Marion Blank

Blank’s Levels of Questioning

Dr Marion Blank PhD
Marion Blank is a well-known developmental psychologist who has studied children’s language development for many years. Her ‘Levels of Questioning’ were based on the work of James Moffett, a highly respected educator. He wrote extensively and was responsible for many innovative, contemporary publications stating that discourse should be flexible in order to augment a child’s knowledge and understanding. Moffett’s publication, ‘Teaching the Universe of Discourse’ 1968, described oral language as the essential link for understanding, thinking and literacy. Blank’s model was based on Moffett’s model which was developed for older children. The Blank’s Model was adapted and developed primarily for preschoolers and children in the early years of school. Blank’s ‘Levels of Questioning’ can be used effectively with older children who demonstrate delayed and/or disordered language.

See Wise Words Total Language Package which will support all Levels of Understanding here

Marion Blank’s early work on classroom language is a model of classroom discourse which continues to be used as a framework for intervention by teachers and Speech and Language Therapists/Pathologists around the world. The Blank Model encourages the person who is asking the question to simplify and restructure his/her language to a level at which the child can understand. The Blank’s model can be used in everyday exchanges with different children within the same group. Consequently, this model can be used effectively in the classroom and in multiple situations around the home.
Blank’s model of classroom discourse focuses on the ‘Perceptual Language Distance’. ‘Perceptual’ describes the material which is being discussed or manipulated, whilst ‘Language’ describes the language that the adult is using to direct the child’s understanding and his/her ability to analyse the material. The adult’s language can be quite close to the features of the material (The objects are present or have just been removed and the questions directly relate to the objects in front of the child (Level 1) or the adult’s language can be quite distant from the material (Level 4) where the most complex and later level of questioning, requires the child to reason and problem solve with materials unlikely to be present. At Level 4, the child often needs to draw on past knowledge or experience.

Marion Blank is highly respected for her research into how children learn language and how this oral language is used in everyday exchanges and in the written form. Her vast experience with children’s language has provided the substance for an extensive body of work. She has authored and co-authored a great many articles and books on reading and oral language.

The following publications targeting oral language have formed the framework for the Wise Words programs:

• Directing School Discourse (Blank, Marquis & Klimovitch, 1994
• The Language of Learning (Blank, Rose & Berlin, 1978)
• Teaching Learning in the Preschool a Dialogue Approach (Blank, 1983)
• Directing Discourse: Eighty Situations for Teaching Meaningful Conversation to Children (Blank, 1987)
• Preschool Language Assessment Instrument PLAI (Blank, Rose, Berlin, Laura 1978)
• Preschool Language Assessment Instrument PLAI-2 (Blank, Rose, Berlin, Laura 2003)