Language and Comprehension

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An amanuensis can be regarded as an efficient writing machine, responsive to instructions and free from the mechanical complexities of keyboards or tape-recorders. This is particularly true of subjects with terminology and symbols unfamiliar to most people. Working with an amanuensis takes practice, for both parties, as decisions have to be taken about such matters as spelling, punctuation, and, especially in a timed examination setting, the speed of dictation.

Many departments mark anonymously. Where students produce assignments in an alternative way, departments may have to consider whether the goals of anonymous marking can be achieved in some other way. If departments regard anonymous marking as a protection against marker bias, then it may be possible to achieve this end by some other way of monitoring standards in marking. Teaching Strategies These strategies are suggestions for inclusive teaching.

Use literal language and very precise meanings. Use carefully worded, unambiguous questions to elicit and test learning, and limit oral questions to a manageable number. Provide extra time after group sessions to check content has been understood, and encourage students to ask for instructions to be repeated, simplified or written down if they misunderstand. When preparing handouts, pay attention to how easy they are to read and consider using more accessible sans-serif fonts.

Be as visual as possible in presenting new concepts and abstract material — use graphic organisers such as semantic maps.

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Offer a range of lined coloured paper for students to write on this may have to be photocopied or specially ordered. If students have a colour preference, ensure all handouts are printed on it for them. Recording lectures and tutorials can be very helpful for those who need to re-listen to what has been said in order to make accurate notes and to discuss the content with others at a later date.

If a teaching session introduces a large amount of new terminology, provision of a glossary of key terms can be very useful. Furthermore, some of the strategies, like requesting clarification, may be resisted by students who understandably do not want to call attention to their disability. Sensitive counseling may be a necessary component of this strategy instruction. With these qualifications as background, listening comprehension strategies include:. However, a child with TBI may also have a congenital language-learning disorder, or may be one of the few with specific language impairment or aphasia caused by the injury.

Therefore we include in this tutorial the following principles of grammar instruction. Principles of Grammar Instruction: The following ten principles of grammar instruction are paraphrases of principles published by Fey, Long, and Finestack These principles capture the best evidence-based practices known to language specialists at that time for teaching grammar to children who have language-learning difficulties, regardless of the cause of that difficulty. Principle 1: Make sure that the grammar being taught serves a communication purpose e. Principle 2: Do not focus teaching sessions only on grammar.

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Principle 3: Choose a class of grammatical forms e. For example, in teaching past tense, there should be meaningful conversation about events that took place in the past. Principle 4: Choose developmentally appropriate forms of grammar. This requires consultation with a speech-language pathologist who knows in what developmental order children typically acquire aspects of grammar. Principle 5: Create many natural opportunities throughout the day for supported practice. Principle 6: Use varied linguistic contexts for practice of grammar, including conversation, descriptions, and stories spoken and written.

Principle 7: Make the target aspect of grammar salient and meaningful. Principle 8: Make sure that relevant adults know how to use systematic recast procedures. Furthermore, relevant adults should know what specifically the child is working on so they can make a point of modeling those aspects of grammar. John imitates He kicked the ball. This summary of evidence is written for teachers and others who may be required to support their intervention practices with evidence from the research literature or who may simply be curious about the state of the evidence.

This summary was written in early Evidence continues to accumulate. A search of the literature revealed no studies of the effectiveness of language intervention for students with a diagnosis of TBI, other than those that focus on the behavioral dimensions of language. The summaries of vocabulary and grammar teaching procedures presented earlier Fey et al. Therefore these summaries represent a useful point of departure in choosing teaching procedures, but they cannot be considered evidence reviews.

Specific evidence supporting language intervention for students with TBI can, therefore, only be drawn — with great caution — from studies of other populations of students.

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Cirrin and Gillam identified 21 studies of language intervention for school-age children with primary spoken language disorders versus disorders of reading and writing, and disorders of language secondary to other disabilities published since Each study met high standards of experimental rigor. No studies of middle and high school students were found. Six studies focused on vocabulary, three on grammar, five on phonological awareness and metalinguistics, five on general language processing, and two on pragmatics. Effect sizes were moderate to high for the majority of studies.

Therefore the authors conclude that there is an unfortunately small but solid body of evidence for language intervention for elementary-age students with primary language disorders. Jitendra and colleagues systematically reviewed the evidence supporting specific procedures for teaching reading vocabulary to students with learning disabilities, grades 4 through They found 19 articles that included 27 separate experimental studies. The following vocabulary teaching procedures were supported by experimental evidence: cognitive strategy instruction e.

Computer-assisted instruction yielded mixed results. The respected evidence review of the National Reading Panel summarized the results of a large number of successful experimental studies that support the use of explicit instruction in teaching both reading vocabulary and comprehension, with a focus on strategy intervention in the case of comprehension. Other reviews of language intervention for specific populations of students with disability include Goldstein , autism , and Sigafoos and Drasgow , developmental disabilities.

The Goldstein review is relevant in that it identified many successful experimental studies in which the social dimensions of language were targeted or positive communication alternatives to negative behavior were taught. Although there are differences in central tendencies between autism and TBI, those two dimensions of communication intervention are also important for many students with TBI.

The systematic evidence review of Ylvisaker and colleagues summarized several studies in which social language and positive communication alternatives were successfully taught to children and adults with TBI. Cirrin, F.

The Clinical Assessment of Language Comprehension

Language intervention practices for school-age children with spoken language disorders: A systematic review. Fey, M. Ten principles of grammar facilitation for children with specific language impairments. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology , 12, Goldstein, H. Communication intervention for children with autism: A review of treatment efficacy. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders , 32 5 , Jitendra, A. What research says about vocabulary instruction for students with learning disabilities.

Exceptional Children , 70 3 , Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Reading a number books or stories to students featuring similar themes or domains e. Davis recommends twenty to thirty read-alouds per domain e. Although read-alouds are typically done in the elementary grades, there is likely to be benefit in building background knowledge at the older grades as well.

In addition to providing background knowledge, we can also activate existing background knowledge. Activation of background knowledge that students already possess is frequently a focus of comprehension instruction. Teachers understand the value of activating background knowledge and as a result many tend to apply a series of strategies at the expense of providing knowledge.

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There is not a lot of research on teaching a multitude of comprehension strategies prior to third grade, primarily because beginning readers in the early grades are learning how to decode fluently. Also, too much of an emphasis on teaching strategies for reading comprehension may not be effective Stahl , , particularly if the text is easy to understand. In later grades, simply applying comprehension strategies such as visualizing or predicting will not automatically enable students to understand science. If we want students to comprehend science texts, they must know something about science.

Students do better if they read and write about things they know about. While isolated facts are certainly important and necessary, they will not suffice to enable meaningful comprehension unless background knowledge is developed within meaningful contexts. However, as Shanahan explains, avoiding discussion altogether of background knowledge will not serve to allow children to interpret and comprehend texts more equally, because it would be next to impossible for children who do possess background knowledge about a topic to avoid using it to construct meaning while they read.

Those without the background knowledge will not have this advantage, and will be wrongly viewed as having poor comprehension, when in fact it is their lack of knowledge that is to blame. Shanahan provides some practical instructional suggestions for activating background knowledge before and during reading. An abridged and modified list appears below:. Having just read about background knowledge, it is probably easy for you to imagine how vocabulary—the knowledge of the meaning of words in a text—adds significantly to the construction of the meaning of texts.

Vocabulary knowledge is a prominent predictor of reading comprehension and is depicted as a central thread in the language comprehension component of the Simple View of Reading because of its connections to background knowledge and language structures Scarborough, By the age of two, children usually speak about to words and understand many more, and once in school, they learn approximately 3, words per year, and can comprehend many more than they can read Nagy, To accomplish this rate of word learning, it is critical to ensure that students are learning new words each day.

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This disparity results in students from more affluent households knowing thousands more words upon entering school, which benefits their ability to understand, participate in, and profit from the language of instruction that is predominant in U. This seems obvious since not knowing the meaning of words in a text makes it quite difficult to comprehend it. Upon hearing a word, we can say a we have never heard of it, b that we have heard of it but we do not know it, c that we know it, or d that we both know it and can use it Nagy, The more deeply we know a word, the more likely we will be to understand it when we hear it or read it, and the more likely we will be to use it when we speak or write.

Ideally, instruction makes it so that students reach the level of knowing and using words when they converse, write, or read. Vocabulary learning occurs either incidentally words are learned through exposure and experiences or intentionally words are deliberately and directly taught. The majority of words in our vocabularies are learned incidentally, through conversations or independent reading Adams, Children who have learned to read independently are at an advantage in terms of learning words incidentally because they are able to independently encounter new words and infer their meaning while reading.

Incidental vocabulary instruction is enhanced through rich and varied oral language dialogue and discourse experiences, and independent reading. Teachers should consciously fill their everyday classroom language with rich, unique words so that they can be learned incidentally. A classroom that is rich with words promotes awareness of new vocabulary and a curiosity for learning new words.

What a ruckus! It terrifies me! While it is not a scientifically based intervention, it provides a multitude of listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities that adhere to a sequence of language development for students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. Many words, phrases, and sayings require intentional instruction.

Tier 2 words are sophisticated, occur frequently in conversation and print, and are used across multiple domains and contexts.

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Examples of Tier 2 words are unique, convenient, remarkable, and misery See Beck et al. Tier 1 words are those that are basic and, for speakers of English, do not require instruction in school e. During a read-aloud that is done in Text Talk fashion, open-ended comprehension questions are asked.

Open-ended questions require a meaningful interactive response rather than a one-word reply. After the read-aloud or during a second reading of the story, the preselected Tier 2 vocabulary words are defined by the teacher using simple, child-friendly definitions e.

The meanings of the words are discussed within the context of the story e. Additionally, during the read-aloud, it is beneficial to read the text before showing the pictures so that the illustrations do not interfere with attention or comprehension. Modifying read-alouds a bit to include the suggestions here fosters rich Tier 2 vocabulary and language comprehension through open-ended questions and by drawing attention to the vocabulary and meaning in texts.

The final element contributing to language comprehension is language structure—the relationships between the words and sentences in a text. Looking back at the model of skilled reading in Figure 1, it is evident there are many facets to language structures, including knowledge of grammar, being able to make inferences, and having knowledge of literacy concepts, such as what reading strategies to use for different types of texts e.

The act of constructing meaning while reading is complex, so it is not surprising that morphology and syntax also contribute to reading comprehension. Morphology is the study of morphemes in a language. Words contain one or more morphemes, or units of meaning.

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Another aspect of language form, syntax, is commonly referred to as grammar. It is the combining and ordering of words in sentences and phrases that enables comprehension of a text. Syntax includes sentence construction elements like statements, commands, and combined sentences as well as particular sentence components such as nouns, adjectives, and prepositional phrases.

These are important for future teachers to know, because effective use of these will allow students to comprehend text more successfully, and they will also allow students to demonstrate command of the conventions of the language in their writing pieces. Typically, rules of morphology and syntax are taught directly.

For example, morphology instruction includes root words, prefixes, and suffixes along with derivations of Greek and Latin roots e. Morphology charts of root words, prefixes, and suffixes can be compiled over time and displayed on a wall so that students can refer to them while reading or writing. Charts could feature a list of suffixes that indicate people nouns e. Incidental exposure to such morphology elements enhances word awareness the act of noticing and attending to features of words , vocabulary, and, of course, language comprehension.

Language content that is comprised of the meaning of the relationships that exist between words, phrases, and sentences is known as semantics. Semantics is different from vocabulary because it extends beyond the individual meaning of words.

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Understanding the semantics of language enables comprehension because it clarifies the content—the network of events and relationships that exists in texts. For example, reading a sentence about a jug breaking and glass being scattered all over the floor might cause confusion, since jugs are typically not thought of as being made of glass. Just as important is background knowledge in order to form correct judgments about the context being read. Part of this knowledge includes the meaning of humor, slang, idioms i.

Languages have thousands of common and often subtle semantic attributes that involve analogy, exaggeration, sarcasm, puns, and parables to convey world knowledge. Teachers can explicitly teach these attributes so that they are recognized more readily, explicitly define particular sayings and expressions, and demonstrate examples and nonexamples. Like vocabulary, the majority of semantic knowledge is derived from previous experiences and background knowledge. Teaching students phrases through exposure to discussions, reading, and other venues like television, movies, and online videos does a lot to promote this language comprehension element.

Language use is termed pragmatics. Pragmatics are the rules of language that lead to appropriate use in assorted settings and contexts. Each setting e. To communicate appropriately, students must learn patterns of conversation and dialogue that occur in assorted settings. Understanding the nuances of pragmatics contributes to language comprehension, which in turn enables a reader to recognize its uses in written text, leading to more successful reading comprehension.

The pragmatics of language use in school requires students to comprehend academic language. Students, especially English language learners and students with social difficulties, must comprehend the differences between conversation and academic language. Students can perform enjoyable skits demonstrating the differences in language use in various situations and teachers can monitor and model language use as students tell stories, describe events, or recount personal experiences.

To help students develop language comprehension, the underlying meaning-based elements of reading—background knowledge, vocabulary, and language structures—must be taught and monitored. Unlike teaching students to recognize words accurately and automatically so that they become fluent readers, teaching the elements of language comprehension must be done so that students become increasingly strategic about extracting the meaning from texts they read.

This is an incremental, ongoing, developmental process that lasts a lifetime. With each new bit of background knowledge, each new vocabulary word, and each new understanding of language use, students can integrate this knowledge strategically to comprehend text. The two essential components of the Simple View of Reading, automatic word recognition and strategic language comprehension, contribute to the ultimate goal of teaching reading: skilled reading comprehension.

Once students become proficient decoders and can automatically identify words, the role of language comprehension becomes increasingly important as students shift from paying attention to the words to paying attention to meaning. Teachers must be ever mindful of the presence or absence of background knowledge that students bring to the task. The value of the knowledge that students bring to their reading should never be sacrificed for the sake of comprehension strategy instruction. They must go hand in hand. Adams, M. American Educator, 34, , Beck, I. Text talk: Capturing the benefits of read aloud experiences for young children.

The Reading Teacher, 55, Bloom, L.

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