Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Article Written By: Dana Hopkins, Speech-Language Pathologist
Lunch bag - check! Pencils - Check! Running Shoes - check! Language Skills- check?
This week is a very busy time for many families as children return to the classroom. When preparing children for school we often think about academic skills, such as reading and math, but there are a number of language skills that are needed for children to function in the classroom.
Understanding Verbal Instructions
As early as junior kindergarten children need to be able to follow new and often unexpected instructions in the classroom - e.g. “Tidy up the sandbox and then sit on the red carpet for circle time”. As children get older, these instructions become more complex - e.g. “After you have finished questions 1 to 10 in your math textbook, please organize your workspace and prepare for lunch”. In order to follow these instructions, children need to have strong vocabulary (knowledge of words) and be able to hold large chunk of information in their mind without forgetting or simplifying parts. Often children have little or no difficulty following instructions during familiar routines, but begin to experience difficulty when placed in a new environment, because they cannot rely on past experiences to fill in the parts of the instruction they did not understand.
Sequencing skills are needed when listening and speaking with others. If the teacher says to the class, “Before you go outside, finish your math worksheet” but a child misses the sequencing concept of “before”, he will not complete the direction correctly and the teacher may not be happy. Sequencing of language is also important when creating or retelling stories. If a child leaves out sequencing concepts when talking about his day at school, the story will become a jumble of events that are difficult to follow. Understanding and using sequencing concepts allows for language organization, which is a necessary skill within the classroom.
Inferencing involves making an educated guess based on evidence. We use inferencing skills every day without realizing it, but this is a difficult skill for many children especially those who struggle with higher level language. If the teacher says, “It is raining today”, students must using inferencing skills to recognize they should put on their boots and raincoat before going outside for recess. In addition, inferencing skills are often needed when answering questions about lessons the child has heard or read. Often the answer is not clearly stated but the child must use information they have learned to infer the answer. Children who struggle with inferencing may respond, “I don’t know. It didn’t say it in the story”. Inferencing skills allow children to “read between the lines” which is an important skill in the classroom.
Social Language Skills
While at school children interact with their peers, teachers, the bus driver, etc. In every interaction there is a set of social rules that guide the type of language used - e.g. children use different types of words and sentences when speaking with their friends versus their teachers. Social language rules also include conversational turn-taking, knowing how and when to change the topic of conversation, and rewording your message if it is not understood. Many children struggle to learn these social rules since they are often unspoken and change based on the person you are talking to.
Literacy includes a child’s reading and writing skills. In the early years of school, children are taught how to read and write. However, as children gets older, they are required to read, understand, and recall new information as a way of learning - e.g. reading a chapter in a textbook and then being tested on that information. Children are also often asked to write down answers to questions to demonstrate their knowledge. This requires a child to be able to formulate their thoughts into sentences, spell all the words in the sentences, as well as physically write all the letters. Literacy skills are essential skills in the classroom, but are often very challenging for many students.
Speech-Language Pathologists help children strengthen the skills needed to excel in the classroom. If you have concerns about your child’s speech, language. or literacy skills, please reach out to Empower Communication Services as we are happy to help!