaze with the pot”,
say: “I heard all the right words but I think they were in the wrong
order.” Act out what the child said, if possible. If the child doesn’t
self-correct, ask questions as in step 2 as you point to the shapes to
re-establish the correct order.

d) If the child omits the flag but chooses
verb/direct object accurately, e.g. “The lady is covering the pot”,
say: ‘”Yes, that’s right – we don’t have to always say the flag but can
you whisper it to me so I know you know what goes there?”  

Repeat with
multiple examples.
activities according to the types of errors made, e.g. if the child always
omits the flag completely (d), change the instruments but keep everything else
the same to prompt the child to produce the full structure, e.g. covering the cars with a blanket/with

  1. Reducing shapes: repeat
    comprehension steps 1-3 and/or expression steps 4-5 with fewer and fewer
    shapes, but then bring them back to check responses.
  2. Monitoring: SLT start to make “errors”, get student to spot and
    correct them:

    1. Using shape
      templates as an aid
    2. Without the templates
  3. Consolidation: At the end of each session, review verbs covered in
    previous sessions and start to mix up instructions to use a range of
    subjects, verb, objects, instruments in consecutive examples. Make sure
    that some of these are reversible, e.g.
    Peter is covering the
    newspaper with a blanket.  Peter is
    covering the blanket with newspaper
    . Ensure the child demonstrates the subject from the
    oval is using the second rectangle in the flag to change the first
  4. Generalisation: Watch short action clips together and create a running
    commentary. Take photos and describe the action. Create a building site /
    decorating scene with people using instruments to change/act on objects.
    Take photos of art projects in progress and create a record of steps. 

Additional Resources