Vocabulary for mental and emotional concepts in English and British Sign Language (BSL)
Children need a rich vocabulary (adjectives, verbs and nouns) to be able to exchange feelings, ideas and thoughts with other people. With every word and every sign they learn, they also acquire the concept, i.e. the knowledge of the world that is connected with the meaning of the words and signs: What is a “secret”? What does “embarrassing” mean? What is the difference between a “guess” and “knowing”?
You can use the emotion cards, sign photos and the vocabulary videos provided here in class to practise words and signs with the children and young people or to expand your own sign language vocabulary.
Complex sentences with verbs of saying, thinking and wishing in English and BSL
Closely connected to the acquisition of Theory of Mind is the mastery of sentences with verbs of saying, thinking and meaning. For this reason, it makes sense to practise these with the children and young people during the training THE MIND READERS. You can find exercises for this in the module “Language“.
Sentences with verbs of saying, thinking and wishing require complementary sentences.
The special feature of these complex sentences is that the whole sentence can be true even though the complementary sentence may be false.
English: The mother thinks that Linda is doing her homework.
This sentence is true …
… although Linda is actually playing on her mobile phone.
Notes on use in English:
- Subordinate clauses begin with the conjunction “that”.
- Verbs of saying as well as verbs of thinking and wishing require complementary subordinate clauses.
- The subordinate clause stands after the main clause.
- Examples of verbs of saying: to say, to answer, to state, to assert, to point out.
- Examples of verbs of meaning and wishing: to hope, to believe, to think, to assume, to intend, to know, to explain, to describe.
The boy thinks that outside there is a rainbow.
Grandpa hopes that the sun will shine tomorrow.
Notes on use in BSL:
- There is a short pause between the main clause and the subordinate clause.
- The main and subordinate clauses are distinguished by the posture of the head or body: In the main clause, the head or upper body is slightly bent forward; in the subordinate clause, the head or upper body returns to the neutral position.
- Examples of verbs of saying: SAY, ANSWER, INFORM
- Examples of verbs of meaning and wishing: HOPE, BELIEVE, THINK, ASSUME, KNOW, MEAN
How to use emotional language with children
Teachers, educators and parents have an important role model function for the children. In spoken or signed interactions they can support children with different strategies that move them progressively toward stronger emotion understanding and acquisition of linguistic skills.
Here are some tips:
- Use various expressions in English and/or British Sign Language to describe feelings and inner states of people. You will not only expand the language skills of the children, but also help them to discover the subtle differences between different feelings. This means that you should not limit yourself to supposedly simple words or signs like “good” and “bad”, even if the children are still learning the language. Also, use words like “lovely”, “embarrassing” and “doubt”, so that the children have the chance to learn the concepts that are connected with this vocabulary.
- Adapt your language and content to the previous knowledge of the children by always being one step ahead of them. In this way, you support the children in reaching the next stage of development.
- In everyday conversations and while reading stories at school or at home, address the feelings and mental states of the people or protagonists and ask what they think and know, what ideas and intentions they may have. In this way, you will provide food for thought and embed language in meaningful actions. In the beginning, this will be especially difficult for children with little language, but through diverse interactions on these topics, they will constantly expand their knowledge and language.
- Hang up posters in the classroom with words and/or signs for the different feelings and mental states. In this way, the students can look up again and again and the new words and signs can loop in. You can find ideas in exercise L.3 of THE MIND READERS.
- In the classroom and at home, make available (picture) books and games that deal with feelings, which the children can browse through or which you read together with them. These books and games support the children in their development and can also be an opportunity to talk about these topics with other children or adults. Here you find a list of possible books and games.
- For those of you who are learning or using sign language as a second or foreign language, we have compiled a list of signs to denote feelings and verbs of saying, thinking and wishing. In this way, you can expand your own sign language treasure.
How is language promoted in THE MIND READERS
The development of Theory of Mind is linked to language development. For this reason, the training program THE MIND READERS also promotes the corresponding competences in English (in spoken and written form) as well as in British Sign Language.
The aim is for the children and young people to
- master a variety of linguistic expressions for feelings and mental states,
- understand and produce complex sentence structures in order to be able to communicate about one’s own feelings and thoughts and those of other people, and
- successfully participate in interactions about people’s desires, intentions and feelings.
With THE MIND READERS, the necessary skills are promoted in different ways:
- Language skills are promoted integrated in all modules: vocabulary for feelings and mental states in various situations and exercises is used and thus consolidated. In interactions with the teacher and other students, complex sentence structures are used to express thoughts and feelings. The adults serve as linguistic role models. Thus, the modules 1-9 combine Theory of Mind, Emotion Understanding, and language training.
- Language skills are explicitly trained in two of the modules:
The students learn different vocabulary to describe feelings and mental states.
Through an explicit language training, complementary sentences with verbs of saying, thinking and wishing are developed, practiced and discussed in metalanguage.