Understanding Language

School Years 3-6

Children must learn to understand the language that they hear before they can use this language to communicate with others. A child’s understanding will usually be ahead of their ability to use spoken language.

As children grow and develop the range of words that they understand will increase and they will be able to follow longer and more grammatically complex sentences.

In Years 3, 4, 5 and 6, children will usually:

  • follow classroom instructions.
  • answer who, what, when, where, why, how, questions appropriately.
  • answer questions requiring prediction, problem solving and reasoning e.g. what would you do if.., why did…, how do you know.
  • understand curriculum related concepts and easily learn new vocabulary,
  • develop abstract understanding e.g. humour, metaphors, idioms.

You can help by:

  • Gaining the child’s attention before you speak.
  • Breaking down instructions into shorter, more manageable chunks.
  • Pausing between each step of an instruction to give the child time to process what you have said.
  • Repeating whole class instructions directly to the child and checking that they have understood what they need to do.
  • Avoiding presentation of too much new information all at the same time.
  • Pre-teaching, overlearning and revising key topic vocabulary.
  • Using a multi-sensory approach when presenting new vocabulary.
  • Always presenting language in context.
  • Giving the child more time to respond (up to 10 seconds)
  • Supporting spoken language with visuals, for example task/action plans that show the child what they need to do (step by step).
  • Encouraging the child attempts to seek clarification.
  • Repeating instructions/questions several times, as necessary. Sometimes it helps to rephrase what you have said. Show the child what you mean if necessary, repeating the language as you do so.
  • Encouraging the child to use strategies to help them process the language they have heard, such as repeating back or identifying the important words in an instruction.