If you’ve been following my posts Teaching Complex Sentences and Teaching Complex Sentences II: Lengthy Nouns, you may already know that many students with SLI struggle with comprehension at the sentence structure level and need explicit instruction. We’ve previously discussed having students learn simple definitions for subordinate conjunctions and practice their uses in sentences as well as teaching students how to identify and break down “lengthy nouns”. This week I’d like to address some ways to give students practice in comprehending complex sentences in paragraphs.
We know from experience that many of our students need multiple, frequent exposures to words and concepts. The research currently seems to indicate students with specific language impairment need *36 exposures* to a new vocabulary word compared to typical-developing students who need only 12. This got me thinking that we also need to give students more exposures to a vocabulary word at the paragraph level as well. In other words, one example of a subordinate clause with “although” in a text will probably not cut it. This is why I created these loaded conjunction paragraphs. These paragraphs each contain 3-4 uses of the target conjunction. In a few cases, the target vocabulary is not a subordinate conjunction but another type of conjunction students needs to understand within complex sentence structures (examples: unlike, neither/nor). I tried to use each conjunction in various positions in the sentences, typically the beginning or the middle of a sentence, to show its varied uses as well.
These paragraphs give multiple exposures to the target conjunction and sentence structure; I would also recommend asking students questions about why the conjunction was used and what the sentences mean. General comprehension questions about the text will also indicate if the student understand the meaning/use of the target word.