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Thomas O. Malone 1 , Jon F. Miller 2,5 , Karen Andriacchi 2 , John Heilmann 3 , Ann Nockerts 2,5 and Liz Schoonveld 4 1 School District of Brown Deer, Wisconsin 2 University of Wisconsin – Madison 3 East Carolina University 4 Madison Metropolitan School District 5 SALT Software, LLC

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Let Me Explain: Teenage Expository Language Samples

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let me explain teenage expository language samples

Thomas O. Malone1, Jon F. Miller2,5, Karen Andriacchi2, John Heilmann3, Ann Nockerts2,5 and Liz Schoonveld4

1School District of Brown Deer, Wisconsin2University of Wisconsin – Madison3East Carolina University4Madison Metropolitan School District 5SALT Software, LLC

ASHA Convention Presentation

Chicago, IL

November 21, 2008

Let Me Explain:Teenage Expository Language Samples

what were the clinical goals of the project
What were the clinical goals of the project?

Create a large normative database in expository discourse, similar to what has been developed for conversational and narrative discourse.

Nippold, et al. (2007)

Use that database to document language deficits in adolescents and plan intervention.

Nippold, et al. (2008)

what is expository discourse where do we find it in school curriculum
What is expository discourse?Where do we find it in school curriculum?

Definition: The imparting of information

Expository language permeates the secondary curriculum and … is crucial to academic success at this level (Nickola Nelson, 1998)


How a bill becomes law

How the heart pumps blood

Takes written & spoken forms

what s expected of older students wisconsin s standards for oral language
What’s Expected of Older Students?Wisconsin’s Standards for Oral Language

By the end of grade eight, students will, speaking from notes or an outline, relate an experience in descriptive detail, with a sense of timing and decorum appropriate to the occasion.

*Note the combining of spoken & written modalities*

By the end of grade twelve, students will develop and deliver a speech that conveys information and ideas in logical fashion for a selected audience, using language that clarifies and reinforces meaning.

*Note the emphasis on planning & organization*

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (1998). Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for English Language Arts.


The Task:

Pick an element, such as magnesium

Using note cards and a 3D atomic model of the element, give a speech of several minutes that covers…

Expository Language in 7th Grade Science:The Elements Speech

expository language in 7 th grade science the elements speech
Expository Language in 7th Grade Science:The Elements Speech

that covers…..

Full name of element

Atomic symbol

Atomic mass

Atomic number

Location in the periodic table (period & family)

Electronic configuration

Common Compounds

expository language in 7 th grade science the elements speech7
Expository Language in 7th Grade Science:The Elements Speech

But wait—there’s more…

Physical properties, such as color, type (metal, nonmetal, metalloid), melting & boiling points, state at room temperature

Discovery: Who, Where, & When



How cool does it look if you set it on fire?

Why aren’t conversational & narrative samples good enough to measure complex language in older students?

In the Wisconsin Reference Database, key linguistic measures showing age-related growth, such as MLU, reached a plateau for conversation and narration at 11 to 13 years old, suggesting a limit to the tasks’ ability to tap into students’ linguistic competence

Clinical experience confirms that these tasks are not consistently motivating or challenging for older students.

Conversational and narrative tasks don’t match curriculum expectations for older students.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

2nd Edition 2005

preferred expository task explaining a favorite game or sport
Preferred Expository Task:Explaining a Favorite Game or Sport

Advantages of a favorite game or sport task:

Clinically generates the longest and most detailed samples of the tasks tried

Is both challenging and motivating for students

Is unbiased, reflecting students’ knowledge and interest across gender, ages, and cultures (e.g., hurling, an Irish form of lacrosse)

Features standard rules and vocabulary that are easily accessible and provide a check on students’ accuracy, similar to the expository summaries of a science video used in Scott & Windsor (2000) but one which leaves students with a choice

Elicits, according to recent research, more complex language than conversation as measured by mean length of t-unit, clausal density, frequency of adverbial, nominal, & relative clauses

Nippold, et al. 2005—ages 9 to 44

Nippold, et al. 2008—age 14


Milwaukee Hurling Club


the favorite sport or game task is part of the k 12 curriculum
The favorite sport or game task ispart of the K-12 Curriculum

By the end of grade 8 students will:

Understand and apply more advanced movement and game strategies such as explaining and demonstrating strategies involved in playing tennis doubles;

Identify the characteristics of highly skilled performance in movement forms such as describing the characteristics that enable success in passing and spiking after observing a team of skillful volleyball players.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (1997). Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Physical Education.


design of the task
Design of the Task

Mirrors curriculum goals by:

Building in planning time

Combining written and spoken modalities

How? By giving students a planning sheet and requiring them to plan before speaking

  • Other topics: Start, Course of Play, Rules, Scoring, Duration, & Strategies
designing a performance assessment
Designing a Performance Assessment

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2001), Understanding by Design

expository protocol
Expository Protocol

Examiner presents the task and planning sheet

Students are given time to fill out planning sheet—usually no more than 5 minutes

Students, using their planning sheet, explain the sport or game they selected

Examiner records the expository for later transcription

Total sampling time: 20 minutes

sample of a sample hurling
Sample of a Sample: Hurling

C And you play on a pitch [SI-1].

C And it/'s to get the ball, the sliotar, into (a like) a soccer sized goal [SI-1].

C (And or you can) if[ADV:L] you get it in the goal, it/'s three point/s [SI-2].

C (And if you) or you can put it up through some upright/s (uh) like a fieldgoal post, which[REL:R] is one point [SI-2].

another sample of a sample a high school speech language student
Another Sample of a Sample:A High School Speech-Language Student

C Hello, my name is Akeem.

C (I/'m) I/'m gonna be here to talk about track and field .

C The first thing I/'m gonna (um) talk about as far as (how to you know wi* how to win how to win a track and fiel*) how to win in a track meet is to (you know fa* like) run your hardest.

C (Um uh run your fast) run your fastest and your hardest.

C Try to maintain your energy through the race.

C And (finish finish first) cross the finish line first.

C And try to like get (a record you know) any record that (they) they tell you (that) that you need to do.

C (Um that/'s your main) your main focus is (you know) just to finish first…


Develop a representative database of expository language samples from students 12 – 15 years of age

Describe expository performance relative to conversation and narrative samples

Compare our expository dataset to the research literature on exposition

Answer research questions about expository language performance prior to clinical implementation

research questions
Research Questions
  • Do different expository contexts(team sport, individual sport, game) result in significantly different outcomes?
  • Are measures of language production significantly different for expository samples than narrative and conversational samples?
  • Do measures of language production for the expository samples change relative to age?
  • What are the most commonly used types of subordinators; adverbial, nominal, or relative?
recruiting participants
Recruiting participants
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences IRB UW – Madison
  • Research Committee MMSD
  • Research review by other districts
  • Districts identify possible participants by age/grade
  • Send consent letters to parents with return envelop
  • Signed consent letters returned to SALT research group
identifying the cohort
Identifying the cohort
  • 284 consent letters returned and reviewed for age, gender, SES, and race/ethnicity
    • 100 participants selected
  • Assigned to 28 volunteer SLPs by districts and schools, 2-5 students each
  • 87 of 100 samples were collected from identified participants, all followed the protocol with good quality recordings
87 participants
87 Participants
  • Collected from two geographic areas in Wisconsin

Targeted ages: 13 and 15 year olds

87 participants21
87 Participants
  • Gender
  • Academic Achievement
  • Race/Ethnicity – 20% minority
  • SES - 18% free or reduced lunch

Transcribed by trained students using SALT conventions

Each sample transcribed, then checked by second transcriber.

Disagreements resolved by original transcriber

Process followed Heilmann, et. al., 2007 which documented reliability of SALT transcription and coding

transcript coding
Transcript coding
  • Subordination Index (SI)
    • Average number of clauses per utterance
  • Type of subordinate clause coding
    • Adverbial, nominal, or relative
    • Placement of each in the utterance
      • Left-branching [before the main verb]
      • Right-branching [after the main verb]
  • Expository Scoring Scheme (ESS)
    • 10 categories based on structural components listed on planning sheet
transcript analyses
Transcript analyses

Language analyses performed by SALT Software – Research Version 2008

87 transcripts processed for 19 variables

Placed automatically into a rectangular data file ready for statistical analyses

comparing measures across expository topics
Comparing Measures Across Expository Topics

Four separate Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) tests were completed, with the language sample measure as the dependant variable and topic as the between groups variable.

comparing measures across expository topics mean values
Comparing Measures Across Expository Topics: Mean Values

No significant differences across contexts

comparing across sampling contexts conversation vs narrative vs expository
Comparing Across Sampling Contexts:Conversation vs. Narrative vs. Expository

Compared expository samples to conversations and narratives from the SALT Conversation and Narrative SSS reference databases

Limited to students ages 12;9 – 13;5

All samples cut at 40 complete and intelligible verbal utterances


Five separate ANOVAs, with language sample measure as the dependent variable and sampling context (conversation vs. narrative vs. expository) as the between groups variable

Post-hoc Scheffé tests were completed to document differences between conditions

All significant effects at p < .05

mean length of utterance
Mean Length of Utterance

Significant main effect for sampling context

Post-hoc: Significant difference between each condition

subordination index
Subordination Index

Significant main effect for sampling context

Post-hoc: Significant difference between expository and conversation/narrative

number of different words
Number of Different Words

Significant main effect for sampling context

Post-hoc: Significant difference between each condition

words per minute
Words per Minute


Significant main effect for sampling context

Post-hoc: Significant difference between conversation & narrative only


No significant main effect for sampling condition

errors and omissions
Errors and Omissions



Significant main effect for sampling context

Post-hoc: Significant difference between expository and conversation/narrative

do the expository language variables correlate with age
Do the Expository Language Variables Correlate with Age?

Are there changes in performance across students ranging in age from 12;7 – 15;9?

Bivariate correlations completed between language measures and age

correlation with age
Correlation with Age

No significant correlation observed

relationship between ess and other language measures
Relationship Between ESS and Other Language Measures

Is the expository structure measure (ESS) related to word and utterance level measures such as MLU and NDW?

correlation with ess
Correlation with ESS

* significant at p ≤ .05


Complex Syntax:

Use of Subordination

Subordination index was significantly higher in exposition than other contexts

What’s going on?

  • Documented that expository type did not affect results, team sport, individual sport, game
  • Expository samples produced more complex syntax (SI) Consistent with Nippold, 2005, 2008
  • Expository structure scores significantly correlate with word and utterance measures
  • Performance not significantly correlated with age 13 and 15 year olds
case example
Case Example
  • Akeem
    • Age 16;9, Grade 11
    • First received speech-language services at age 3; also identified as LD; enrolled in Brown Deer as a 7th grader
    • Concerns from previous district: Staying on topic, word retrieval, organizing information
    • Longstanding teacher concern:

Difficulty expressing himself in a clear and concise manner

using the expository database
Using the Expository Database

Based on 51 complete & intelligible utterances

Comparison to 49 subjects (26 females, 23 males)

* = at least 1 SD, ** = at least 2 SD from the database mean

charting akeem s progress
Charting Akeem’s Progress

2006 soccer expo vs. 2008 track expo

Based on 35 complete & intelligible utterances


Children between 12 – 15 perform similarly on expository task

No difference in type of game children are describing

Dataset is consistent with previous research by Nippold

More challenging context as evidenced by increased use of subordination

Database provides a mechanism to measure expository performance in this age group

clinical utility of expository task
Clinical utility of expository task

Exposition central to curriculum in middle and high school

Included as state standards for speaking and writing

Challenges students to use language in context (authentic, naturalistic, real speaking and listening)

Integrates SLP into students total curriculum

database availability
Database availability

SALT databases will soon be available free at www.saltsoftware.com

Protocols and other information about specific measures are also available on the website

  • This project was funded in part by SALT Software, LLC. We gratefully acknowledge and thank the following University of Wisconsin-Madison staff and students for their help with recruitment and transcription:

Joyelle Divall-Rayan, Kayla Hjerstedt, Abygail Marx & Chrissy Backhaus

  • We wish to thank the clinicians from the Madison Metropolitan School District who collected expository samples:

Kelly Chasco Tanya Jensen

Ingrid Curcio Nicole Olson

Alyson Eith Nan Perschon

Julie Hay-Chapman Liz Schoonveld

Patty Hay-Chapman Julie Scott-Moran

Marie Hendrickson Helena White

Andrea Hermanson

acknowledgements continued
Acknowledgements (Continued)

We also wish to thank the clinicians from Milwaukee-area school districts who collected expository samples:

Brown Deer

Thomas O. Malone

Katherine E. Smith

Fox Point-Bayside

Jody Herbert


Bill Downey Susan Fischer

Linda Carver Jeanne Gantenbein

Judy Ertel Jennifer Theisen


Beth Bliss Karen Malecki

Amy Brantley Lynn Meehan

Betsy Goldberg

West Allis-West Milwaukee

Sarah Bartosch Joyce King-McIver

Ann-Guri E. Bishop