+ Language Skills Development: “Extending Expression”

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From Sara L Smith’s excellent book “Expanding Expression,” here are some key definitions of  the main components of language:


  • Phonology — the “sound system” of a language and the rules governing the sound combination.  Children practice the sound system through (for example) rhyme and songs, counting syllable, and identify beginning sounds.
  • Morphology — refers to the system governing the structure of words and word forms.  “Morphemes” are the smallest units of meaning and “free” morphemes can stand alone (“tree,” “girl”).  “Bound” morphemes are attached to a free morpheme: for example,  suffix -s or -ing.
  • Syntax — the system governing the order and combination of words to form sentences, as well as the relationships among those elements.  Elements include sentence type (declarative, interrogative), length and structure (how subject/verb/object/clause must work).


  • Semantics — the system governing the meaning of words and sentences.  This includes not only definition, but also the relationship of any word to the others in the sentence.  Discussion of similarities, opposites, categories, multiple meanings, word sorts… establish this system in a child’s mind.


  • Pragmatics — refers to the system that combines all these components functionally and appropriately.  The focus is on the intention or goal of an utterance:  for example, questioning, requesting, initiating and maintaining a topic, turn-taking, conversation repair, eye-contact.

Sara L. Smith’s curriculum, “Expanding Expression: A Multi-Sensory Approach for Improved Oral and Written Language” has been developed to strengthen a child’s facility with all these components, although the primary target is semantics.

Called EET, the system includes a kit to help build the following language skills:

  • oral expression
  • vocabulary comprehension
  • defining and describing skills
  • similarities and differences
  • written expression
  • organization
  • making associations
  • stating functions of objects
  • categorization
  • writing from prior language
  • autobiographies/biographies

The EET is a way of teaching kids how to give informative descriptions and definitions.  It’s a great way to help students organize their thoughts and determine what information is pertinent to their audience.

EET provides visual and tactile cues in its kit which facilitate this learning.  It can be easily adapted to classroom assignments involving oral language and written expression.

A principal — and entertaining — element in the kit is the “EET Strand” – a string of colored wooden balls that assist in describing items.  Following along the colored balls on the strand, children memorize the following verse:

“Green- group;” “Blue- do;” “What does it look like” (ball has an eye on it) ; “What is it made of” (wooden ball); “Pink – parts;” “White – where;” “What else to I know” (ball has a question mark on it)…

During this process of describing objects, students have the opportunity to participate in spoken language activites.  The routine is useful, in addition, for developing writing skils.

During this process of describing objects, they gain strength in the realms of grammar and word order, as well as rhetorical skills, including turn-taking and eye-contact.

Writes Smith

…as you are targeting oral language, you also continue to develop reading and writing skills.  Since writing and spoken language have a “reciprocal relationship” and “each build on the other,” the EET is designed to work for both oral and written expression.

The method can be supplemented with informational texts, Internet sites, encyclopedias and more as students research topics.

To learn more about EET, or to order the materials, visit http://www.expandingexpression.com/pdo.htm

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.


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