One of my biggest mistakes as a newer SLP was equating “comprehension” with “text”, or at least longer chunks of language including stories, articles, and paragraphs of information.
But, after reading a few very insightful research articles about the importance of sentence-level work in speech therapy sessions, I changed things up. And it’s made a huge difference in comprehension skills of my students!
This may sound obvious to some, but if learners can’t understand the individual sentences that make up a larger chunk of language or text, this will create a huge hurdle in overall comprehension.
The ability to comprehend a sentence is supported by many foundational skills including the understanding of vocabulary and syntax, as well as executive functioning skills including working memory.
As students get older, texts get longer and sentences get more complex. This puts significant demands on both their language skills (vocabulary, syntax, etc… ) and executive functioning skills (working memory, planning, etc…).
We know from research that specific sentence types (sentences that include specific types of phrases and clauses) are harder for kids with language disorders to understand.
Because of this research, the complex sentence types I most often target include adverb clauses, relative clauses, or object complement clauses. These types of subordination make up a large majority of complex sentences your students will encounter and need to understand.
In addition, I might also target other complex language including reflexive pronouns, compound predicates, as well as longer, more complicated noun phrases, verb phrases, and prepositional phrases.
Here’s 3 of my favorite activities when to increase comprehension of these sentence types:
- Sentence Formulation – This activity involves the construction of new sentences from given words or ideas. For instance, given a scenario or a set of words, students are asked to create a sentence that is grammatically correct and contextually accurate. This practice helps students understand the rules of sentence structure, such as word order, agreement, and tense usage. It’s also an excellent way to reinforce the use of targeted complex language elements like reflexive pronouns, compound predicates, and complex phrases.
- Sentence Deconstruction – This involves breaking down a sentence into its individual components to understand the structure and meaning. It helps students comprehend how sentences are built and how their parts interact. Students might dissect a sentence to identify its subject, verb, object, complement, and any additional elements such as adverbial or relative clauses. It’s especially useful for understanding complex sentences with multiple clauses or intricate phrases. By deconstructing these sentences, students can gain a deeper understanding of the role each word or phrase plays in conveying the overall meaning.
- Sentence Combining – This activity requires students to combine two or more simpler sentences into one complex sentence. The goal is to maintain the original meaning while increasing the sentence’s complexity. For example, given the sentences “Dogs are a great pet.” and “Dogs are loving, playful, and curious.” students might combine them to create “Dogs are a great pet because they are loving, playful, and curious.” This process helps students understand the relationship between ideas and how different sentence structures can be used to convey these relationships. It also helps them see how information can be organized and structured differently within sentences.
Want a resource that makes this process easy as pie? Check out my Complex Sentence Deconstruction resource linked below. It’s a definite favorite of mine (and of many other SLPs, too!):
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Complex Sentence Comprehension
Understanding complex sentences is critical for understanding everything from picture books to oral communication to classroom texts. This resource includes digital activities, a digital assessment file, and a printable version as well!More Info
Hope this is helpful for you!