We are pleased to welcome Francine Falk-Ross, Ph.D., as our guest host
for the SLP chat tonight Monday, December 15, 2003 at 9:00pm EST. She
will be addressing the topic of Language & Literacy.
Dr. Falk-Ross has been involved in teaching and research in the area of
language and literacy education for students with special language needs
(disorders, cultural, or at-risk status) for 20 years. In her work as
a speech and language pathologist and as a literacy specialist, she
advocated for, and supported, educators' efforts to assist in developing
reading and learning strategies in classrooms that paralleled those
being introduced in the learning (special education) resource rooms.
This information has been shared in professional development workshops,
professional conferences, and articles in refereed journals such as
Language Arts, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Research in the
Teaching of English, and Illinois Research Council Journal. Fran's
suggestions and three case studies that discuss and encourage
collaborative teaching practices for appear in her text, Classroom-based
Language and Literacy Intervention.
Dr. Falk-Ross has taught special and general education courses at
DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University, University of
Illinois-Chicago, and Columbia College. She has been in the Department
of Literacy Education at Northern Illinois University for over three
years, teaching and advising students in the graduate and undergraduate
Fran's research interests have centered around the development of
language and literacy in the classroom and the roles of classroom
members--teachers, students, specialists, preservice teachers--in
supporting literacy constructions and competencies. The underlying
perspective throughout her research pursuits is from a
social-constructivist view of language and literacy development and
assumes that evaluation of the student's existing strategies and the
social context in which they are embedded provides clues for language
and literacy remediation strategies to be used in the classroom. This
approach has reflected a paradigm shift away from traditionally isolated
evaluation and intervention for students with language and literacy
difficulties toward integration in more naturally occurring contexts
with collaboration among educators.
Dr. Falk-Ross has provided a list of related resources and references
which may be found below the chat transcript.
<Robin> Welcome! We are chatting tonight with Francine Falk-Ross, Ph.D., about the topic of
Language & Literacy.
<Robin> Fran, could you give us some background about this topic and how it affects us as SLPS?
<FranFalkRoss> Sure! Most students who have difficulties with language, have difficulties with
literacy in the classroom.
<FranFalkRoss> Students build on their language competencies when they participate in classroom
<FranFalkRoss> Teachers and SLPs need to know about how to support language differences,
disorders, and difficulties in order to support students' literacy success in the
<FranFalkRoss> SLPs working with students in resource rooms need to collaborate to help teachers
understand how to modify literacy activities.
<FranFalkRoss> SLPs need to know how to vary their questioning strategies to allow students with
language problems to fit their responses in with discourse routines.
<FranFalkRoss> Are you all familiar with the IRE format for talking?
<Robin> Please explain about IRE.
<FranFalkRoss> It was developed by Courtney Cazden who writes a ton about classroom discourse.
<FranFalkRoss> All teachers (including SLPs) use a format of Initiation, Response, and Evaluation
when they talk, marginalizing students with language problems.
<FranFalkRoss> The teacher asks a question that requires usually a 1-word response, the student
responds (in 1 word) and then the teacher evaluates the response.
<FranFalkRoss> For example, Who was the first president of the US? Lincoln. No, you weren't
<Jackie> Is that an example of a poor response by a teacher?
<FranFalkRoss> It's not a POOR response, but one which tells me that the teacher did not know to
ask more open ended questions for students who need it!
<FranFalkRoss> But in this case, the student might have had word retrieval problems and that was
a very good answer! It was the name of a famous president!
<FranFalkRoss> The teacher could modify her talk to say, What do you know about the first
president....? leaving room for any answer, even if the student was an ELL (English
Language Learner) or had other language problems.
<USF> That's what I was going to say.....reply but not necessarily say "it was wrong".
<FranFalkRoss> Does this make sense?
<FranFalkRoss> Some students who are ELL's have what seems to be comprehension problems, and are
also marginalized in the classroom.
<FranFalkRoss> Teachers (including SLPs) need to change their 'talk"...do you agree?
<USF> We need to focus on what the child can or is doing rather than what they aren't.
<Robin> What are some strategies that we as SLPs can utilize?
<AdrienneFSU> I think teachers need to be aware of different ways to assess/ ask questions.
<FranFalkRoss> They need to modify the language format and they need to teach students to fit
their language into classroom formats to participate.
<FranFalkRoss> If students do not participate in the literacy activities, in some way at least,
they do not get the teacher's attention and correction (?) or clarification, and the
teacher cannot help them.
<Jackie> Are you familiar with thinktrix...questioning symbols that assist teachers in asking
<FranFalkRoss> No...I don't know thinktrix, but I am not sure that many classroom reading
teachers know this either! There needs to be more collaboration between the two!
<FranFalkRoss> Do you use thinktrix? When and how?
<Jackie> They are visual symbols used to assist teachers and students in asking/answering
<USF> Isn't this where social skills and LLD are entangled?
<USF> Maybe the child is strategically not answering or limiting answers because they are aware
they don't know.
<FranFalkRoss> I usually provide some modeling IN THE CLASSROOM to show how teachers can modify
what they already use!
<NewYorkSLP> How can we address these problems in pull-out therapy (teach strategies, etc.)?
<USF> One - figure out what the child is doing to "cope" or "save face" -- literally start by
<FranFalkRoss> I explain to students in pull-out therapy about how teachers talk in class, and
how they can save a space for themselves....by using a phrase such as, "I am thinking of
it...I know that it has to do with...." or " I can tell you that it is like...." then
they can trigger the correct response....
<Robin> good ideas
<Robin> NYSLP, does that help?
<NewYorkSLP> That definitely helps...thanks
<Jackie> They are similar to Blooms Question Hierarchy.
<FranFalkRoss> Yes, they are like Bloom's taxonomy...but it is hard to think of that as you talk...
teachers need a few quick starters that will help students with language problems....for
example, "How do you know that?" or "Let me help you with some quick questions"
<Jackie> Fran, what is your experience with students who have language and literacy problems...
we are talking about how language impaired kids can be helped in the classroom , but what
type of program do you recommend to assist with the literacy issue?
<FranFalkRoss> I recommend using visuals that help students with vocabulary (a list on the desk
or on a piece of paper), resource help with semantic maps (graphic organizers ) to
develop vocab knowledge...
<FranFalkRoss> Or you can develop comprehension by having the text introduced beforehand in the
<NewYorkSLP> This topic seems to mostly be dealing with elementary kids and older. Any way we
can address these issues with younger kids?
<FranFalkRoss> For younger children, you can introduce a word with the new sounds...if you are
working on the /s/ sound, WRITE 'sun' 'sat' 'sock' as you practice saying them.
<FranFalkRoss> Teachers can model the problem sounds for young or older students in the classroom
by saying, "what did the main character THHink when he said THHat to the boy?
<Allison> What has been your experience with teachers and their perceptions of how SLPs fit in
to literacy? Sometimes I wonder if teachers really understand how much we know about
<FranFalkRoss> I now teach at the university level in a literacy program but then as an SLP I had
to introduce myself to the reading teacher to work with her, because my students were
having trouble in literacy activities and no one considered this my job.
<FranFalkRoss> I did speech work, but added the literacy pieces to it to complement the movement
from language to literacy...they aren't separate.
<stephanie>_ In the school where I work, I am not supposed to work on reading. However, I think
speech, language and reading are all related.
<AdrienneFSU> Stephanie, who do they want to do reading?
<stephanie> There is a reading specialist who does reading.
<stephanie> Students with lower reading levels go to a reading recovery program.
<NewYorkSLP> I've seen that in schools, too - SLPs are supposed to leave reading to the reading
<Allison> That has been some of my experience as well.
<Allison> Do you have kids on your caseload with speech and reading difficulties?
<stephanie>_ I have students who cannot recognize letters in first grade (in special education).
Some have poor letter-sound association skills.
<stephanie> When I expressed my concerns to my supervisor (who is also an SLP), she says that I
can leave those to the special education teacher for letter-sound recognition.
<stephanie> Another SLP in our district says that we already have enough on our plates, and she
does not suggest taking in more...
<Allison> I agree, but I think teachers still perceive it that way.
<stephanie>_ Sure, but I am actually here to learn about activities that I can use to enhance
language skills for my students.
<FranFalkRoss> You don't do MORE, you do it differently, with literacy in mind.
<USF> I agree
<FranFalkRoss> Many of my students did not qualify for reading help, but were struggling and
<Robin> Fran, what are some activities that we as SLPs can do differently to promote literacy?
<FranFalkRoss> I taught the letters AS I taught the sounds...
<stephanie>_ How do we do it differently compared to the reading specialist or how are we
supposed to support (e.g. activities)?
<FranFalkRoss> You can make a semantic web or map AS you teach word knowledge or vocabulary.
<FranFalkRoss> You could have them WRITE (even in emergent ways) the new sentence they created
or just the word.
<stephanie> Could you give an example of semantic web ?
<FranFalkRoss> A semantic web or map looks like a spider...with the word in the middle and then
lines to the different associated meanings or synonyms to increase vocab and
understanding. It's a picture.
<Allison> I'm thinking continuity of service is also important-as a team-all working on the same
goals? So the SLP and the reading specialist could collaborate on the same goals.
<FranFalkRoss> Yes, Allison! I wrote a book on that..Classroom-based language and literacy
intervention, because I was very frustrated and so were the students! and so were the
parents! and so were the teachers!!!!
<stephanie> My problem is that writing takes a long time (sometimes), and I feel that I say a
lot more sentences. Thanks for the clarification.
<FranFalkRoss> The students with language problems need language first, but the more you can use
literacy activities, the better they learn because it's in the context they will need!
<FranFalkRoss> There is an important way to teach language into literacy....it's called Language
Experience Approach (LEA).
<Robin> Tell us more about LEA.
<FranFalkRoss> Classroom teachers use it all the time...it is GREAT for SLP's to use too to add
<FranFalkRoss> Have you used this?
<mesvb> No, but I'd like to know more.
<AdrienneFSU> I have heard of it
<stephanie> So it is more theme based?
<FranFalkRoss> You ask the student to tell you a story or words or to retell a story from the
class (for added comprehension).
<FranFalkRoss> As they tell the story, you write it in their own words (like when the teacher
does the morning message on the board).
<FranFalkRoss> GREAT... and then you have that message for them to try to read...and they pick
up words from it because it is in their own language...
<Robin> good idea!
<FranFalkRoss> And the students like to read what they said, so they read and say it over and
<stephanie>_ sounds great. what about incorporate goals like "using opposite" into theme based
activities? Any suggestions?
<FranFalkRoss> You can use flash cards so the student reads it and says the opposites at the
same time...or you can say the word and have the student try to write it...that's harder
and more challenging, but there is an internaliazation that occurs even if it takes
longer because they learn it in context!
<stephanie>_ I just found a website that discuss that.
<stephanie>_ Is this a good source, Dr. Falk Ross?
<FranFalkRoss> That is a great source. There are other excellent articles available on issues
pertaining to the overlap of language and literacy research and intervention at the
online website for The International Reading Association at www.readingonline.org.
<USF> I just finished a course on Language Literacy in school age children.
<USF> We had to use a dynamic systems approach in dividing their narratives into t-units
(measurements for an utterance).
<FranFalkRoss> Dividing the sentences into t-units is good for assessment, but some students can
use only one t-unit to give an acceptable response in class. A 1 word response can be
fine in class.
<FranFalkRoss> The more t-units, the more complex the response!
<USF> It's an independent clause with all subordinate or nonclausal attached.
<FranFalkRoss> You need to find out more about t-units if you want to use them for measurement.
<Allison> Did you find the t-units dependent upon the teacher's questions or response?
<USF> I know from the project we did -- it proved amazing.
<FranFalkRoss> How do you use t-units for therapy?
<USF> The child looked as though he was LLD -- but upon analyzing we say how literate he was
<Allison> Please explain
<FranFalkRoss> As a pre- and post-test for progress? Is that what USF is referring to?
<USF> We didn't use it for therapy, it was in my language learning class and we were given a
child's oral and written narrative.
<USF> The children ranged from 9 - 11 years of age which is the differentiation stage of
landscape of consciousness (theory of mind).
<FranFalkRoss> Fine! T units tell you more about how complex the language is and helps you
understand the student.
<Robin> Fran, our hour is almost up....is there anything else about language and literacy you'd
like to share with us?
<FranFalkRoss> I want to thank the participants for sharing their ideas...and pushing us to more
complex discussion! We will all think about t-units and how to use these for expanding
students' language and literacy competencies!
<Allison> Thank you for sharing your ideas
<Robin> Fran, thank you for sharing your expertise in Language and Literacy!
<FranFalkRoss> My main idea is to join the two...language and literacy...for more collaborative
and useful work with students!
<Robin> Thank you all for coming!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND REFERENCES:
Catts, H.W., & Kamhi, A.G. (1999). Language and reading disabilities.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Cazden, C. (2001). Classroom discourse. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Falk-Ross, F.C. (2002). Classroom-based Language and literacy
intervention: A programs and case studies approach. Boston: Allyn &
Vukelich, C., Christie, J. & Enz, B. (2002). Helping young children
learn language and literacy. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.