Many students on my caseload have language difficulties impacting their ability to answer simple questions — a deficit that has the potential for considerable effects on a student’s ability to perform successfully in their educational environment. Think about a typical classroom activity, and the types of things a teacher might say…odds are pretty good that a majority of a teacher’s utterances involve a simple or higher level wh question word (what, where, who, when, why, how, what if?) Reading comprehension is especially dependent on these powerful words (Who is the main character? What happened at the end of the story? Why did they make that decision? What do you think will happen next? Where did the story take place?) Math is also tied to these questions (What is the first step? When do you combine groups?) Because teachers continually elicit responses and assess skills, questions are routinely asked and answered in the classroom. Students with wh question difficulties need training on exactly what the individual words mean and appropriate referents that can be used as an answer. When asked a simple question like, “what did you eat for lunch?” a student with comprehension deficits might answer, “I eat my lunch.” Many times correct answers can be elicited with scaffolded supports such as yes/no questions or given choices. Systematic practice on these types of questions help students to more automatically comprehend the intended meaning and successfully respond. I often use visual supports to provide cues and structured practice on choosing appropriate referents. Here is a visual prompt that I use to prompt students in therapy activities and also to use in their classrooms as a resource during instruction:
To help students differentiate between the types of simple questions, I often use a sorting activity (this activity works very well on my Promethean ActivPanel, where students can drag the pictures to the appropriate column. I also send home the hard copy for practice using verbal responses, or to use as a cut-and-paste activity):
And here are several practice activities I made to address simple wh questions:
I have had good success using simple, Boardmaker-created activities like these to provide structured training on wh question comprehension. As a student becomes more proficient at answering these types of questions, I extend this skill to simple picture scenes, story sequences, and eventually, story recall and comprehension in the classroom. I also spend time educating staff in using wh questions whenever possible, rather than simpler yes/no questions or even just plain directives. For example, instead of saying, “Put that paper in your folder please,” a teacher might instead present, “Ok, where do you think the paper should go?” Embedded opportunities to practice these comprehension skills throughout a student’s day help to reinforce the therapy activities and promote generalization of skills. Finding opportunity is really not a difficult task…questions are everywhere!
Enjoy the resources — click the images to download and thanks for visiting me at LiveSpeakLove!