The West Coast Language Development Centre has a commitment to using, adapting and developing intervention resources and assessment tools based on what research and practice evidence says works best for our Developmental Language Disordered population. Importantly, what works for our disordered students also works for the wider mainstream population of students. The graphics and strategies have been developed by us. We have used Australian animals throughout and made every effort to consider the first people of Australia, our Aboriginals. For this reason, resources and strategies developed within the centre can be accessed by mainstream through our Outreach Program. Through Outreach we also run a Resource Series that unpack the assessments and resources for mainstream.
The resources are linked to each other and form the basis of our Centre-wide approaches. Central to the many packages is a character called Comp Monitor who is a puppet that provides the motivational hook for children to engage in tasks and activities. He is a tool as opposed to a toy and is used as a scaffold or support for students as they engage in strategies to enhance their learning. He has been to school and along with his friends become like a teacher assistant encouraging the students to engage in learning. The following resources and programs have been completely created and funded by the West Coast Language Development Centre.
I Get It! the road to comprehension
Comprehension is about making meaning and unless students are actively engaged in this process connections to information cannot be made. The I Get It! Comprehension Program is a package that unpacks comprehension systematically. Each chapter focuses on a critical skill or strategy and has an icon to represent these, e.g. a lock and key represents problem/solution. The icons are visual reminders to help the student’s working memory. Each comprehension strategy is taught as a routine, starting with very hands on lessons then progressing through to literature and literacy. The package has been designed for teacher ease of use with many lessons, posters and activities available for each strategy.
Australian animals are used as characters in the package with the main character being Compy the comprehension monitor lizard. Compy is a large green silky puppet that is used to motivate and teach students about comprehension. For example he becomes a detective when the children are learning about Looking for Clues and connecting these clues to their own knowledge to inform a prediction or inference.
Fundamental to comprehension is attention and memory. Four key comprehension strategies underpin the program: monitor & fix, visualising, looking for and linking clues and judging importance. The critical skills of prior knowledge, problem/solution, cause/effect, prediction, inference, main idea and synthesis are linked to these overarching skills.
I Tell It! unpacking narrative and expository language/texts
Narrative is one of the most complex language tasks for any individual to perform, but also one that as humans, we engage in every single day. It is an all-encompassing discourse task that requires the use of language skills across a number of areas (including comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, morphology and pragmatic skills). Oral narrative performance has been found to predict later language development and literacy achievement. The ability to produce well-formed and clear oral narratives requires advanced/complex language skills and impacts on both everyday communication skills and academic success at school (particularly in terms of later written composition and reading comprehension skills).
Children with language difficulties tend to show a reduction in their oral narrative skills leading to them telling shorter stories with less story grammar (macrostructure) elements, less complex sentences, more grammatically incorrect sentences, a limited range of vocabulary and reduced literate language features. They also present with a reduced ability to answer literal or inferential questions about stories that have been read to them (Gillam & Gillam, 2016). This can result in significant effects on social relationships as well as reduced academic progress.
The I Tell It! resource focuses on the processes and strategies that teachers can use to teach oral and written narrative with links to expository structures. It includes icons that can be used to support the learning of the overall structure and development of all test types (fiction and non-fiction). It covers critical developmental pathways, assessment and targeted strategies with associated resources. The book includes sections on how to make interventions work through scaffolding, guided implementation of strategies and repeated practice.
Literature Based Units (LBU)
Literate (story books/text) language tends to be more abstract and more formal than conversational language. Students with language impairments learn language more slowly than their typically developing peers for a variety of reasons… (Gillam, Hoffman, Marler, & Wynn-Dancy, 2002). As a result, language learning requires more mental energy for students with language impairments, and their language usage is more variable.
A Literature Based Unit is a way of systematically unpacking stories and linking this to carefully selected activities that target specific language skills to assist our students to understand the language in books. Teachers have been developing units of learning (LBUs) around books for many years to improve student’s language skills so that they have the ability to participate in, and profit from, oral and written tasks.
Unpacking the chosen text may take several weeks to complete and follows the whole-part-whole structure, this being:
- Building Prior Knowledge so that students are able to engage in the story
- Reading the text through several times (whole)
- Checking for understanding, questioning (whole)
- Explicit teaching lessons that focus on various language aspects (vocabulary knowledge, grammar, pragmatic awareness, phonological awareness, conversation, and narration) (part)
- Finishing with students retelling the story or twist on the story either orally or in written form. (whole)
The WCLDC has a specific format that it follows based on: ‘Sequence of Literature-Based Language Intervention Activities’ by R. Gillam & T. Ukrainetz in Contextualized Language Intervention (2006).
Another program used in the WCLDC to help develop critical narrative skills in our students is Talk For Writing by Pie Corbett and Julia Strong. Students are read a story several times, so that aspects of the story are committed to memory such as the narrative patterns; the flow of the sentences and aspects such as characters, settings and events.
Oral storytelling is done on a daily basis, and children enjoy and become more confident in telling the story over time. Expression is key to highlight exciting events, vocabulary, or language patterns. Correct language is constantly modelled by the teacher and retelling allows the learners to rehearse new vocabulary and grammar in context on a daily basis.
Actions are also important, making the retelling lively and helping children to remember key connectives and sentence openers. ‘Once upon a time’, ‘suddenly’, ‘after that’, ‘but’ – all have a recognisable action used by all teachers, ensuring consistency as children move up the school. This is particularly useful for our students, as a visual reminder.
It has a three-part ‘principle’
- Imitation: Children learn stories so well that the bank of knowledge becomes part of their long-term working memory.
- Innovation: Children adapt a well-known story, making changes to characters, settings and events.
- Invention: Children draw upon the full range of stories they have learned, as well as their own life experiences, to create a new story. (which usually takes place in Year 1)
The approach is visual and kinaesthetic; storytelling is supported by pictures, actions and story maps or mountains, helping pupils to understand new vocabulary. It incorporates drama and real-life experiences. When children come to write, they continue to use these visual cues.
I Do It! social skills program
A social skill is any skill facilitating action, interaction and communication with others. Research tells us that; directly training children in social, cognitive and emotional management skills leads to improved outcomes. Through the interactive nature of the program children can develop and/or feel more positive and successful about themselves, which in turn helps them to improve or make gains academically, behaviourally, and socially, leading to them to being more well-adjusted adults.
The ‘I Do It!’ program creates a fictional environment or virtual world called ‘I Do It!’ park where there are many places designed for learning the social and self-management skills we need for school and to enhance day to day interactions. Central to the program are Australian Animal puppets that have a club in the park (lead by friend Compy and Billy Koala) and it is through club activities that the students engage in and practice social skills including Manners, Emotions, Anger Management, Friendship, Turn Taking and Sharing. The Park includes areas like Manners Cafe, Cooperation Playground and Feelings Pool. There is also a Cultural Centre that can be used to explore our Aboriginal culture as well as cultures from around the world. Ranger Steve Emu is an Aboriginal. There are also Animal characters that can be used for exploring online and social media benefits and risks.
Critical Learning Path (CLP)
The Language Centre caters for students who have disordered language that in turn impacts the development of reading and writing. These students require a more explicit, purposeful approach that includes breaking skills down into small developmental steps. To support this process the Centre has developed a ‘Critical Learning Path’ document that unpacks critical skills in some detail and in a sequential order reflecting the developmental route taken by the average learner from kindergarten to year six.
This detail is linked to the Australian Curriculum English content descriptors and organised under the essential English skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing with critical sub-skills of each area mapped to enable teachers to target, monitor and adapt their teaching and learning more precisely. It is important to link the skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing to other curriculum areas as they are essential skills for all subjects. This document is further linked to curriculum pacing guides that break the skills down into smaller steps in a termby term structure, suitable for the students within our centre.
This document is shared with mainstream schools through our Outreach Service.
Based on the student program assessment practices adapted for mainstream.
Kindergarten Assessment Tool (K.A.T.)
The K.A.T. is a criterion referenced assessment tool designed to ensure oral language development is maximised. The purpose is to provide teachers with baseline data in oral language and emergent literacy skills of Kindergarten students. The K.A.T. is aligned with the Kindergarten Curriculum Guidelines, the Early Years Framework and back-mapped from The Australian Curriculum (ACARA) Pre-Primary Achievement Standard Statements.
The KAT Package consists of several dynamic common assessment tasks based on tools used within the Centre that have been adapted and trialled within mainstream school settings. The tool enables a teacher to select sub-tests and collect data in oral language and emergent literacy skills during the Kindergarten year. The assessment activities are as close as possible to authentic class based. The data can be analysed diagnostically to allow for differentiated goal setting at a whole class, small group and individual level. Some tasks are designed for all students and others target students that may be at risk. To assist judgements, ages and stages information is included for teacher reference.
Individual subtests of the KAT can be used strategically and systematically by teachers across the school year according to the needs of the class. There is flexibility in when subtests are administered and in the order of subtests selected. The Subtests unpacked are: Comprehension (Blank Screen), Semantics (Vocabulary), Locational Relationships (Prepositions), Social / Emotional, Concepts of Print & Reading, Play & Social Skills, Oral Narrative, Phonological Awareness and Grammar (Syntax).
The K.A.T. package can only be purchased after attending 1 full day of training at the West Coast LDC. All courses are advertised on the Professional Learning Information System (PLIS) with some being run over 2 half days in semester 1 and full days in semester 2.
Download fact sheets about Kindergarten Assessment Tool Information sessions
Rainbow Assessment Tool
Phonological awareness involves the knowledge that spoken words can be segmented into sounds and is a skill that can be done in the dark. It is the explicit knowledge of, awareness of, or sensitivity to phonological structure and the skills used to think about, compare and manipulate sounds in words (Stanovich, 1988).
Phonemic awareness is a sub-skill of phonological awareness and refers to the understanding that words are composed of single phonemes (sounds). It involves the knowledge that phonemes have distinctive features (Torgesen, 1999) and the awareness that words and syllables are a sequence of phonemes (Swank, 1997). The ability to isolate, blend, segment, and manipulate sounds in words are critical aspects of phonemic awareness and are good predictors of future reading success. The ability to segment and blend is directly linked to decoding and encoding. Development at this level is supported by reading instruction. Research has shown that strong skills in phonemic awareness specifically are a strong indicator for reading success. Most teaching should therefore be centred at the phoneme level.
The Rainbow Assessment Tool–Revised (RAT-R) is a tool used by teachers to gather data about students’ phonological and phonemic awareness skills. The tool allows teachers to evaluate what early pre-literacy skills students have, and what skills need to be further taught prior to phonics instruction. The tool can be used K-1 primarily, but the older age (year 2+) tasks can be useful to identify what underlying phonological and phonemic skills may be missing for older struggling students.