Using Play-Based Strategies to Build Language in Older Children 

It is a common misconception that using a play-based approach to learning is only effective for younger children. According to the ASHA Wire Publication, play is one of the most effective means of engagement for older children as well. Through play, an older child’s imagination, participation, and carryover of learned skills can all be promoted.
It is reported that the best kinds of play for upper-elementary, middle school aged, and high school aged students include dramatic, constructive, or exploratory play routines as these create the most motivating, meaningful and memorable learning experiences.
Some highly supported play scheme ideas specifically suggested for older children’s language skills can include:
*A Dream Job Interview~ older children can gain occupation specific vocabulary, establish an overall understanding of a given career field, and enhance their oral language skills in functional speaking tasks.
*Mock Debate Club~older children’s interests and opinions in age appropriate topic areas can be explored through critical thinking of an argument topic (e.g. should schools require school uniforms?) Development of debate skills are said to promote older students’ organization and perspective-taking skills as essential executive functions to learning.
*Dramatic Script Reading~older children can benefit from script reading and can gain an understanding of varying time periods and stories which are integral to cultural traditions. In addition, script reading is said to promote use of varied emotion, prosody, and facial expressions which are integral skills of effective communicators.
*Building Play~older children can benefit from building play with Legos and Magna Tiles to make design replicas of their favorite architectural landmarks. Older children can also apply more complex direction following skills to building design in a hands on activity. Through building play, older children are said to have increased exposure to several positional, quantitative, and temporal language concepts which are academically relevant to their evolving curriculums.
*Photo Scavenger Hunt~ older children can use their personal cell phones or iPads to take pictures of objects in their environment for descriptive and comparative purposes. Using tangible or photographed objects specific to an older child’s environment can be one of the best ways of targeting their oral language/elaboration skills.
*Create/Analyze Advertisements~ older children can benefit from referencing advertisements in magazines or websites to develop critical thinking and perspective-taking skills (e.g. who is the target audience, what is the purpose of the product?) Analysis of advertisements is also recommended for the text and picture analysis required for fully deciphering the ad’s message.
*Virtual Field Trip~ through use of virtual platforms, older children are reported to have the potential for broader exploration of their world to grow their knowledge and familiarity of varied experiences. Through learning experiences in their community, children are said to acquire topic specific vocabulary and higher level language skills they might otherwise miss without the experience.

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