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    The use of informative contexts in the study of words by children

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    For many reasons, children struggle with learning words; more specifically, these children deeply struggle with learning adjectives. Through Samantha L. Ricks and Mary Alt’s 2016 journal article, Theoretical Principles to Guide the Teaching of Adjectives to Children Who Struggle with Word Learning: Synthesis of Experimental and Naturalistic Research with Principles of Learning Theory, one can deepen their understanding of why children struggle with learning words, specifically adjectives, and can ponder on theories which may prove beneficial for teaching children adjectives.

    There is a vast array of children who struggle to learn words for many reasons. These reasons could include children with: specific language impairment, reading impairments, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities and many more (cite). No matter what the impairment or disability be, early intervention seems to be a key factor in them all. Adjectives need to be taught for both communicative and academic purposes, but the difficulties behind it when it comes to children struggling to learn words outweigh the reliable research focused primarily on adjectives (cite). This is because adjectives describe a variety of things such as perceptual properties, transient emotional states, and transient physiological states which make it difficult for children to learn because they must interpret the characteristic which the adjective is referring to (cite).

    For the most part, studies on ways to improve children’s ability to comprehend words focuses on nouns or verbs because they are used abundantly in the English language; however, there is little guide for addressing adjectives because they do not appear as frequently in the adult vocabulary, which young children practice and base their own vocabulary on (cite).

    The naturalistic experiments discussed in this article actually state that “55% of utterances (by parents) containing adjectives used these adjectives in uninformative sentence frames. These uninformative frames included using the adjective as a noun, using the adjective alone, or in an ambiguous frame in which it was not used to modify an object, and thus could easily be referring to a noun as well. (cite)” Additional research proved that parents who used frequent informative uses had a direct link to increased adjective production in the child (cite).

    It could therefore be inferred, according to the research, that one of the greatest ways to increase a child’s comprehension and use of adjectives is for parents to provide appropriate and correct examples in their daily speech which the child can then base their own speech on. This could be as simple as a parent sitting with a child and making specific descriptive claims of objects the child is familiar with. For example, “This is your blue car. I have your green car.”

    The research in the article also contains information suggesting that children struggle with learning adjectives because they struggle with fast-mapping semantic features, colors and shapes, and have “restricted conceptual development for common animals” (cite). Therefore, it is easily assumed that limited conceptual development effects children’s ability to comprehend and learn adjectives. The research also shows that working memory difficulties along with struggles concerning sentence comprehension leads to difficulties with word learning (cite). It can be inferred this would lead children to have smaller vocabularies which directly associates to interpreting and comprehending words and using them in an appropriate context.

    The research in the article states that the learning theory helps children learn words, specifically adjectives, because children learn without trying when this theory is in play (cite). It also states principles from experimental studies with different treatment methods. One of which being to use informative contexts. This means using “informative sentence frames that contain the target adjective before the noun, children are able to utilize their current understanding of syntactic form in order to deduce that the adjective is modifying the object (cite).” It is also suggested to use contrast, which can make an adjective meaning more understandable for students who struggle learning words, in order to add informative context (cite).

    Another principle is using familiar stimuli which is in line with the learning theory (cite). The research states “children were able to interpret a novel adjective when it was used with a familiar object more often than when it was paired with an unfamiliar object (cite).” It can thus be inferred that using familiar nouns lightens the processing load for children who struggle with word and sentence comprehension and usage. The third principle is to use many examples with children who have challenges when it comes to learning words (cite). These children absolutely need more examples of accurate and appropriate adjective usage.

    The research in the article shows that students with word learning shortcomings needed at least double the amount of exposure than children on par for word understanding (cite). Providing models of specific and appropriate models of adjectives, as previously stated, can be one of the most beneficial ways to help these children with their comprehension.

    Samantha L. Ricks and Mary Alt’s 2016 journal article, Theoretical Principles to Guide the Teaching of Adjectives to Children Who Struggle with Word Learning: Synthesis of Experimental and Naturalistic Research with Principles of Learning Theory, contains an abundance of very fascinating information when it comes to children who struggle with learning and comprehending words.

    The research documented in their article reinforces what many teachers have been preaching for years: without a solid early foundation from home, children come into school unprepared and behind. The research contains information which mainly puts the load on parents, but the practices stated for enhancing children’s word knowledge can be incorporated into the classroom by educators. Teachers can use adjectives in informative context within the classroom, use familiar stimuli in lessons, and of course be a walking talking example of correct adjective use for students. This article put things into perspective for a soon to be teacher like myself and gave me a basis on things which I can imply in my future classroom for students who seem to struggle with comprehending and learning words, specifically adjectives.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The use of informative contexts in the study of words by children. (2022, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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