3 Ways to Build Receptive & Expressive Language Skills in the Classroom

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Receptive and expressive language skills play in large part in how we communicate with other people. Students with expressive/receptive language disorders face a number of challenges in school. It is estimated that 1 in 20 students has some type of language disorder. These students are often working overtime to cope with their challenges and can go undetected or misunderstood.

What is it?

Receptive language refers to the ability to understand information. It includes understanding the words, sentences and meaning of what other people say or what is read. Expressive language refers to the ability to put your own thoughts into words and sentences, in a way that makes sense and is grammatically accurate.

Difficulty with one or both of these areas could signal a language disorder. Challenges in these areas would also make it hard for a student to find the right words and form clear sentences when speaking. Understanding what another person is saying may also be hard – such as when directions are given.

3 ways to build receptive and expressive language skills in the classroom

  • Model the desired behavior. When the child answers a question with a one-word sentence, you can respond by modeling back with a full, correct sentence, so that the child hears the words in correct order.
  • Give choices. Instead of asking your child open-ended questions, you can ask either-or questions, so your child has to choose the correct one.
  • Plan ahead. When you can, let the student know in advance that they’ll be called on. This gives them more time to compose their thoughts.

Red Flags:

You may notice that a student’s vocabulary is very basic, and their sentences are short, grammatically incorrect, or incomplete. While their friends can chat and tell jokes, this student may have trouble following the conversation and miss the jokes. They also may speak in two-word sentences and have trouble answering even simple questions. A language disorder is not generally associated with a cognitive disorder.