For the past several years in this space we have presented a “Summer Study Series” highlighting peer-reviewed articles and research relevant to narrative and expository assessment and intervention. For 2020, we begin with A Systematic Review of Academic Discourse Interventions for School-Aged Children With Language-Related Learning Disabilities (Peterson, Fox & Israelsen, 2020). Systematic reviews are a higher tier of research applying selection criteria and metrics to determine effect sizes of studies of particular types of interventions. In other words, a study of studies specific to narrative and expository (more the latter) discourse.
The researchers highlight the following:
Students with language-based learning disabilities (LLD) struggle with discourse for academic and social communication including listening, speaking, reading and writing. The Common Core State Standards, as implemented, provide expectations for use of narrative and expository discourse, ranging from early “share and tell” activities to complex story and informational text.
In defining expository/informational text, text structures such as description, explanation, procedure, and persuasion are emphasized by the authors. They note that students with LLD “may gather information from texts in a random fashion, rather than systematically finding and retaining key ideas within an organized mental framework.”
Students experience an educational shift from narrative to expository contexts around age 9, when most master narrative forms, though students with LLD are often left behind with this movement.
Available research studies have not generally provided enough information (e.g., “fidelity checklists”) for clinicians to effectively implement the techniques described as evidence-based practice, furthering the “research-to-practice gap.”
Several prior systematic reviews described here included Peterson’s (2011), which emphasized effects of macrostructure teaching and causal and temporal language within it, and Ward-Lonergan and Duthie (2016) who found that a combination of strategy (e.g., graphic organizers) and content-based (e.g., discussion activities furthering “mental representations of text”) were most helpful.
The current study’s synthesis of seven interventions, which were primarily strategy approaches (i.e., graphic organizers, note-taking strategies), found six of the seven studies with significant effects, the largest group difference being with a study by Ukrainetz providing more of a strategy with content approach (sketching and describing elements of expository text).
- Finally, the authors highlight two trends:
- Older students tended to receive less instruction in narrative language structure, though they are likely to still need this intervention.
- Secondly, though all students, “regardless of ability,” received benefit from expository strategy interventions, there was little evidence of “far transfer” or generalization for use in practical comprehension tasks in the classroom. This speaks to the importance of efforts to implement interventions in more than one context, such as wide use of Thememaker®’s expository graphic organizers in classroom-based lessons and in consultation with teachers.
In each of these posts I try to end with a practical spin on the resource provided. As this systematic review provides further support for the use of graphic organizers to aid in efficient processing and comprehension of text, let’s look at Time for Kids. Time for Kids has long been a great resource for engaging, beautifully constructed expository text magazines; generally your school may have a subscription if you check with school contacts (often teachers at different grade levels) for you to access both print and digital versions. Through July, Time for Kids is also providing free digital libraries to teachers, and it is easy to register and access the magazines. They also regularly provide recent sample articles on the website for free.
These can be displayed in your web browser if you are providing teletherapy this summer, and MindWing’s The Story Grammar Marker® Digital Icons Set, Braidy the StoryBraid® Digital Icons Set, ThemeMaker® (Expository) Digital Icons Set, and the Universal Set containing all icons can be used to construct a graphic organizer in Google Slides, PowerPoint, Keynote, or another resource.
These display techniques are described in MindWing’s free April 1 and April 30 webinars on “using expository text structures (ThemeMaker®) and using MindWing's icons in context with technology resources,” and also in last month’s Tech Tuesday blog post. Seen below, this recent edition of Time for Kids features articles such as this one on the re-opening of national parks following the COVID-19 shutdown, and the safety measures park staff are instituting to keep the park safe (LIST text structure).
Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and consults with local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” Contact him at email@example.com.
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