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Time to Talk Riverina language project. What can teachers do to make a difference?. Why are we here today? Prevalence of language difficulties. 23-50% of preschoolers presented with language and speech problems (Best 1993) Prevalence increases with poverty or low social economic status

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Time to talk riverina language project

Time to Talk Riverina language project

What can teachers do to make a difference?

Why are we here today prevalence of language difficulties

Why are we here today?Prevalence of language difficulties

  • 23-50% of preschoolers presented with language and speech problems (Best 1993)

  • Prevalence increases with poverty or low social economic status

  • Students with language-learning difficulties constitute 40-60% of students with LD (Mercer 1991)

  • A Sydney study included children from disadvantaged area schools and NESB and found all grades (K-6) 32% of students had some form of communication impairment

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Number of researchers have documented the link between early literacy acquisition and language

  • Teachers assume students have the skills to process and manipulate language

  • Processing and manipulating language is what we do at school

  • Without this ability students are unable to access information or build on experiences

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Cooper, Petit and Clibbens found that initial difficulties at school start the pattern of school failure

  • Research is showing that possibly as many as 50-70 % of students with language impairment also have emotional and behavioural problems (co-occurrence)

Research states

Research States

  • Professional - 2153 words per hour

  • Working – 1 251 words per hour

  • Welfare – 616 words per hour

    (Hart and Risley, 1995)

    Children come to school equal but they come with a diversity of experience an prior knowledge

Over a year

Over a year

  • Children in LSE – hear 250 000 words

  • Children in professional homes – hear 4 million words

  • > 80% of feedback affirmative (professional)

  • >80 % of feedback negative (LSE) >80% of children’s feedback to family members was negative

    Tim Lewis – University of Missouri2002

What is a language disability

What is a Language Disability?

  • Communication is the means by which we:

    1. Express our needs and wants

    2. Understand and relate to others and to the world in which we live

    Difficulties in communication can have a significant impact on a child’s

    1. Academic 2. Social 3. Behavioural success

Time to talk riverina language project

A speech difficulty is characterised by problems with

Producing sounds (articulation)

Maintaining speech fluency (stuttering)

Controlling voice production (voice)

A language disorder is

A language disorder is

  • An impairment in the ability to understand and or use words in context, both verbally and non verbally.

  • Some characteristics of language disorders include improper use of words and their meanings, inability to express ideas, inappropriate grammatical patterns reduced vocabulary and inability to follow directions.

  • Children may hear or see a word but not be able to understand its meaning.

  • They may have trouble getting others to understand what they are trying to communicate.

Characteristics of a students with a language difficulty

Characteristics of a students with a language difficulty

A student experiencing difficulties with language may exhibit some or many characteristics

Characteristics of a students with a language difficulty1

Characteristics of a students with a language difficulty

Problems with the social aspects of language and communication

Characteristics of a students with a language difficulty2

Characteristics of a students with a language difficulty

Auditory memory

Auditory sequencing

Time to talk riverina language project

  • How much impact do you think a child’s language disability can have upon his or her ability to access the curriculum?

Feedback from schools


  • The Regional Learning Assistance Program have had an increase in requests for support for students with Language Disabilities.

  • Classrooms Teachers have indicated they need support in

    1. understanding the impact a Language Disability has on students learning

    2. How to address students language needs in the regular classroom

  • HELP! Many students are unable to access a Speech Pathologist.

Talking and listening are crucial tools

Talking and Listening are crucial tools

Three types of oral language usage can be identified

Time to talk riverina language project

  • When we consider talking and listening in the classroom we are concerned with:

    • What is being said

    • How it is being said

    • The relationship of participants

Language and the school curriculum

Language and the school curriculum

English K-6 defines language as a social purpose.

We use language to:

  • Entertain

  • Explain

  • Provide information

  • Argue a position

  • Explore the inner world of the imagination

  • Make sense of the world

  • Express and develop ideas

  • Interact with various audiences

Focus on literacy talking and listening

Focus on Literacy: Talking and Listening

Listening- the following aspects of listening need to be taught explicitly

  • Ways of listening (for detail, for the gist)

  • Strategies for recall

  • Constructing meaning

  • Identifying main ideas and notable information

  • Identifying evidence of a particular stance

Focus on literacy talking and listening1

Focus on Literacy: Talking and Listening

Types of talk

  • Talking to learn- exploratory talk

  • Talking as process- task orientated interaction

  • Talk as performance- crafted, spoken language activities which take into account intended audiences

Time to talk riverina language project

What is the ‘Time to Talk Project all about?

  • Riverina Language Project focuses upon improving students Talking and Listening Outcomes within Early Stage One, Stage One.

  • The program focuses upon:

  • Improving news telling: Oral Recount and Description (Oral Language underpins all areas)

  • Developing vocabulary, oral descriptive language and sentence elaboration.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • In order to ensure the project is manageable and ‘teacher friendly’ the facilitators of the project looked at what

    what is already happening within classrooms and how can we make it better.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • News is a widely used activity common in most classrooms but its full potential is rarely exploited.

  • It tends to be an activity that children love and teachers hate but it can be used effectively to stimulate, teach and monitor appropriate language use.

Language assessments

Language Assessments:

  • CELF IV administered by a Speech Pathologist. These are valuable in identification but are often not fully understood by teachers and then the strategies recommended do not always fit into the classroom program easily.

  • What can we do as the Class Teacher?

  • Take an oral work sample of the students language. The sample may be taken during news, while a student is retelling a story told to the class or while a student is playing with another.

Oral presentation expressive language

Oral presentation (Expressive language)

Samples of oral language

1. News

Record or tape news. Evaluate the news by looking at what indicators from the Talking and Listening strand of the K-6 syllabus are appropriate for the stage of the student.

Assessing news activity

Assessing news- activity

Activity 2- Intro to Talking and Listening Assessment


  • In small groups the participants discuss and identify specific outcomes and indicators that could be used to evaluate how a student gives and listens to information given during news time.

  • What would they be looking for in order to assess talking and listening skills for the identified stage?

Time to talk riverina language project

Talking and Listening Assessment

Models of best practice

Models of best practice

  • Increasingly researchers are questioning the traditional model of remediation for students with Language Disabilities.

  • Artificial and isolated

  • Less generalisation

  • Less meaningful

  • Difficult to complete

Time to talk riverina language project

  • We need to teach language within the context of the day which is real and meaningful.

  • We can no longer pull out a program.

  • These pull out programs are artificial and are not functional.

  • Language is within the content of the classroom and it is the classroom.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Our role is to support the change.

  • Research supports in some classrooms children get to talk one per day!!!!

Samples of oral language

Samples of oral language

Strategies and activities

Strategies and Activities

  • The following strategies and activities are relevant for all ages of students a Language Disability. The classroom teacher will need to adapt and modify the activities and strategies where applicable.

Time to talk riverina language project


  • Provides opportunities to practice oral language skills

  • Is a way to teach recounts and descriptions

  • Develops skills in planning and presenting the main elements of a recount: who, what….

  • Helps promote listening and effective questioning skills

  • News should be planned and implemented in a systematic way.

Phase 1 news oral recount description

PHASE 1:News: (oral recount / description)

  • Children, particularly Language Disorder need a safe, non threatening environment and considerable support to share their experiences with others.

  • Often they many not have done anything. We need to create opportunities for them. (sequence something they have done, dress us as your favourite character, talk about your favourite birthday cake, how to play your favourite game….)

  • Provide appropriate scaffolding on order for the student to succeed.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Don’t expect the student with an LD to immediately talk in front of the class.

  • Start small gradually increase:

    News with teacher, ,partner, small group, class.

Points to consider


Interrupt topic changes and remind the child what s/he is talking about. Be prepared to say stop you have moved onto another topic. Lets go back…………….

  • Ask questions with structured responses eg. What happened first….then, what happened…..who did that…..

Activity 1

Activity 1

  • Initially we want to familiarise students with the four major elements of news

  • When

  • Who

  • Where

  • What

    Explicitly teach words associated with each area:

    “Tell me some Where words.... Yesterday, a long time ago…last night

  • Support with visuals. Have students manipulate them.

  • Once students are familiar with these, gradually increase more columns Why , Feelings

  • Develop word banks around wh charts for reference when writing.

  • Remember students need time to build up an understanding.

Activity 2 introduce news plans

Activity 2Introduce News Plans

  • They provide a concrete structure to organise the students news.

  • Initially you may only begin with who, where, what.

  • Model and teach how to use it.

  • Children draw, write notes, or paste pictures under key words.

  • Children use during news.

  • Proforma can be sent home prior to news day to help students prepare and rehearse news . It also gives parents the opportunity to assist their children.

  • Generate journal writing ….from news plan. (Helps children link what is spoken to what is written).

Examples of teacher support

Examples of Teacher support

  • Example one: Explaining the purpose of a news plan “I’m not going to say my news immediately. I’m going to get my news ready first. I’m going to think about all the things I want to say and draw some pictures to help me remember”.

  • Example 2: How to complete a news plan

    “I’m not going to write the whole sentence on my plan. I’m going to say some words / pictures to remind me of what to say”

  • Example 3: Explaining how to use a plan when presenting: “Have a quick look at the plan before you tell us your news just to remind you. Are you ready? Put you plan down on the table”.

Activity 3 support news with charts

Activity 3:Support news with charts

  • Model how to tell news using a news chart:

    “I’m going to share some of my news today and I’m going to use this chart to help me plan what I’ll say. When we give our news there are many important things we need to remember to tell people, We have to tell them things like – when our news happened……………….

    “If I look at the word/pictures on my chart, it will help me to remember to tell you those things”

  • Invite a guest news teller into room. I.e. Teacher……………

Video activity 4

VIDEO: Activity 4

  • Use When, who, where, what cue cards to help children organise their thoughts in order to be able to tell news.

  • Prior to news write the word prompts on blackboard.

  • Prompt students around the 4 areas: When did it happen or is going to happen

    Who is in your news…….

  • Record keywords on blackboard. When complete inform them “ This is what you will tell in your news today…..” “Now you are ready to tell your news”

  • At completion of news check to see if all part where included.

Activity 5

Activity 5

  • Hang 4 A4 cards on blackboard:


  • Student selects one card from each heading.

  • Places cards in order on Velcro strip

  • Uses cards to formulate a sentence

Activity 6

Activity 6

  • Distribute the 4 wh cards to different children

  • Each student thinks of their part of the news

  • 4 students stand in order up the front and tell news

  • Audience question who…..what….

  • Questioning should not be limited to 4 wh . Encourage questions which tell us more information.

  • Support questioning with question chart,

Activity 7

Activity 7

  • Coloured blocks:

    For each important piece of information teacher places a coloured block.

    Talk about the ones they haven’t included

    Ask “Can you add more?”

    Can combine it with news plan.

    Little blocks for good listening

Take a topic activity 8

Take a Topic Activity 8

  • Teacher decides on a topic and informs those students prior to news day. Students prepare news using news plan

  • News is still presented in the traditional fashion however the teacher decides on the topic.

  • Dinosaurs, my family, pets, holidays, the zoo, what I like to do after school, birthday party, foods that are yucky.

Activity 9 sentence builders

Activity 9 Sentence Builders

  • Roll dice to formulate recount.

  • Number of dice appropriate with sentence structure

  • Nouns (boys, girls) verb (jumping, running,

    object (car, telephone)

    The boy is washing the car

  • As the random selection of picture may result in a nonsensical sentence (grandma ate the tv) encourage the children to comment of the sentences as the whether that would really happen or if that was a silly one.

Show and tell activity 10

Show and TellActivity 10

  • Useful when children are difficult to understand due to an articulation disorder. By presenting the object if makes it easier to guess important words and gives the class something to ask questions about.

Listening skills

Listening skills

  • Listening is central to all classroom learning however teaching of listening skills rarely occurs. It is often presumed that the students listening skills will develop naturally.

  • Listening needs to be taught explicitly and must go beyond the 5 L’s if we want children to listen for detail. Inform “this is what I want you to listen for..”

  • Record and display charts / Rehearse and reinforce during news time.

Additional activities to support language

Additional activities to support Language

Classroom teachers can focus on Talking and Listening in the classroom by considering:

The language requirements of the lesson or activity

  • The “teacher talk” involved in explaining or discussing the activity. Are visual supports used to accompany verbal overload.

  • The classroom environment , is it conducive to oral language use, are questions and answers freely allowed and does correct modelling occur?

  • Are classroom routines set and predictable for those students who have difficulty following directions?

  • Do activities need to be adjusted or extended to allow for talking and listening goals to be met?

  • What exactly are the specific language needs of all the students – Do I know or do I need to investigate some more?

General strategies we must consider

General strategies we must consider:

  • Use more visual cues when introducing new concepts.

  • Provide systematic steps and well scaffolded activities to ensure success

  • Peer support learning.

  • More practice opportunities

  • Flexibility to adjust teaching and learning activities and plans.

  • Ability to share knowledge and expertise with other key people.

  • Teachers need to be aware of the many opportunities they have for intensive but incidental support.

Developing vocabulary and semantic understanding

Developing vocabulary and semantic Understanding

  • A major characteristic of a student with a Language Disability is the difficulty such students have with vocabulary, whether it be finding the right word to express an idea, remembering the name of an object or thing or understanding the meaning of a particular word.

  • Limited vocabulary = less access to meaning when reading a text. Poor vocabulary means reduced comprehension.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • As adults our vocabulary increases though reading. It also does with children

  • Rich engaging texts are the best models for vocabulary instructions.

  • Improved reading leads to improved writing.

  • Children will learn most vocabulary through reading.

  • Reasonable goal could be to teach 400 words per year. (Ten a week)

  • Words mean power.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • The understanding and use of new vocabulary does not happen quickly. We need to continue to expose children to new words and concepts before they can begin to use them.

    Use the words the child already knows but expand on them. If a child says “I catched it” you might model “you caught it? Well done?

Time to talk riverina language project

2. Vocabulary

Compile a list of the names of things the class teacher feels are important for the student to know. The student should not only be able to name the items but also tell what they are for or what they may mean.

Common vocabulary items may include:

  • Animals; wild, zoo, pet, Australian, ocean

  • Clothing; school, home, hot, cold,

  • At Home; rooms, kitchen, tools, activities

  • Toys, games, equipment

  • Classroom stuff

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Labelling

  • Function

  • Simple description

  • Similarities and differences

  • Associations

  • Categorising or classifying

  • Synonyms and antonyms

  • Multiple meanings

  • Figurative connotations

Sentence patterns

Sentence Patterns:

  • Students with Language Disabilities often use vague, fragmented language with simple sentence patterns. These students overuse simple sentence structures in their spoken language.

  • “The boy hit the ball” rather then“ The big boy hit the ball really hard”

  • In their spoken language, sentences are joined together using only the simplest connectors of ‘and’ and ‘then’, sometimes using ‘because’ and ‘but’.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • We need to

  • Encourage use of full sentences

  • Provide correct modelling and expand on a students sentence at the same time as supporting and encouraging all attempts

  • Provide students with a scaffold (plan) to practice full sentences

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Encourage the use of “Book Talk” more formal and specific language.

  • Example: When answering the question “Why does the taipan live near the water?”

  • It eats frogs.

  • Prompt

  • “The taipan lives near the water because it eats frogs”.

  • We want specific language not stuff, that one, thing

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Students need to be provided with assistance in the form of prompting, modelling, imitation and encouragement to expand ideas. i.e. Feed in the language rather than assume it is there.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • It actually helps if we reduce the number of questions we ask (because it assumes the language is there and the child can formulate an answer) and instead model the style of responses we need.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Peers can be used as effective models of language

    E.g. Language buddies” who can provide “talk time” for students e.g. retelling stories, describing pictures, giving instruction, playing language games

Focus on expanding classroom discourse

Focus on expanding classroom discourse

  • More teacher quiet- more space for talk

  • Listen to what they say rather than how

  • Scaffold small group work- 2 s and 3 s

  • Distribute turns more evenly

  • Hold the ‘evaluation move’ ;use placeholders….

  • Encourage risk taking around ideas and expression

  • Extending, linking, reframing students responses- keep a record on a pad- e.g discussion between 2 students

General strategies

General Strategies

  • Use News Time or Class talks

  • Practice Following Directions

  • Teach sentence structure and comprehension through

  • Story Retelling and oral Narratives.

  • Students can use picture cues and tape their stories.

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Use Barrier Games to teach Following Directions, Asking for Help, the understanding of Positional concepts

  • During Maths be aware of the use of concept words such as quantity words, position and size words.

  • Teach story telling with sequence pictures as prompts. Story telling circle

  • The use of puppets as prompts for talking

General strategies to consider

General strategies to consider

  • the language requirements of the lesson or activity

  • the teacher talk involved in explaining or discussing the activity

  • the classroom environment, is it conducive to oral language use, are questions and answers freely allowed and does correct modelling occur

Time to talk riverina language project

  • Research- some classrooms kids get to talk only once per day!

  • are classroom routines set and predictable for those students who have difficulty following directions

  • do activities need to be adjusted or extended to allow for talking and listening goals to be met

  • what exactly are the specific language needs of all the students – do I know or do I need to investigate some more???????

Time to talk riverina language project

Spoken language needs to be scaffolded

Cazden, C. Classroom discourse (1985)

Activities to explore

Activities to explore

  • Cooperative learning Visual/critical literacy- picture books

  • Text orientation

  • Higher order thinking

  • Substantive communication

  • Questioning

  • Philosophy and picture books

Support documents

Support Documents

  • K-6 English Syllabus

  • K-6 Work Sample: Board of Studies

  • Teachers PET CD State Equity Library

  • Classroom Assessment Resource Stage 2

  • Starting with Assessment Beginning K Beginning Yr 1

    Beginning Yr 3



  • Oral Language Resource Books of the First Steps

  • Mary Harris Clarke’s Language Games

  • Time for Talking: Love and Reilly

  • Therabee Resources

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