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Strategies to support understanding of questions at Blank Level 3 – Talking about stories and events

What are Blank Levels?

Your child needs support to develop the ability to re-tell an event or narrative. They need to develop the ability to identify what a character or person is thinking and feeling and use their understanding of what has happened to predict what will happen. They need to be able to use language to talk about language, for example, explain what words mean.

Your child can apply vocabulary and language to things in their environment (naming and describing), and can answer ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ questions, but they but they are not yet able to problem solve – infer, reason and answer ‘why’ and ‘how’ about pictures and spoken scenarios, information and experiences. This also applies to their emotional understanding.

Use these strategies across the curriculum and the day such as unstructured social times, incident management, and restorative justice. Do not be hindered by lack of symbol software – you can use a pen and paper as standard practice to teach your child how to break down ideas with words and pictures!

Strategies to support understanding

  • Chunk multi-step instructions
  • Model answers and highlight the clues, for example, “X feels angry because he is frowning”
  • Emphasise sequencing words such as, first, next, last, during everyday tasks
  • Repeat stories and events so that your child can learn the concept of sequencing before applying to new stories or events. Start with familiar events or scenarios, before moving to those that are less familiar.
  • Support your child to consider their own experiences of that scenario or event, for example, ask your child to talk through familiar routines to give them opportunities to sequence events – ask your child what happened next when they did X
  • Offer choices to support prediction, for example, ‘did you do X or Y next?’, “are we going to go to lunch next or is it assembly time?”
  • Encourage use of visual support, for example, ‘You have finished X, look at the timetable and see what is next’)
  • Pre-teach vocabulary to enable the child to answer wh- questions and retell events or stories
  • Scaffold a child’s ability to answer questions and support your child to answer “what might happen next?”
  • Retell a sequence of events for the child to complete, highlight the key points, and link to the child’s own experience

Examples of visual support

Examples of questions at Blank Level 3 – Talking about stories and events

Ideas for activities

  • Instruction activities

Allow your child to both listen to and give instructions

    • Daily tasks – ask your child to follow commands that involve moving around the classroom or house, for example, “cut the bread, then put jam on”, “go and take the register to the office then take this note to year two”
    • Simon says game, for example, turn around, pat your head and sit down
    • Barrier games (e.g. ‘colour teddy’s nose blue and then his arm red’, ‘put the big alien on the spaceship and then the little alien on the moon’)
  • Narrative skills (sequencing and retelling)

    • Sequencing activities – start with sequencing something simple such as a sequence of coloured blocks, coloured beads, and move onto familiar routines, for example, “first socks on, and then shoes on”, ‘”first put bread in toaster, then put butter on”), then story pictures such as “the teddy planted seeds, next the flowers grew”. You can take photos of your child doing a routine such as making a sandwich or getting dressed, and support them to order the pictures correctly.
    • Re-telling stories – use picture cards to sequence stories and support your child to tell you what is happening. You will need to teach the words (nouns, verbs, concepts) associated with the story and teach the sentence structures to use and then reduce the level of support they need.
    • Use Narrative Intervention Programme (NIP) on Learn Sheffield to develop your child’s sequencing and narrative skills.
  • Prediction activities

Initially use real scenarios that are relevant to your child’s experiences. Only move to other situations when your child can confidently reason at this level from their own experience. Keep the language as simple as possible.

  • Everyday activities – use your child’s visual supports such as the now and next board or visual timetables to support them to predict what might happen next, for example, the bell is ringing, is it phonics or lunchtime?
  • Use comic strip conversations to ‘unpick’ what your child or characters in pictures and stories were feeling , saying and thinking.
  • Use Storybooks, pictures or short video clips
  • Use small world play based activities such as Lego or Playmobile) to act out scenarios
  • Use Black Sheep Press packs such as Talkabout School, Home, Friends

Discuss how the various characters are feeling and what they could say in the situations. Some possible situations include:

  • Two children are playing with a ball and another child wants to join in.
    • What is he saying? How is he feeling? What do the others think? What are they saying?
  • A child is hit in the playground and finds an adult.
    • What does he say? How does he feel? What does the adult think? What is the adult saying
  • One child tells another that she has lost her cat.
    • What does she say? How does she feel? What does the other child say?


  • ‘Why’ and ‘how’ questions such as ‘why did you do that?’, ‘how did that happen?’
  • Questions that involve explanation, justification and reasoning.

Classroom learning ideas

  • Pre-teach vocabulary – nouns, verbs, concepts
  • Describe a scene of a story
    • Build a sentence maker
    • Talking – describe what they can see
    • Your child’s response can be a spoken word, choice of a picture or Makaton sign
  • Re-tell the story
    • Sequence story pictures
    • Complete a simple story planner
  • Make simple predictions
    • What do they say? Use speech bubbles
    • How do they feel? Add emotion label
    • What will happen next?
  • Answer ‘wh’ questions about the sentence maker or story sequence – ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘what happened’, ‘where’, ‘what like’, ‘how feel’ and ‘when’, for example, what happened first, what happened last?

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House.

Telephone: 0114 226 2333
Email: scn-tr.slt-sheffield@nhs.net

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL233

Resource Type: Article

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