Language and Learning

I want everyone to look for the woozit and a wazit in your house and take a picture of them.

Huh? What in the world is a woozit or a wazit? Does it feel like I am speaking a different language?

Would it help if I give you characteristics? A woozit is a utensil with prongs used for eating and a wazit is a flat utensil used to flip pancakes. Still not sure? They’re forks and spatulas!

If you found that difficult until examples were given then you have a small glimpse of what it may feel like to have weaknesses in your language development. Students with lower than expected vocabulary encounter this feeling on a daily basis. Think about school and all the new concepts being learned. What about when there is story time and the teacher is reading a brand new book? How about when the class is working on a science project? All these examples require an understanding of vocabulary. When a teacher asks a student, “Where did you go this weekend?”, they are using vocabulary that the student is expected to know:

Where: place
Weekend: Saturday and Sunday
?: I’m being asked a question

Language and Learning:

Students with weaknesses in their vocabulary development may need several accommodations to be successful learners: 

  • They need wait time. Wait time is the time between asking a question and gaining a response. They need several seconds extra than the typical student to process through the vocabulary like the example above about the weekend. Wait time also should be provided after an answer is given (especially by another student or the teacher), before you move on to the next topic or ask another question. Just like working through the terms in the question, they need to process the words from the answer response.
  • It is highly beneficial to give examples of the directions or instructions. Adding a picture can also help to make concepts more understandable. In the classroom, if you want your students to find all the rectangles in the room and measure them, show them an example of a rectangle, both the simple image of the shape and a real-life connection, like the door.
  • Don’t assume that the student knows common terms; check for understanding. Sometimes we read books with images and we assume that the students are making connections with the words and pictures. This may not always be the case if a student has weaknesses in vocabulary development. For example, if you are reading a book about Johnny Appleseed and the picture shows all the trees he’s planted while it talks about apple orchards, do not assume the student links numerous trees in one location to an orchard. Talk through the image with them and help make the connection.
  • Don’t “dumb down” your language. Continue to use enriched vocabulary with all students. This exposes the students with weaker language skills to more words; therefore, branching out their understanding and word usage. Just make sure that you help make the connections from the simple terms to the higher level language. For example, if the class is working on a science lab dissecting owl pellets, don’t shy away from using terms like digestion, pellet, dissect, species, or bone fragments. Maybe frame your directions like so, “Today we are going to dissect owl pellets. We are going to carefully take apart the vomit of an owl (They will love a vomit reference!). We will see what the owl has eaten, or digested, by looking at bone fragments, the pieces of bone left by the different species; you know, the animals he has eaten. Cool, huh? Let’s get started!”

Applying this to the home setting is just as simple. Give your child wait time when talking with them or asking them to do something. Show examples. Read to them daily and ask questions while reading. Make those connections. Most importantly, continue to talk with and use the adult vocabulary (well, not the four letter words) with them.

If you are concerned about your child’s language development, give Peak a call. We would love to help guide you in the right direction.

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