Friday, May 24, 2024

Lexical-semantic organization as measured by repeated word association in children who are deaf and hard of hearing who use spoken language

Rush et al. (2023). Lexical-semantic organization as measured by repeated word association in children who are deaf and hard of hearing who use spoken language. JSLHR, 66, 3925-39.

Word knowledge is usually measured in terms of quantity, that is, the number of words a child knows. However, the way a child links and stores words for retrieval is another important component of word knowledge called lexical-semantic organization. There are 3 subprocesses involved in word learning: (1) Triggering – recognition that a word is new and must be learned, (2) configuration – recognizing and mapping a phonological (speech sound) and semantic (meaning-based) representation of a new word to what it refers to, and (3) engagement – the necessary interaction between a new word and the child’s existing word knowledge to facilitate organization of stored words. Perhaps unsurprisingly, children who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) tend to know fewer words than their hearing peers. Available research suggests that children who are DHH may have difficulty with the triggering and engagement subprocesses of word learning, although research addressing configuration is limited. One task used to study lexical-semantic organization is a repeated word association task. In this task, an individual prompt (e.g., the word turtle) is repeated multiple times and an individual is expected to provide a different single word response each time. Responses can be analyzed in terms of their relation to the target, for example, whether responses are semantically related, clang (share sounds or rhyme with the target word), or error responses. With development, hearing children typically provide more semantically related response.

In this study, kindergarten and grade 1 children who were typical hearing, wearing hearing aids, or with cochlear implants completed a repeated word association measure including 24 stimuli words (12 nouns, 12 verbs, included in text). Each word was presented 3 different times and the child was asked to verbally respond with the first word that comes to mind but to tell a new word each time they heard the same word. No differences in responses were noted between the hearing aid and cochlear implant groups, and so these groups were collapsed for further analysis. Results indicated a developmental increase in semantically related responses to target words regardless of hearing status. The younger DHH group produced more errors and when those errors were not semantically related, they produced more errors that were not clearly in the semantic network of the target word. The authors argued that this result could suggest that young children who are DHH may not organize their words using the most efficient strategies when learning new words. Over time, however, children with DHH showed similar lexical-semantic organization as typically hearing peers.

Measuring lexical-semantic organization may provide important information about a child’s lexical organization and flexible use of words. This information could help to understand a child’s word knowledge in more depth.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Dynamic Assessment of Narrative Skills for Identifying Developmental Language Disorder in Monolingual and Bilingual French-Speaking Children

Hadjadj, O., Kehoe, M., & Delage, H. (2024). Dynamic assessment of narrative skills for identifying developmental language disorder in monolingual and bilingual French-speaking children. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools55(1), 130–151.

Narratives are useful for assessing language skills in children, covering various domains like vocabulary and grammar. Typically, kids start storytelling with basic plots by age 5 and progress to more complex narratives by age 9. Children with language disorders struggle with both the structure (macrostructure) and details of stories (microstructure). While it is simpler to assess monolingual children for language disorders, bilingual children often are misdiagnosed due to less accurate assessment tools. In bilingual children, exposure time to each language along with age of learning second language are crucial when determining the storytelling abilities, with those exposed to a language later showing weaker language skills, resembling monolingual children with language disorders. Assessing bilingual children in all their languages is crucial to avoid misdiagnosis, but it's often challenging due to language diversity. Various tools, like parental questionnaires and language samples, can help evaluate bilingual children's language skills effectively. Dynamic assessment evaluates children's learning potential rather than static knowledge. It's suggested that children with language disorders have lower learning potential. DA involves teaching phases to improve performance between pre-and post-tests, aiding diagnosis accuracy. Because of its unbiased nature, this study used DA to assess various linguistic skills, including narratives, especially beneficial for diagnosing language disorders in bilingual children.

The main goal of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of Dynamic Assessment in distinguishing DLD and typical language development in French-speaking monolingual and bilingual children. Children (6-11 years old) were given a storytelling task before learning about story elements, then tested again. The test involved 12 questions: 8 focused on story grammar elements (macro-structure) and 4 focused on connectors (microstructure). Results showed no differences in storytelling ability between monolingual and bilingual children on macrostructure or microstructure elements. Children with (DLD) had lower scores than typically developing (TD) children, especially in microstructure elements.

This study provides further evidence that dynamic assessment can be useful in assessing the language abilities of bilingual children. The greater difficulty with story microstructure for children with DLD may indicate the need for tailored teaching methods.

Blogger: Diya Nair is a second year MSc student under the supervision of Dr Lisa Archibald.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Relations between teacher talk characteristics and child language in spoken-language deaf and hard-of-hearing classrooms

Duncan, M.K., & Lederberg, A.R. (2018). Relations between teacher talk characteristics and child language in spoken-language deaf and hard-of-hearing classrooms. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61, 2977-2995.

Children with hearing loss have difficulty learning spoken language. This impacts their literacy (reading and writing) skills as well. These children frequently have difficulty learning vocabulary simply by hearing words used, which is the way hearing children often learn new words. Children with hearing loss also have difficulty with syntax (putting words together to form sentences), likely due to the difficulties hearing key word endings or morphemes. Hearing impaired children perform significantly lower than their hearing peers on measures of both vocabulary and morphosyntax.

Duncan and Lederberg explain that past research has shown that certain aspects of adult language use can impact language development in hearing children. Interventions have been developed for hearing children employing these features of adult language, in particular through the use of certain characteristics of teacher talk. These teacher talk characteristics include:

  1. Reformulation: repeating and expanding the child’s statement, modelling more adult-like language
  2. Language elicitations: invitations to the child to respond with a single word or a short list of possible responses (closed elicitations), or to respond with longer or more complex responses (open-ended elicitations)
  3. Explicit vocabulary instruction: the teacher provides a child-friendly definition and connects this new word to the child’s existing knowledge
  4. Explicit grammar instruction: the explicit provision of grammar instruction
  5. Wait time: allowing approximately 3 seconds after a language elicitation (e.g., a question) for the student to provide a response (allowing time to think about and form a higher-quality response)

While some research had been done on the impacts of parental language input and language development in hearing impaired children, little research has addressed the impacts of teacher language input for children with hearing loss. In this study, the authors addressed this gap, and did so with two goals. The first was to examine the characteristics of teacher talk being used in spoken language classrooms with hearing impaired children. The second was to determine the extent to which teacher talk relates to language gains for hearing impaired children in vocabulary and morphosyntax over a school year.

The authors examined the language (vocabulary and morphosyntax) scores of 68 hearing impaired children in kindergarten, grade one, and grade two. These students were from 25 classrooms in which spoken English was used exclusively. Language scores were collected in the fall and spring terms of the same school year. Teacher talk was observed, transcribed, and coded (for each of the 5 teacher talk characteristics) for a 20 minute period during the winter term.

When examining the characteristics of teacher talk used in the classrooms with hearing impaired students, they found that the most frequent of the teacher talk characteristics was the use of closed language elicitations. Open-ended language elicitations were frequently used as well, but to a lesser degree. While imitating the students’ statements verbatim was rare, reformulation of their statements was quite common. Use of explicit vocabulary instruction varied between teachers, with some using it once every two minutes, and others using it only a couple of times or not at all within the observation window. Wait time was not frequently observed, but this may have been due to students responding immediately. Explicit grammar instruction was rare.

When determining the impact of teacher talk characteristics on spoken language development of hearing impaired students across the school year, the authors found that greater use of reformulation and explicit vocabulary instruction were predictors of gains in vocabulary, and that use of explicit vocabulary instruction was a predictor of gains in morphosyntax.

The implications of this study are that language input from classroom teachers has the ability to promote language development in their students with hearing impairment. The use of certain characteristics of teacher talk can benefit hearing impaired students’ development of vocabulary and morphosyntax (in particular, the use of reformulations to support vocabulary gains, and explicit vocabulary instruction to support both vocabulary and morphosyntax gains). Teacher training programs could be designed to support teachers in the development of skills in these areas.

Blogger: Rachel Benninger is a combined MClSc/PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Nonverbal executive functioning in relation to vocabulary and morphosyntax in preschool children with and without developmental language disorder

Everaert et al. (2023) Nonverbal executive functioning in relation to vocabulary and morphosyntax in preschool children with and without developmental language disorder. JSLHR, 66, 3954-73.

Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) have a persistent language difficulty that has a significant impact on school learning and everyday interactions. Executive functions are brain-based processes that allow us to create and sustain action towards goals while acting insightfully with others. Three cognitive resources support executive functions including the ability to update information held in mind or working memory, the ability to inhibit unnecessary information which, along with working memory, allows for selective attention, and cognitive flexibility, or the ability to put things together in unique ways. There are well-recognized links between executive functions and language learning. For example, working memory can support holding novel phonological forms in mind so that new vocabulary can be learned. In addition, putting words to the steps you need to complete helps you achieve goals. Given this link, there has been interest in examining executive functions in children with DLD.

One challenge with examining executive functions in children with DLD is that many executive functions tasks involve language. Indeed, systematic reviews has reported that children with DLD differ substantially from their typically developing peers when compared on verbally-loaded executive function tasks. The group difference, however, while reliable, is considerably smaller when the groups are compared on nonverbal function tasks such as recalling the sequence of indicated blocks.

This study examined the relationship between language (vocabulary; morphosyntax) and nonverbal executive function measures in 3-6 year old children with and without DLD. The children with DLD scored significantly lower than the typically developing group on all four executive function measures. An executive function factor was found to add significant predictive value to morphosyntax but not vocabulary performance in children with DLD. For typically developing children, executive functions predicted both vocabulary and morphosyntax. Diagnosis (DLD or not) was not a significant moderator of these relationships.

These results highlight the importance of using strategies to scaffold executive functions when providing language-based interventions with a high verbal load such as sentence-level activities. Strategies might include repeating information, providing visual supports, and breaking the task into smaller steps.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Playful punctuation in primary children’s narrative writing

Burrell, A., & Beard, R. (2022). Playful punctuation in primary children’s narrative writing. Research Papers in Education, 1-28.

Language play has been defined as any use of language that is creative and unusual. This article focused on language play through punctuation. This study investigated children's use of playful punctuation in narrative writing. The data were derived from a previous study focused on writing development in the 9–11 year olds and identified three attainment sub-groups: (i) the highest-attaining children in Year 6, (ii) children with the lowest scores in both Year 6 and Year 5, and (iii) children with the most significant increase in attainment between Year 5 and Year 6. The analysis examined the purpose and organization, grammar, vocabulary, style, punctuation, spelling, and handwriting aspects of writing. The analysis of 71 stories revealed diverse playful punctuation, with notable usage of quotation marks, exclamation marks, and question marks, while other elements like asterisks and interrobangs were used less frequently. Clear variations were observed among attainment groups in the content and extent of playful punctuation. The results suggest that narrative writing provides opportunities for creative and playful punctuation use by 10–11 year-olds, prompting further investigation into such linguistic play. The study also noted variations in punctuation use among individual children, highlighting stylistic choices. Some children favored certain punctuation marks, such as dashes or exclamation marks, to emphasize specific narrative effects. Additionally, the study observed unconventional uses of punctuation, like elongated ellipses (the use of several full stops together, often used to express hesitation) and the interrobang (the use of exclamation mark and a question mark together), showcasing individual creativity in punctuation application.

Blogger: Diya Nair is an MSc student working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Higher-Level Language Strategy-Based Intervention for Poor Comprehenders: A pilot single case experimental design

Kelso, K., Whitworth, A., & Leitão, S. (2022). Higher-Level Language Strategy-Based Intervention for Poor Comprehenders: A pilot single case experimental design. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 38(2), 151-165.

Poor comprehenders are a subgroup of poor readers who can read accurately and fluently at a level appropriate for their age but struggle to comprehend what they read. The current consensus is that 7-8% of children in middle primary can be classified as poor comprehenders, with this number increasing across school grades. While there is far less research on children with specific comprehension difficulties, compared with word reading accuracy difficulties, there is now a sizeable body of research on the language and cognitive profiles of poor comprehenders, with intact phonological processing skills being a key feature. There is also limited research into reading comprehension instruction more broadly, and even less on effective instruction for poor comprehenders, although there is some evidence to suggest that strategy-based instruction to improve inference making can be effective.

This pilot study used a single case series design to explore whether an intervention designed to target higher-level language skills was effective in improving the oral inference making and comprehension monitoring skills of poor comprehenders and, in turn, their reading comprehension. Participants were 11 children in grades 3 – 6 (aged 7;8 −12;1 years) who presented with a profile of adequate vocabulary and grammar skills but higher-level language difficulties. The intervention consisted of 10, 45 minute weekly sessions, presented in two blocks of five weeks. Testing was completed at four time points: two prior to intervention, one immediately following intervention, and a fourth 4-5 months post-intervention. In the first block of sessions, five strategies were introduced for use across the reading cycle (before, during , after). The second five sessions focused on applying the strategies taught and making inferences during reading of longer fiction and non-fiction texts.

The results of the study showed that oral inference making improved post-intervention for most participants, as did the ability to identify inconsistencies in texts (comprehension monitoring) for eight of the 11 participants. Transfer to improvement on standardised reading comprehension measures was more limited, consistent with previous research findings, particularly for nonfiction texts. However, the majority of participants had improved in the number of literal and inference questions answered correctly at the 4-5 month follow-up. The authors concluded by suggesting that the preliminary findings indicated that the 10-session intervention has the potential to improve children's comprehension during reading, and that examining responses to different types of questions may be beneficial to identify poor comprehenders, rather than just looking at overall reading comprehension test scores.

Blogger: Katrina Kelso is a Postdoctoral Associate working with Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Complex language use in children with hearing loss: A scoping review

Klieve, S., Eadie, P., Graham, L., Leitao, S. (2023). Complex language use in children with hearing loss: A scoping review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 66, 688-719.

In a review of the research spanning the years since 1990, Klieve and colleagues aimed to determine what is known about the use of complex language, specifically complex syntax (the ability to form complex sentences), by children with hearing loss. The authors sought to determine if there is a profile (a typical distribution of strengths and weaknesses) of complex language use for these children, which could help guide more effective intervention practices.

Despite technological advances, many children with hearing loss still face significant difficulties with language in comparison to their hearing peers. Complex syntax supports literacy activities (such as oral and written expression and reading comprehension) and overall academic achievement. Much of the available research on complex language use in children with hearing loss focuses on the early elementary school years, even though complex syntax continues to develop past this stage. An important shift takes place around the age of 8 or 9 when students move from learning to read, to reading to learn. This shift aligns with an increase in the use of complex language and results in a widened gap between the skills of children with hearing loss and their hearing peers.

This review looked at research with a focus on complex syntax use at the sentence or discourse level (language made up of more than single words) by children (ages 4-18) with a moderate or greater hearing loss who use spoken language as their main method of communication.

The authors’ findings revealed the following characteristics of the complex language of children with hearing loss: use of more simple sentences, simple clauses and connectors, and use of fewer conjunctions and fewer complex conjunctions. Children with hearing loss used a comparable number of units of content in sentences but with fewer grammatically correct units.

Overall, the authors found that children with hearing loss experience difficulties across many aspects of complex syntax, and that difficulty with earlier developing complex syntax resulted in difficulty with later syntax development. This information can be used to develop an effective intervention approach for children with hearing loss that addresses a broad range of complex syntax, with the aim of supporting not only the development of complex language use in children with hearing loss, but ultimately supporting their overall academic success. More research into this area is needed in order to determine effective approaches to intervention for these children.

Blogger: Rachel Benninger is a combined MClSc/PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald

Monday, October 16, 2023

Promoting rich discussions in mathematics classrooms: Using personalized, automated feedback to support reflection and instructional change

Jacobs, J. Scornavacco, K., Harty, C., Suresh, A., Lai, V., & Sumner, T. (2022). Promoting rich discussions in mathematics classrooms: Using personalized, automated feedback to support reflection and instructional change. Teaching and Teacher Education, 112, 103631–.

Oral language plays an important role in a child’s everyday life. Oral language is needed for learning to read and participating in classroom activities. Children’s oral language can be supported in the classroom through classroom talk. But ‘just getting students to talk’ can be challenging. One way to promote rich classroom talk is through the use of talk moves. Talk Moves are sentence starters that teachers and students can use to engage in conversations. For example, if a student gives a confusing response to a question, the teacher can use the ‘Say More’ move to ask the student to “Say more about that…”. This move gives the student an opportunity to clarify their thinking. However, providing professional development on talk moves could be time-consuming and expensive, requiring expert coaching and human coders.

In this study, researchers evaluated the TalkMoves application that they designed to automatically detect talk moves after teachers uploaded their classroom recording. Participants included 21 grade 4-12 teachers and their classroom. The teachers recorded a total of 233 math lessons (mean = 10; range = 3 – 21) over a four-month period. The feedback provided from the application would inform teachers on the type and frequency of talk moves used, the percentage of teacher and student talk, and a word cloud showing the most used words.

Results revealed that teachers found the application to be user-friendly but they felt the recording underestimated the amount of student talk. Teachers were more interested in feedback about teacher vs. student talk than use of talk moves, possibly due to a lack of familiar with talk moves. In fact, one teacher noted that although the feedback was useful in helping her try to change practice (e.g., use more talk moves), she was still unsure what talk moves meant and that examples and explicit teaching would have been beneficial. The most commonly used talk moves were “keeping everyone together” (e.g., asking yes/no questions, asking students to repeat) and “press for accuracy” (e.g., asking students to use mathematical vocabulary). The least used were “getting students to relate” (e.g., commenting on ideas, agreeing/disagreeing with ideas) and “press for reasoning” (e.g., asking students to explain their ideas). Teachers nominally increased their use of talk moves over time, but results were not significant. Overall, while the TalkMoves application has the potential to provide teachers with automated and individualized feedback about their classroom talk, it seems crucial that teachers have a solid understanding of talk moves. This way, when teachers are interpreting feedback from application, they can understand what they are looking at and how they could change practice. 

Blogger: Theresa Pham is a Postdoctoral Associate.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Design, implementation, and evaluation of dialogic classroom talk in early childhood education

van der Veen, C., Michaels, S., Dobber, M., van Kruistum, C., & van Oers, B. (2021). Design, implementation, and evaluation of dialogic classroom talk in early childhood education. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 29, 100515–.

Classroom discussions offer opportunities for developing learning, reasoning, and language skills. However, often times, classroom talk uses the Initiation-Response-Evaluation sequence, limiting opportunities for students to think and talk together, for example:

Teacher: How do plants grow?

Student: Photosynthesis

Teacher: Correct

One promising approach to involve students in classroom talk is called talk moves. Talk moves are conversational strategies that teachers can use to encourage students to (a) share, expand, and clarify their thinking (Let’s take time to think); (b) listen to others (Can you repeat what John just said?); (c) deepen reasoning (What evidence did you use?); (d) and think with others (Do you agree or not? Why?). Students themselves could also use talk moves to invite others into the conversation. It would follow that understanding how talk moves could affect classroom culture is warranted.

The present study consisted of two cycles, each lasting about 8 weeks. At the start of each cycle, teachers met with the researchers to learn about talk moves and co-design classroom discussions incorporating talk moves. Baseline observations were completed before the first workshop. After which, observations of their classroom (92 students total) were coded for the following outcome measures. Teacher talk was coded for mean length turn (number of words/turn) and types of talk moves used. Student turns were coded for oral communicative competence assessed with a standardized test of pragmatics, child participation, mean length turn, and key linguistic words used (e.g., because, Why?, I think).

Overall, preliminary results were promising. Teachers increased their use of talk moves, especially the share, expand, clarify (Let’s take time to think) and metacommunication moves (What talk moves did we agree upon?). As for students, their oral communicative competence scores increased throughout the intervention, they took longer turns, and used more key linguistic words. Taken together, supporting the use of talk moves in the classroom could be beneficial for student’s oral language development and engagement more broadly.

Blogger: Theresa Pham is a Postdoctoral Associate working with Drs. Lisa Archibald and Janis Cardy.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Camouflaging in Developmental Language Disorder: The Views of Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) and Parents

Hobson, H.M., & Lee, A. (2022). Camouflaging in Developmental Language Disorder: The Views of Speech and Language Pathologists and Parents. Communication Disorders Quarterly, OnlineFirst,

Camouflaging is a term used to describe behaviours or strategies that a neurodiverse person uses either knowingly (consciously) or unknowingly (unconsciously) to minimize their neurodivergent characteristics. Camouflaging has been studied in the context of autism. Autistic individuals report that camouflaging is emotionally draining and exhausting because the camouflaging behaviours require additional cognitive effort to maintain.

This present study is the first to examine camouflaging in children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). Using a qualitative descriptive design, the authors interviewed 6 SLPs and 6 parents of children with DLD. A wide variety of behaviours considered to reflect were noted including conversational tools (e.g., scripts; saying they understood when they had not), relying on others (e.g., pausing and allowing others to fill in), avoidance (e.g., playing by themselves; saying ‘I don’t know’), nonverbal behaviours (e.g., smiling, nodding), disruptive behaviours (e.g., acting silly), other cognitive abilities (e.g., using good problem solving skills to work around a language difficulty), and copying (e.g., doing what the other children are doing). Some impacts of camouflaging were that intervention strategies might not be employed because the problem is not recognized or the child prefers not to have to use the strategy. Exhaustion was commonly reported with reports of children ‘holding it together at school and then having a meltdown at home’. Personality factors influenced motivation for camouflaging for the children but also people’s responses. For example, children might be perceived as being difficult or rude. The authors indicate that there are likely more camouflaging behaviours than were captured in the current study.

Children with DLD may knowingly or unknowingly camouflage their language struggles. Understanding camouflaging could help in understanding a child’s presenting profile.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald