The use of Blank levels for language development

19 March 2017Teacher's Zone

What are the Blank levels?

At the recent Devon Enhanced Autism Programme Conference (March 2017), I attended two workshops. One of the workshops was on the use of Blank levels for pupils with Autism. Although the information was linked to pupils with autism, it provided a good general overview of ‘Blank Language Levels.’

Good oral language is crucial for developing literacy skills and success in education. Research has shown that by 5 years old a child’s vocabulary will predict their educational success and outcomes for GCSE and further education.

The Blank levels are based on the work of Blank, Rose and Berli. They graded language according to complexity and created 4 levels. Pupils move from concrete experience to abstract thinking.

In the classroom, if we are using language that a pupil does not understand, they will switch off and lose concentration. They are likely to become frustrated and not learn. 

Blank level one

Naming- building single word vocabulary:

  • What’s this?
  • Where is the ….?
  • Point to the …
  • What are they doing?


Blank level two

Building phrases and a focus on describing

  • Who is this?
  • What is the boy doing?
  • Where are they?
  • How are the animals different?
  • Tell me another kind of animal… (categories)

Blank level three

Retelling and factual sentences

  • What did you do?
  • Explain how are these the same / similar?
  • What happened on the playground?
  • How did the girl feel when you helped her? (Using images)


Blank level four


  • Why did you act that way?
  • What could /should he have done?
  • How will the character feel when she finds out? (Without using images)
  • What if….?
  • What is your opinion ?


How often do we use abstract vocabulary without realising? How often do we jump to asking ‘Why?’ particularly with pupils who may not have mastered Blank levels 1-3?

Further training for TAs on Blank levels to follow, but if you would like more information please ask!

Mrs Kay

Designed & developed by Hambly Freeman