I have many years of background working with pre school children, however recently I have begun working with school age children on language. The principles are similar, that is- assess, aim set, therapy, review... but the things I am working on are different. Subordinating conjunctions are something I never have had to do. So I needed a little research into understanding them more.
Grammatically, subordinators can be simple (one word, 'because'), complex (more than one word, 'provided that') or correlative (two words relating to two parts of a sentence,'if...then'). Semantically, subordinators can indicate a number of different meanings, including time, reason, condition... (see Rediscover Grammar, David Crystal). Essentially the subordinate conjunction links two clauses together, one is the main one (independent) and the other is the subordinate (dependent). This creates a complex sentence- with one part of the sentence being more important than the other, and the subordinating conjunction indicating which part.
Subordinating conjunctions emerge after coordinating ones. The subordinate conjunction 'because' appears around the age of between the age of 35-37 months, according to Brown's Language Stages (1978).
So how do we put it into practice, for a 7 year old? 'So' and 'because' emerge as one of the first subordinate conjunctions- so I began with these. I am a fan of colour in therapy, as most SLTs seem to be. I decided to use colour to separate out the 'what happened' part of the sentence to the 'explain why/reason/result' part. The 'what happened' was printed on red paper and the 'reason' on blue. Symbols were used to represent each clause of the sentence on card. These cards were put in a file together. The child need to choose the right reason to go with what had happened- he could flip between different reasons and this meant he could see there can be various reasons for something to happen. He also needed to test this to make sure it made sense. We discussed the subordinate conjunction and created a mind map for it to go on- which backed up his need for working memory support.
The file also means that I can add to the file further conjunctions. The mind map has space for further discussion too. I like the mind map as there are pictures to back up the writing- the child is actively involved in its creation. Again there is colour involved- research indicates that colour facilitates learning.
It worked with this child, and even broken down to this level it made him think. Even better a few times later on in the session he was using the 'because' accurately.