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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
Many kids start school with an ability to complete Level 1 and 2 tasks. But some don't; and many students with limited language skills really struggle with locations - sorting objects by where you would find them, which can hamper oral language development and reading comprehension skills.
In this no prep pack, we target a Blank's Level 2 comprehension task. Specifically, we ask students to think about what actions groups of people, animals and things can perform. This stimulates children to increase their understanding of actions. It can also help children to classify things and to build their semantic knowledge by reference to function.
To control for different student backgrounds, we have (where possible) chosen targets from a Basic English core vocabulary list. To make the exercise more challenging, ask the student to name each of the people, animals, plants or things that perform the given function.
For more Blank's Level 2 comprehension tasks, see 'What is this part for?' Volume 1