MC12 Intervention Overview

Using the SHAPE CODING™ System S+V+O+ How Adverbial ‘with instrument’ Intervention Outline

Materials required:

      • S+V+O+ Flag (‘with + instrument’) sentence shape coding prompt.
      • Large, individual SC shapes : oval, long hexagon,  2 rectangles, flag (diamond) and/or SC app.
      • Small figures, toys and props/instruments
      • Small pictures or text flashcards of people and objects.
      • List of verbs/sample sentences for session


    1. 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 such as ‘He is cutting the paper with scissors’ but not ‘She is filling the bowl with milk’. It is important to ensure the child understands that the verb acts on and causes a change of state of the direct object/first rectangle.

      In this case, focus on comprehension 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 sentence coding

Lay out the shapes above 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 – point out the ‘with’. 

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


Who is covering the cars? We/I/You (oval)

What are we covering? The cars (first rectangle)

What are we covering the cars with? the blanket (rectangle 2)

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

What 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 same, first changing just the objects being covered e.g. covering the floor with a blanket/ covering the phone with a blanket and then changing just the cover e.g. covering the cars with a coat/a rug/newspaper and then changing both objects 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.

4. Target different verbs one at a time using steps 1-3. 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.


5. Expression:

Lay out the full sentence coding. 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 what tense is used. The important thing is the choice of verb and choice/order of the rectangles.

6. 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 – is she covering a pot or a plate? Help 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 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 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 choses 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.  Adapt activities to practice 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 fore the child into producing the full structure e.g. covering the cars with a blanket/with newspaper/flour/sand.

7. Reducing shapes: repeat comprehension steps 1-4 and/or expression steps 5-6 with fewer and fewer shapes, but then bring back to check responses.

8. Monitoring: SLT start to make “errors”, get student to spot and correct them

  1. Using shape templates as an aid
  2. Without the templates

9. 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 to change the first one.


10. 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