Strategies for the Classroom & Home

By:Natalie Hill


There are many challenges professionals may face when assisting children from low-income families. It is important to provide adequate training and positive parenting practices that will help support these children at home and in the classroom.

Building vocabulary is key for assisting children in low-income families improve their academics and language abilities. Research has indicated that children who grow up in low socioeconomic conditions have a smaller vocabulary base than their middle-class peers. Therefore, as an educator it is imperative to provide these students with new vocabulary word in different ways. Providing a plethora of engaging activities allows the student to have repeated exposure to the same words helps these students increase their vocabulary knowledge. When children are not familiar with a large vocabulary base it deters them from participation and activities such as reading because they often fear looking, “stupid” (Jensen, 2013).

Another important strategy for teachers in the classroom when working with children who come from low-income families is to focus on core academic skills. Students from impoverished backgrounds often have increased cognitive problems, are highly distractible, and have short attention spans making school difficult (Alloway, Gathercole, Kirkwood, and Elliott, 2009). This issues that low-income children experience are often exhibited by behavioral issues. To help avoid these problems in the classroom, teachers should focus on teaching the basic academic skills these students need most. Teaching students how to organize, study, take notes, prioritize, and remember key ideas should take precedence to teaching problem-solving, processing, and working-memory skills. Working on basic skills can help reduce frustration for low-income students who have not yet had exposure to these academic skills at home or in their preschool setting (Jensen, 2013).

Lastly, providing parents with the support is an important strategy. According to Aikens and Barbarin (2008), maternal warmth and responsive mother-child interaction patterns are significant predictors of a child’s language development. Many mothers from low-income families often show increased stress and depression making children more susceptible to poor language outcomes. By providing these families with increased support helps improve family dynamic often resulting in better communication in the home which facilitates their child’s oral and written language development (Roseberry-McKibbin, 2013).

Suggested Strategies:

  • Provide parents with positive parenting skills aimed to support optimal language development.
  • To help increase parent engagement in literacy, educators can contact libraries and medical facilities to provide children's books and instruction in best reading practices (Roseberry-McKibbin, 2013).
  • Provide families with lists and contacts of agencies and persons who can provide support.
  • Training in observation may also produce improvements in the precision of teacher reports of social skills and independent observations of problem behaviors in the classroom.
  • Clinicians and teachers need skills for systematic observation of children’s behavior in classrooms to make accurate referrals for intervention, especially to reduce the underidentification of children with problem behaviors (Qi and Kaise, 2004)

Use Visualization to Increase Overall Comprehension:

  • Tell students that they can picture a TV in their brain/mind/head; when they hear or read things, they can make pictures on this TV.
  • Help students with this process by beginning with familiar items/people/etc. in the home (pet, sibling, living room). For example, I will ask a student to tell me about his dog. When he has done so, I will tell him that his dog is not present; he was able to describe the dog by using a picture in his brain.

Tools for the Speech-Langugage Pathologist

Types of tools/techniques SLP

Developing Vocabulary Skills:

  • It is important for students of all ages to build their content knowledge/conceptual foundation within meaningful contexts. Drill without context is usually ineffective (Roseberry-McKibbin, 2013).
  • Develop knowledge of classroom/ curriculum vocabulary. SLP's can ask teachers to tell us what vocabulary they are teaching in the classroom.
  • Choose words that give children more sophisticated ways to talk about what they already know (Biemiller, 2003).
  • It is helpful for students to write out vocabulary words.
  • For students struggling with writing, have them verbally tell you the sentence they want to write. The SLP can write the sentence on an erasable white board and then copy it.
  • In this way, they “cement” the vocabulary word more firmly into their minds. They also get to practice writing words correctly. In addition, they practice the important skill of sentence formulation.
  • If students can draw pictures of new words they are learning, the drawing cements the word more firmly in their minds.
  • Utilize the iPad. It is a good tool for students between the ages of 3 and 18 years (ASHA, 2012).

Other Strategies:

  • Read a familiar story or poem and have students fill in missing words.
  • Keep book-reading time short.
  • Use predictable books; they have simplified and repetitive text that engage children’s interest.
  • Working with parents as little as once a week can provide benefits (Roberts & Kaiser, 2011).
  • Extensions are very useful; they can be easily taught to parents, and they increase children’s morpho-syntactic skills (ASHA, 2012).
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What Does the Research Say?

  • Merely exposing children to new words through reading is not enough.
  • Students benefit from learning words “deeply” and retain the words better when professionals provide elaborated discussions about meanings of words in context; - professionals prime words in discussion BEFORE reading a passage; - students actively practice using new words in sentences, rather than just read sentences containing the new words (Turnbull and Justice, 2012).
  • It was also helpful to connect new words to the children’s prior experiences (Lovelace and Stewart, 2009).
  • The researchers found that, with culturally diverse young low-SES children, vocabulary instruction was most effective when children used the words meaningfully in multiple contexts (Lovelace and Stewart, 2009).