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Supporting English Language Arts Goals with Speech Therapy

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) English language arts (ELA) goal is for students to develop “communicative competence,” which is the students’ ability to express themselves through different words and text. Carol Westby, an ASHA fellow and widely published expert on language-literacy relationships, says that language is a continuum. As infants, children begin developing oral literacy, progress to storytelling and then to talking about historical events or nonfiction before they are considered communicatively competent. Many students need to work on the middle of the continuum — narrative and expository discussion — to be successful under the CCSS. However, this can be more difficult for students with speech-language disorders. SLPs can help these students by practicing syntax and discourse.

SLPs Help Meet Curriculum Demands

SLPs work with students on developing syntax by focusing on word order, verb tenses and combining sentences with conjunctions to help them move from simple sentences to more complex sentences. Creating dialogue by expressing feelings and thoughts in a person-to-person dynamic is the first discourse level SLPs practice with students. The SLP can then use narrative reading passages and exploratory questions to close the gap between simple conversations and more in-depth conversations based on information and facts.

Standardized testing questions are meant to gauge the student’s ability to describe what happened in a passage, characters’ thoughts and feelings, and what they think will happen next for the characters. However, if a student is not able to tell or retell stories at the level they should be able to, SLPs can help. The SLP and teacher determine together what narrative stage the student can currently master. The SLP then works in the student’s zone of proximal development and guides the teacher in bringing the student to the next stage.

The SLP will do this by working on narrative development to help the student converse. This narrative development training, coupled with discussing character perspective and theory of mind will help the student dissect the story. The student will then be able to discuss the characters’ feelings and thoughts and their plans of action, which are all things students are required to answer in testing questions.

To read more about how SLPs help develop language and narrative skills and how this relates to the CCSS, download our free whitepaper titled “Getting to the Core of the Common Core here. You can also watch a recording or read and executive summary of our SPED Ahead webinar of the same title here.

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