Years 3-6 Understanding of Language

What is it?

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.

What to expect?

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.

Information & advice

You can help by:

  • Gaining the child’s attention before you speak.
  • Keeping language simple and emphasising key words using visuals when necessary.
  • Breaking down instructions into shorter, more manageable chunks. Avoid presenting too much information all at the same time.
  • Giving the child more time to respond (up to 10 seconds) and pausing between each step of an instruction to give the child time to process what you have said.
  • Making comments on what you or the child is doing, rather than asking lots of questions.
  • Repeating instructions/questions once, if the child still doesn’t understand simplify the instructions or give additional support e.g. gesture/visuals.
  • Repeating whole class instructions directly to the child and checking that they have understood what they need to do e.g. Asking specific about what they need to do. NB: children will often just say ‘yes’ when asked if they understand.
  • Pre-teaching, overlearning and revising key topic vocabulary and concepts- please see resources for more details.
  • Supporting the child’s ability to problem solve, justify and make inferences i.e. Blank level 4- please see resources for more details.
  • Providing a task planner- please see resources for an example.
  • Encouraging the child’s attempts to seek clarification, using visual supports when necessary.
  • 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.

Watch our video on understanding words, sentences and beyond.