Children Learning Adjectives

Perspectives from psychological research, the primary classroom, and speech and language therapy

Free online research workshop and practitioner CPD

Thu 18th March 2021, 1-5pm GMT

The role of vocabulary breadth and depth in children’s achievement at school and beyond is well recognised. One way of enriching vocabulary is through a rich system of descriptive language. Classroom and clinical practice is designed to support this, and research findings further highlight the power of adjectives and other kinds of descriptive language in children’s developing language systems.

Despite their importance in communication, adjectives have received relatively little attention in research, and up to now there has been limited exchange between teachers, clinicians, and researchers. To remedy this, this workshop brings together academic, educational, and clinical perspectives on how children develop descriptive language.

Researchers, teachers, clinicians, and other related professionals working in speech, language, and communication are invited to discuss the place of descriptive language in their work, and explore areas of crossover with others.

We will provide certificates of participation for recognition as continuing professional development (CPD). We have a fund for covering teachers' time to enable them to attend. If your school would benefit from receiving backfill costs, please complete the details on the registration form and we will be in touch to discuss.

Invited speakers:

  • Samantha Wilkes, Lecturer in Primary Education, Institute of Childhood and Education, Leeds Trinity University

  • Sarah White, Speech and Language Therapist, Leeds Beckett University

  • Dr Kristen Syrett, Associate Professor in Linguistics, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey

  • Dr Sudha Arunachalam, Associate Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, New York University

  • Dr Jamie Lingwood, Lecturer in Psychology, Liverpool Hope University

  • Dr Elena Tribushinina, Associate Professor in Linguistics, Utrecht University

Workshop aims:

  • To discuss research findings on how children come to understand and produce adjectives.

  • To seek the views of teachers and speech and language therapists (SLTs) about how children learn and use adjectives and other kinds of descriptive language, both in the classroom and in therapy.

  • To review parental roles in school literacy activities and in SLT relationships.

  • To share findings on children’s descriptive language across academic, clinical and educational sectors, forming a cross-disciplinary platform for follow-up work.

  • To develop questions that would benefit from collaborative research, including application to classroom and clinical practices.

Questions for discussion:

The study of descriptive language presents interesting questions at the intersection of academic research and educational/ clinical practice:

  • At school from Key Stage 1, children are explicitly taught to use adjectives to develop their oral and written language abilities. What are the current pedagogical approaches? How can our experimental findings inform classroom practice to improve children’s use of descriptive language? How can classroom practice shape research?

  • Clinically, adjectives may present particular challenges to children with word learning difficulties. How are children supported by speech and language therapists? Based on children’s profiles and current intervention approaches, what should be the priorities for research? How can practitioners and researchers most usefully collaborate?

  • Research in linguistics and psychology reveals that children learn to produce and understand adjectives at a late stage relative to other open word classes. Why is this? Should we worry?

The Children Learning Adjectives workshop is supported by:

Local Organisers:

Dr Cat Davies and Dr Cecilia Zuniga-Montanez (University of Leeds) Please send enquiries to