Looking for something?

Find it in our extensive resource library!

Smart Filters

  • Reset
  • Services

  • Who it's for

  • What it’s about

  • Format

View: 57

Download: 1

Strategies to support understanding of questions at Blank Level 4 – Problem solving

What are Blank Levels?

Your child or young person needs support to develop the ability to reason beyond what is seen heard or said. They need to develop the ability to draw on past experiences, make parallels, examine cause and likely effects as well as justify the decision made, for example, infer, reason and answer ‘why’ and ‘how’.

Although they are able to apply vocabulary and language to things in their environment, they are consolidating their ability to talk about stories and events and learning to problem solve. This also applies to their emotional understanding.

Use these strategies across the curriculum and the day such as unstructured social times, incident management, or 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

  • Pre-teaching vocabulary is crucial as your child will have difficulty understanding and problem solving if they do not have a good understanding of the words and concepts involved. Teach:
    • Topic nouns, verbs, concept vocabulary
    • Emotion vocabulary
    • Exam, cross-curricular and behaviour vocabulary, for example, explain, justify, solution and so on.
  • Repeat and remodel complex grammar structures such as “ah yes the man can’t go in the shop until it opens”, “the lady can catch the bus if she gets there in time”
  • Simplify questions:
    • Avoid complex and broad questions like ‘what happened?’, ‘what were you thinking?’, ‘why did …?’, ‘what would happen if…?’, ‘if you noticed … what could you have done?’, ‘how would X feel if X did…?’ .All of these questions rely on complex grammar, recall, narrative and sequencing, social prediction, social problem solving and reasoning and justification skills
    • Break down complex topics and events into simpler components, for example, Who? What? Where? When? What did they say? What did they do? How did they feel?
    • State what you know before asking a more specific question such as ‘X did …. and he knew … would happen. Do you know why…did…?’, ‘… was hurt by… This will have made some things hard for him, what would be hard?’
    • Relate to everyday life and world knowledge outside of the current situation, for example, ‘when you feel … how do you act?’, ‘when someone is angry what do you see?’
    • Suggest options such as ‘could it be because…’, ‘… had just said … which could have made you feel…’)
    • Eliminate ideas based on world knowledge, for example, ‘he shut the front door behind’ him – car door, front door, bedroom door?
    • Recap on ideas using simple language, for example, ‘now you know that … gets you in trouble, what will you do if … happens again?’
  • Develop comprehension monitoring skills – teach your child to recognise if they understand the question, information or word, and strategies to problem solve this, such as, ask a teacher.

Examples of visual support

Examples of questions at Blank Level 4 – Problem solving

Ideas for activities

  • Black Sheep Press packs  – Mr Goodguess, Why/Because, Speech Bubbles, Think About It, Talkabout School/Home/Friends/Secondary
  • Scenarios from ‘Language for Thinking’ and ‘Language for Behaviour and Emotions’
  • Animation shorts on YouTube such as Pixar short films
  • Compound word picture cards , for example, ‘why is a flowerpot called that?’
  • Guess who
    Semantic links, category and odd one out games


  • Complex questions without visual support or when emotionally dysregulated, for example:
    • ‘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
  • 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?
  • Solve a problem – use a problem solving frame or mind maps to answer ‘why’ questions

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

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

Contact us


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: SL234

Resource Type: Article

How useful did you find this resource?*


Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

Interesting Facts

We’ve got a special MRI scanner just for teddies so children can see what it’s like before they have a scan.

Help to transform our extraordinary hospital into something even better.


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.