Language-based literacy intervention for bilingual students

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Academic texts become increasingly challenging in elementary school. By 4th and 5th grade, students have typically established decoding and word recognition skills, but reading comprehension can cause major breakdowns. We know language skills play a HUGE role in reading comprehension, so when the authors of this study designed a reading intervention for bilingual students that targets academic vocabulary, syntax, and morphology— it made perfect sense to us.

The Comprehension, Linguistic Awareness, and Vocabulary in English and Spanish intervention (CLAVES) had positive effects on academic vocabulary and reading comprehension for Portuguese–English and Spanish–English bilingual students in 4th and 5th grades with varying reading abilities. Each of the three instructional units—nature, rights, and immigration—were based on English language arts and social studies texts.

Over the course of 39 sessions (three 13-session cycles), students were instructed in: comprehension and vocabulary, morphology, syntax, writing (planning, drafting and revising, and publishing), interspersed with group discussions (see article for precise schedule).

Check out the appendix of the article for the texts, session goals, and activities used in the study. Here are some examples of activities from the immigration unit:

  • “Facilitate reading of Home at Last with questioning, inferencing, and summarizing.” (comprehension)

  • “Review the text and vocabulary and introduce new words: assimilate and immersion.” (vocabulary)

    • Example task: word webs

  • “Guide the morphology activity in which students identify, analyze, and construct words with -tion/-ation and -sion.” (morphology)

    • Example task: create sentences with constructed words

  • “Guide students to play a sentence combining game in which they practice generating compound sentences given two clause cards and one conjunction card. Encourage students to create sentences using their constructed words.” (syntax)

  • “Guide students to write an article for a local or student newspaper.” (writing)

Of course in the real world we want to use the texts and themes our students are encountering in their own classroom. Still, the many examples in the appendix and throughout the article would be helpful when developing the individualized instruction our students need.

While we think SLPs could totally take this and run with it in therapy, another great thing about this intervention is that it was designed by teacher educators. So this article could make an awesome conversation starter with teachers about literacy instruction for bilingual students in your school—and how you might be a resource as the vocabulary, morphology, and syntax expert!

NOTE: You can also see an example of the curriculum and activities at the CLAVES website!

Proctor, C. P., Silverman, R. D., Harring, J. R., Jones, R. L., Hartranft, A. M. (2019). Teaching bilingual learners: Effects of a language-based reading intervention on academic language and reading comprehension in grades 4 and 5. Reading Research Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/rrq.258.

No FRILLS literacy training for Latinx families

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Calling all bilingual SLPs! Working with families from diverse backgrounds requires SLPs with equally-as-diverse approaches to family training. Mesa and Restrepo investigated the best methods to support literacy for low-income, Latinx families and their preschool-aged children. Traditional literacy intervention doesn’t necessarily vibe with the beliefs and practices of these families. This study attempted to bridge that gap by implementing an intervention in Spanish that would empower families to actively engage in language and literacy experiences at home. They termed it the Family Reading Intervention for Language and Literacy in Spanish (FRILLS).

Some of the key aspects of this program include:

  • Use of family’s native language (Spanish)

  • Explicit discussion with families about their current beliefs and practices

  • Weekly modeling, coaching, and practicing new strategies

  • Explicit teaching of appropriate comments, high level questions, and recasts

  • Using ideas and words the parents wanted to use

  • Videotaped “homework” to increase carryover 

After seven weeks of intervention, Latinx mothers showed increased use of commenting and high level questions. During post-intervention book reading sessions, children spoke more, took more conversational turns, and used more different words. Informally, the authors reported that the Latinx mothers were enthusiastic and successful throughout the intervention, which they attributed to the use of their native language and practices that were intuitive and matched with their cultural beliefs about reading. An approach worth trying with your Latinx families!

 

Mesa, C., & Restrepo, M.A. (2019). Effects of a family literacy program for latino parents: Evidence from a single-subject design. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. doi:10.1044/2018_LSHSS-18-0035.

“I wish…I think…I wonder…”: Improving parents’ shared book readings

Shared book reading can be a sweet moment between parent and child—while also serving to improve a child’s literacy skills. The trick is figuring out how to help parents make the most of these interactions. This pilot study examined the effects of a short training on parent–child storybook readings. While this study focused on Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing preschoolers, most outcomes focused on the changes in the parents’ skills—meaning you can apply this across many populations.

Researchers recorded multiple shared book readings at each of three stages in the experiment: before training parents, in the “intervention period” (the two weeks following the parent training), and eight weeks after training. The training was only twenty minutes long (very do-able for real world clinicians!) and included a very short power point, a two-minute video model, and discussion with the parents. The authors focused on these topics for parent training:

  • Switching mindset from “education” to gaining insight into the child’s thoughts

  • No such thing as right or wrong

  • Increasing use of wait time

  • Increasing conversational turns

  • Making phonemic awareness fun and silly (like making up nonsense words by taking words in the text and changing one phoneme)

  • Using open ended prompts: “I wish…”  “I think…” “I wonder…” “What do you think?”

Parents were also given two booklets from the National Institute for Literacy and a few wordless picture books to add to their home collection.

When measuring parent interaction types, the authors split prompts into two categories:

Open-Ended Prompts

Questions that encourage open-ended discussion: “What do you think…

Indirect prompts such as “I think…” or “I hope…” paired with wait time

Closed-Ended or Right/Wrong Prompts

WH questions about the story text: “What is that?” “Where is her bone?

Questions about the story text that encourage one word answers

Yes/no questions or “how many” questions

For only spending twenty minutes on parent training, researchers saw some encouraging changes! Both the total number of parent–child exchanges and the percentage of open-ended prompts increased from baseline, through the intervention and retention stages. The percentage of words spoken by the child was also higher in the intervention and retention stages (though only the intervention stage showed a statistically significant difference from baseline levels). Because a dip was shown in all outcomes during the retention stage, eight weeks after training, it looks like clinicians will probably need to follow-up with parents periodically.

For more along these lines, check out our reviews about supporting parents to complete literacy programs, teaching vocabulary via shared readings, and improving the narrative comprehension of children with ASD.

Nelson, L. H., Stoddard, S. M., Fryer, S. L., & Muñoz, K. (2019). Increasing Engagement of Children Who Are DHH During Parent–Child Storybook Reading. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi:10.1177/1525740118819662

Rhetorical competence: Anaphors, organizational signals, and refutation cues. Oh my!

If you’re an SLP who works with older elementary children and above, you’re probably already targeting strategies to improve reading comprehension. And you likely already know the differences between narrative texts and expository (informational) texts. But are you targeting rhetorical competence to improve expository text comprehension? Have you... even heard of rhetorical competence (RC)? Don’t panic if this is foreign to you—we’ve got a handy breakdown of some common rhetorical devices, based on this new article.

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Anaphors/Connectives:

  • Direct readers to think about an earlier referent in the text

  • e.g. Students are getting hurt because of unsafe playground equipment. A potential solution for this problem

Organizational Signals:

  • Help readers create a mental representation of the main ideas and text structure

  • e.g. “A second issue to consider is…” or “The first reason…

Refutation Cues:

  • Signal to readers that an incorrect belief is being asserted and then refuted

  • Many people think that ____, but actually ____

Now that you’re up to speed, on to the study*. The authors examined (1) how RC develops between 3rd and 6th grades, (2) how RC contributes to comprehension of expository texts, even beyond skills such as decoding and inferencing, and (3) if the relationship between RC and comprehension is moderated by grade level and other reader characteristics. The findings are detailed and dense, so here are the results that you, the practicing SLP, should focus on:

  • All measures of RC were correlated with improved comprehension of expository text. (Strong RC and strong text comprehension tended to go together.)

  • RC contributes to a student’s expository comprehension above and beyond that student’s inferencing skills, decoding ability, prior knowledge, and working memory. This means that the ability to use rhetorical devices makes a unique contribution to comprehension.

  • RC develops slowly over time and was not even complete in the 6th graders included in this study, meaning it is a skill you can target across several grade levels.

Sadly, this study didn’t tackle how to target rhetorical devices. But as the communication expert, you are uniquely positioned to explicitly draw attention to rhetorical devices in text, especially with readers who may already struggle with comprehension. Keep your eyes open for these features in the texts you’re already using, giving you the perfect opportunity to build rhetorical competence!

*Keep in mind, this sample featured typically-developing Spanish students, but there are enough similarities in text structure that the findings apply to English-speaking students as well.

García, J. R., Sánchez, E., Cain, K., & Montoya, J. M. (2019). Cross-sectional study of the contribution of rhetorical competence to children’s expository texts comprehension between third- and sixth-grade. Learning and Individual Differences. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2019.03.005

Survivor: Home-based early literacy edition

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Early literacy skills are crucial to set the stage for learning to read. We know that kids with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) are likely to struggle with skills like print knowledge. There are only so many hours in the (preschool) day, so some early literacy programs are designed to be completed by caregivers at home. However, experience tells us that not all caregivers will complete home literacy activities. In this study, Justice and colleagues wanted to find out which caregivers might finish or not finish a home program. 

The researchers used a technique called survival analysis, which sounds dramatic, but “survival” in this case just means finishing the book reading program (phew). They looked at results from a previous study on the effect of different incentives on caregivers’ participation. Caregivers of 4- to 5-year-old children with DLD were asked to complete the (free!) Sit Together and Read (STAR) program. The program includes 15 books paired with print-focused activities that are completed in 4 sessions per week over 15 weeks. Caregivers recorded their reading sessions and reported back to the researchers regularly. The main findings included:

  • Only 55% of caregivers completed the program

  • Of families who dropped out, a third never started the program at all

  • Families were less likely to drop out early if they received incentives of money ($.50 per session) or encouragement (positive text messages)

  • Higher-SES caregivers were more likely to complete the program than lower-SES caregivers

  • Caregivers of children with higher print knowledge skills were more likely to complete the program than caregivers of children with lower print knowledge skills. 

So what can we do with these findings? When asking caregivers to complete home literacy activities, we need to have realistic expectations for their participation. The biggest barrier seems to be getting started, so we can focus our efforts on supporting caregivers early in the program. While most of us probably can’t pay families for completing a program, sending encouraging texts or notes to remind them how important reading is might help increase participation. And lower-SES caregivers or caregivers of children with low print knowledge skills are likely to need the most support of all.

 

Justice, L. M., Chen, J., Jiang, H., Tambyraja, S., & Logan, J. (2019). Early-literacy intervention conducted by caregivers of children with language impairment: Implementation patterns using survival analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-03925-1