Comprehending Complex Language

Level 3: Receptive Language

With our verbal and higher functioning students our job of teaching communication skills is not over. You don’t get out that easy, friends. Do not misinterpret a high level of verbal skills as component and functional communication abilities. Just because they can talk doesn’t mean they understand everything. And just because they can talk doesn’t mean they can explain everything they need to.

The English language is freakin’ tricky! Think about how complicated our phrases and sayings can be. You need to make sure that you are providing direct teaching on similes, idioms, and figurative language. We use these concepts constantly when we talk. And on face value many of them make no sense! Raining cats and dogs. Hugh? As clean as a whistle. Come again? Some children can pick up what these sayings mean by context cues and infer the meaning. Some of our learners are very concrete and will need direct teaching on these concepts. These are sayings that are commonly used and we need to make sure our guys understand these phrases and can use them appropriately too!

So how do you teach these tricky topics? This is overwhelming task! There is a lot to teach. Here are some tips from helping to break this down:

Make it part of your routine.

Since this can be overwhelming, break it down and make it simple! Pick a few idioms or similes to focus on each week. We pick 2 or 3 idioms a week and then throughout the week every time someone uses them in conversation appropriately they get a point. It is hilarious and amazing how great my kids are at working in some of sayings!


Lakeshore Learning has a ton of great resources for teaching these skills! Here are some we love:

Teach loads of different examples.

Think about how many different idioms and similes exist? Tons! So we need to teach tons of different examples. It’s fun to make it seasonal and choose different targets that fit with a theme!



When you find examples in books or conversation – highlight them and explain them!

On a regular basis you and your students will run into similes, figurative language, and idioms in conversation and texts. When you run into these situations – identify them! Write them on the board, discuss them, and think of other ways to use the saying.




This post is part of the Cooking Up Communication Summer Series!

Click here to learn more!

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