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 no-preparation pack, we target Blank’s Level 4 comprehension tasks. Specifically, we ask students to think about what the things around them are made of, and why.
This pack includes a scripted introduction explaining different textures and properties for basic materials such as wood, metal, glass, and plastic. This ensures all children doing the exercises have (or can access) the background knowledge needed to infer why different objects are made of specific materials. These exercises stimulate children to increase their knowledge of cause and effect relationships and knowledge of the world.
To read more about Marion Blank’s Levels of Questioning, check out our article here.