5 Surprising Skills Aligned with Multiple Meaning Words

No doubt about it, young children who are language impaired need the help of SLPs to expand their vocabulary! Words are the basic building block of sentences and all communication. But what about as students get older?
The amount of vocabulary words that upper elementary to high school students are supposed to learn each year is a staggering number that we can’t even begin to remediate in our hour or so weekly. Much of the new vocabulary for older students is gained through reading, curricular teaching and  vocabulary building programs used by English teachers to help with college entrance exams. Many special needs students have difficulty reading and aren’t able to really grasp the complete meaning of words taught academically. So what are we to do?

Some SLPs have success aligning their other goals to the vocabulary being used in the curriculum and are able to support their students’ academic progress this way.  My students take so long to accomplish their goals that this method hasn’t worked well for me.

That is why I LOVE multiple meaning words! Whether or not my students have specific goals for building vocabulary, I have found that I can increase their language skills in so many ways using this vocabulary. Learning to understand and use multiple meaning vocabulary requires many skills!

1. Improving comprehension of sentence structure:
Many multiple meaning words have a similar theme to their meaning and are just being used as a different part of speech.  When students have to fill in the sentence blank with the correct word, they are using sentence structure clues to help them figure out which word and meaning fits that sentence.
2. Increasing inference skills
When students have to figure out which meaning makes sense in a sentence, they are inferring from the context clues to make that decision, by finding a connection between the definition and the other words in the sentence.
3. Improving comprehension of nonliteral language
Multiple meaning words are the first foray into the realm of figurative language. Students hear a word and have a particular meaning (and often picture) in mind. When that meaning doesn’t make sense, they have to draw a new picture in their mind and realize that words aren’t as concrete as they’d like them to be. Flexible thinking!
4. Realizing that not everyone thinks the same way
I read that word in the sentence and thought it meant this. But that didn’t make sense. It really means something else.  The author and I were having different pictures (and thus perspectives) of the same word. 
5. Improving skills for sentence structure, main idea, summarizing and explaining skills
When you ask a student to explain which meaning fits in the sentence or story context, they have to figure out the important information and  organize it into sentences that will help you understand the point they are making.

It is a bit surprising how many different language skills can be incorporated into learning multiple meaning words! Coming up next week are some therapy tips for making it fun!
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