Some researchers think that up to 15% of young school kids don’t have the language comprehension skills to cope fully with the demands of school (Hart & Fielding-Barnsley, 2009). Many of these kids struggle – some for their whole lives.
For most kids, school and home life plays a big role in helping to understand and use language (Morgan & Goldstein, 2004; Nation, 2005). So what can we do to improve students’ understanding of language?
Well, it helps to have a plan. And good plans are based on tried and tested frameworks. For language comprehension, one of the most influential frameworks was developed by Dr Marion Blank, a developmental psychologist. Dr Blank proposed four levels of abstraction, from least to most abstract:
• Level 1: Directly supplied information (Matching perception)
• Level 2: Classification.
• Level 3: Reorganisation.
• Level 4: Abstraction and Inferences.
Most (although not all) kids start school with an ability to complete Level 1 and 2 tasks. But from there, it gets rocky: about 50%-65% of 5 year-old kids from well off households with educated parents can answer Level 3 questions – but only about 10% from disadvantaged backgrounds, including kids with average intelligence. Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or social language disorders have significant difficulties answering Level 3 and 4 questions.
In this 51-page no-prep pack, we target Blank’s Level 4 language comprehension tasks. Specifically, we ask students to think about common things that might happen to them and to express what they would do in such situations. This stimulates children to identify and solve problems and supports students as they generate mental models of each scenario. Some of these exercises require children to reflect on their existing knowledge of the world and to generate options. The focus should be on what the student could do, rather than simply asking someone to help them. For an added challenge, ask the student to name more than one thing they could do in each situation.
In each exercise, the second box has been left blank to give students an opportunity to draw and/or write a response.
To read more about Marion Blank’s Levels of Questioning, check out our article here.