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Getting To The "Core" of The Common Core
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Getting To The "Core" of The Common Core

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Oral language skills (communication competence) are foundational to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For this reason, Special Education leaders expect increased demand for Tier II …

Oral language skills (communication competence) are foundational to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For this reason, Special Education leaders expect increased demand for Tier II interventions. How will you address reading and social-skills deficiencies given budget cuts and the need to prepare for CCSS? ASHA leader Dr. Barbara Moore leads the discussion with communications disorder expert Maryellen Moreau to answer this important question and more.

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  • 1. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 1new realitiesnew choicesGETTING TO THE CORE OF THE COMMON COREBy Maryellen Rooney Moreau M.Ed. CCC-SLPThe shift to Common Core State standards (CCSS) is a hot topic that impacts everyoneinvolved in delivering the curriculum, including speech-language pathologists. The newstandards emphasize college and career readiness while ensuring consistency and qualityfrom state to state. Students are expected to acquire skills at each grade level so that bythe time they finish high school, they are ready to succeed. The CCSS stress the student’scommunication competence, which is at the heart of the SLPs’ work.It is important to understand how the unique contributions of SLPs to the implementationof CCSS relate to their expertise in language and communication. SLPs can focus on thelanguage underpinnings of the new standards during direct intervention with students andwhen working with teachers. I want to expand on this in this sections that follow.First, I’ll introduce the common core in the context of speech and language therapy. ThenI will focus some attention on language, particularly syntax and discourse in the commoncore. Finally, I’ll suggest an expanding role for the SLP in meeting curriculum demands ofthe CCSS.The CCSS specify what students are expected to learn to prepare for their college careerand the workplace. But there is a problem that we as administrators and practitionersknow. Guidance is intentionally missing as to how we should help students with disabilitiesand learning challenges and what we should do to support those who are at risk or are notmaking progress. One solution is to provide SLP services for oral language development,supporting what the Common Core calls the interrelated language processes of reading,writing, speaking and listening.What do researchers say about SLPs and the Common Core? In an article in the April 3rdASHA Leader titled “The Core Commitment,” by Barbara J. Ehren et al, there are two wordsthat are very important --prime position. Ehren points out that the Common Core standardsplace speech pathologists in prime position to assist students. Likewise, based on their fo-cused expertise in language, ASHA says SLPs offer special assistance in addressing the lan-guage foundations of the curriculum. Specifically, ASHA suggests that SLPs can strengthenthe linguistic and metalinguistic foundations of learning for students with disabilities, forlearners who are at risk for school failure, and those who struggle in school settings.SLPs have often been called “speech teachers.” But speech and language pathology goesfar beyond the articulation of sounds. It gets into the concept of oral languageINTRODUCTION: THE COMMON CORE AND THE SLP
  • 2. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 2new realitiesnew choicesdevelopment as it relates to literacy. If literacy levels are to improve, the aims of the Englishlanguage arts classroom, especially in the earliest grades, must include oral language in apurposeful, systematic way. That’s because mastery of oral language helps students masterthe written word. Oral language development precedes and is the foundation for writtenlanguage development. Oral language is primary and written language builds on it. To sumit up, oral language is really at the core of the core. And for that reason, there is a powerfulnew role for SLPs in making the goals of CCSS a reality.Language, syntax and discourse are levels of oral language development that go beyondphonemic awareness and basic vocabulary building. This is a focus for the changing role ofthe SLP with the shift to CCSS and its goal of communicative competence. CCSS definescommunicative competence as the ability to express oneself using all kinds of words andtext -- but the foundation is in oral language development. But you may ask, what is “lan-guage?”There are many formal definitions of language. For SLPs, language is any accepted struc-tured symbolic system for interpersonal communication used to express thoughts, inten-tions, experiences, and feelings. (Nicolosi, et al.) These are important words to emphasize,because it is the language of the text or the expression that we are really focusing on withthe Common Core. In fact, within the Common Core there is a diagram that talks about re-ceptive and expressive language. There are oral language processes of listening and speak-ing and the written language processes of reading and writing. They are all related becauseto communicate what you comprehend from a reading you must be able to speak or write.Here’s more about the definition of language. Oral language is definitely not just talking.Here’s an example. As I was doing a consultation one day with a teacher about a child’scomprehension in writing, I asked her about his oral language. She said that we did not haveto discuss oral language because he talks all the time. I asked her, “What does he say?” Shesaid, “He can answer questions if I ask him questions, but I don’t know beyond that.” Thatwas my way of introducing this teacher to the fact that for oral language, what we say is thekey to whether or not we will be literate.Literate oral language is the basis for academic language which is a specialized language.Academic language, both oral and written, relates to disciplinary content.Recently there have been several research articles devoted to topics of language develop-ment disorders and the journey of adolescent and adult literacy. How can SLPs help childrendevelop what we call literate oral language?COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE IN THE COMMON CORE:LANGUAGE, SYNTAX AND DISCOURSE
  • 3. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 3new realitiesnew choicesLiterate oral language progresses along a continuum. Carol Westby is well known for her un-derstanding of the oral literate continuum. Children begin developing oral literacy, as infants,with personal and informal language guided by conversation with adults. They progress tobe able to tell a story to someone if that someone isn’t present, and progress further to talkabout a historical event or something that they have learned about by reading a book. Weare talking about the development over time of oral language competence in order to assistchildren who participate in curriculum guided by the Common Core. Specifically, I’m talkingabout the requirement to prepare students with academic language for college and career.The CCSS were developed by back-mapping them from the workplace to the classroom.Those who developed these new standards looked at what people do in college and in theworkplace and then decided what skills children need to acquire in order to be successfulwhen they graduate from high school. One of the things that they need to be able to do isto communicate using academic and literate oral language.As an example, if a student wants to speak to a professor, or a coworker wants to speak tohis manager, he knocks on the door and he might say “Hey-- got a sec?” But what is themore formal way of saying that in this situation? It would be, “Excuse me, can I interruptyou for a moment to discuss a concern?” There are many students who are not able to getto the more formal way of using language, even though these skills can be taught from thebeginnings of life.As children come into the world they are born into an environment and people start tointeract with them by making eye contact and gestures. This is the pragmatic element --the social realm of language. As the child develops, he makes known his words (the area ofsemantics) and puts those words into sentences about a situation that is going on. Over theyears the child has to develop a more complex type of sentence structure in order to suc-ceed in school and ultimately in life.Sentences get turned into what SLPs call the discourse language of oral language develop-ment. Syntax and discourse prepare students for the more advanced communications theyneed to develop in middle and high school. The building blocks of oral language form thebasis for the language processes of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I add three oth-ers: gesturing, viewing (because we can view things and interpret them), and thinking.The development of the sentence is extremely important as far as text. Syntax from simplesentences to complex sentences depends on word order, and of course children coming tous with other languages and speaking other languages as their first language often have aproblem with the word order of English. Cohesive ties are the conjunctions that almost haveto be directly taught to students to formulate their complex sentences.Often we see students who mix up their verb tenses. The term morphology is used forthings like plurals and verb tenses that children add to their basic sentence structure tomake it more complex. We often assist children in this area of syntax development by usingsentence combining. This is often an area that the SLP can assist because he or she caninstruct using the basic conjunctions that are used to enable syntax development.
  • 4. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 4new realitiesnew choicesLexile measures of text complexity are a way to measure reading competence. The SLP iswell poised to look at measures of text and syntax complexity and also the discourse to en-able a child to move forward. I just read an article called “Going Beyond the Fab Five: Help-ing Students Cope with Unique Linguistic Challenges of Expository Reading in IntermediateGrades.” It’s about the molecule of life-- DNA. I wanted to take it a part to look at the com-plexity of the sentences that our students face as they read the disciplinary texts of scienceor history. In this text we read that DNA is the molecule of which genes are made when twoyoung scientists took on the challenge of figuring out its structure. If we look at that text,it begins with the passive voice. There are subordinate clauses and there is an embeddedclause that a student would have to read and understand.There are so many thoughts in that one sentence that it is extremely complex to take itapart. In a later text from 1953, they constructed a model that showed that each DNA mol-ecule consisted of two long chains. In this example, we have an embedded clause and wehave subordinate clauses. There are so many things that our students need to really be ex-plicitly taught relative to syntax complexity that really should be addressed early on as theybecome developmentally ready.The Common Core has a focus on the discourse level of language. In other words, it is afocus on text complexity. It’s about helping students develop communicative competence.I always add the word confidence to that goal because the more students are communica-tively confident, they more they will feel competent in expressing themselves. But what isdiscourse?Discourse is putting together words and phrases and sentences to create conversations,speeches, emails, newspaper articles, and books. It goes from person to person talk, to per-sonal experience narratives, using a story grammar structure that is very common in socialcommunication. At the formal end of discourse development, there is exposition throughacademic vocabulary and academic language.Those of you who have read a lot about narratives have read that narratives form a bridgeas a guide from the more simple conversations to the more complex expository text. With-out discourse there is a developmental gap. It is often said that children can answer “wh”questions, and I always start my workshops by giving an example of how my students whenI first began my career could answer the “wh” questions, particularly “who, what, when,where -- and sometimes why.” With my guidance they could answer “why,” but when I askedthem to tell me the whole story or to tell me all the information, they were unable to do it ontheir own because they were missing the area of the discourse development.It was in 1991 that I developed the Story Grammar Marker because I felt that my studentswith language impairment needed direct instruction beyond just beginning, middle, andend. I researched story grammar and I capitalized on that because I found that it made sucha difference. Additionally, in 1998, I wrote a book about expository text because of prob-lems my students were beginning to have in their academic experiences.
  • 5. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 5new realitiesnew choicesCCSS IN ACTION:HOW SLPS CAN HELP MEET YOUR CURRICULUM DEMANDSMany students do not have enough practice communicating at home. In order to have abroader focus on discourse, we have to really intervene on narrative and expository text.One wake-up call I had as I studied the CCSS was that narrative and information text, or aswe call it, expository text, is going to be 50-50 in grades K-5. Not so long ago the standardwas strictly narrative. Under CCSS, middle school expository text will be 70% of the cur-riculum, so students must be able to tell and retell stories, and develop progressively morecomplex expository text. SLPs can help meet this demand.As I look at it, and if you look into the research, narrative development forms a foundationand it’s a bridge. Narrative development can help a child converse. When a child can’t thinkof a topic or think of a story to tell, we can help him in narrative development and we canhelp him to converse. Consequently, if we look at narrative development and we teach per-spective taking and theory of mind through narratives --how characters feel, how they think,and what their plans are-- we are better able to see that Paul Revere and King George IIIhad very different perspectives as we read the expository text.Let’s look at an example of the Common Core in action in the elementary curriculum andwhere the SLP can be a valuable resource. There is a popular children’s book called Clifford’sPals. You could pick just two pages of the book and have the student talk about it and get apretty good idea as to where the students are in their story.For instance, on a couple pages of the book it says “Susie, Lenny, and Nero jumped downinto a big pit. The work crew didn’t see the dogs. They started to pour cement on them. Clif-ford knocked the cement chute aside.” If we take that as our happenings in the story thereare narrative development stages that are tied into the Common Core standards for reading.We will see that each of the stages has more elements related to the Common Core. Forexample, narrative development stage 1 is called the descriptive sequence and the im-portant parts of it are the character, the setting and two setting in general. What does theCommon Core kindergarten reading standard detail #3 say? It says, “With prompting andsupport, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.” Well, what if the childcan’t do that? The teacher can turn collaboratively to the SLP who can help the child meetthat standard. As we progress, we are going up to fourth grade with this and I just took thestandards all the way through 4th grade. We will see narrative development stage 2 is wherethe actions become specific. It is the character, the setting and two major events. The majorevents are when the work crew starts to pour cement and when Clifford pushes the cementchute aside. What does the common core standard looking for? In first grade it is describedcharacters, and major events in a story using key details.What if a fourth grader is at narrative stage two and the reading standard for grade four isthat the student will be able to describe in depth a character, a setting, or event in a specificstory drawing on specific details in the text. What are the details that they have put out
  • 6. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 6new realitiesnew choicesout in parentheses? The details are the character’s thoughts, the character’s words, and thecharacter’s actions. This goes way beyond what the child in fourth grade is able to do if heor she is functioning at a stage two of narrative development. In this case, the SLP can workin the zone of proximal development and assist the teacher in bringing the child to stagethree, where it is describing how characters in a story respond to major events. The majorevent here was that Clifford sees the work crew start to pour cement. So what does he do?He pushes the cement chute aside. This example from the Clifford book shows the directrelationship between the Common Core standards and narrative development that speechand language pathologists are very well schooled in.Now let’s consider a couple of other standards. The Boston tea party is the topic. Obvious-ly it is not a story per se, it’s facts and expository text, and certainly was a problem! Here’san example of how a SLP and a teacher collaborated to turn a field trip into a learning ex-perience. Our students were headed to the Freedom Trail in Boston and they were muchmore excited about the doughnuts they were going to have on the bus than what they hadread about in their social studies book and what they were about to see. So we thought wewould use this collaboration between a teacher and a SLP to talk about the reading stan-dards and literature.Look at the Common Core standards for grades 6-12. What do the students have to do?They have to analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text, interactwith other characters and advance the plot. What is the reading standard for informationtext? Students have to analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas orevents, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and de-veloped, and the connections that are drawn between them.Let’s use an example of a textbook lesson about the Boston Tea Party to illustrate howexpository text can be a collaborative opportunity between a SLP and a teacher. The firstparagraph in the social studies book is about King George and Sam Adams of the Massa-chusetts colonists. King George lived in England and he had a problem. His governmentdidn’t have any money. The reason they had the problem was that there was a war calledthe French and Indian War. The king was desperate and needed to get some money, so whatdid he do? He decided to tax the colonists. When he taxed them he thought the he wouldsolve the problem, but did he?Here I’m taking the expository text structure of problem/solution in the first paragraph andam talking through the perspective of King George, as opposed to the second paragraph,which was the perspective of the colonists. King George’s actions are what made the colo-nists angry. Sam Adams was one of the colonists who were angry. What did that anger overthe actions of King George cause the colonists to do? They made a decision to protest andthrow tea into Boston Harbor. When they did this, they thought they solved their problem,but did they?
  • 7. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 7new realitiesnew choicesWe could progress all the way through the conflict, but I want to look at just a few shortparagraphs to illustrate my point. This brings us back to the king. So what are we doing? Weare showing how the Common Core standards can be addressed with an SLP and teach-er collaborating on how to connect and make the connections. Here, the king was furiousabout the Boston Tea Party. So what did he do? He decided to do three things to get backat the colonists, and of course it didn’t solve his problem. With discourse-level interventions,we have oral language and communicative competence. We have them through conversa-tion, narratives, and expository text. That is what I have been described using the Cliffordbook. The book, or the passage, is not the issue, it is the thought process through languagecomprehension and expression that makes the difference.Next, let’s consider an example of a tornado that came to Massachusetts last year on June1st and actually effected my granddaughter, Lauren. There is an expository news articleabout this on the CNN web site. It is written in a very impersonal way. It has just the facts.The title, “Massachusetts Tornadoes Kill at Least Four,” sums up the problem. Now let’s lookat how you might have a conversation about this with Lauren. She had one of the scariestdays of her life last June at her house. An SLP or a teacher working with an SLP could askher to structure a story or structure a narrative out of her experience which would bring thestory and the facts together.Here’s how the conversation might go. What happened to you? My neighborhood was hitby a tornado. How did you feel when that happened? We were devastated and frightened.It was horrifying to see the damage. How did you recover (in other words, what was yourplan)? The community worked together. What kinds of things did you do? And then that is alisting of the kinds of things that were done, the consequences. Did it work and did this haveany affect on your life and how did this affect you?Here we had a strictly expository text piece from CNN. After the conversation about theevent with the teacher and SLP, my granddaughter wrote about the tornado experience.What she wrote is not the same facts in the CNN article, but what she experienced herself.She wrote in her own voice. So what do the Common Core standards expect of childrenwhen they are in third grade? We are trying to have them have voice in their narratives. Tohave students write about a personal experience -- how they felt, who said what, what theydid, is just wonderful. So this is a personal narrative, but what did it do? It incorporated thefacts as well as how the character’s feelings changed from the beginning to the end of thestory.A common question on high stakes tests involves the ability to communicate the critical ele-ments of initiating events --what happened, the thoughts, feelings, intents and plans of char-acters. I did this with Lauren after the tornado to help her think about how she felt beforethe storm and how she felt after everything was over. But also to help her think about theevents and facts that made up the day: the alarm on TV, the debris passing by the windows,and all of that type of thing and how that affected her with her own feelings.
  • 8. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 8new realitiesnew choicesThere are so many times that children get a question like this in their high stakes test andthey do not know how to trace their feelings. With narrative development, when you’retalking about experiences, you are able to do that.By focusing on syntax and discourse within oral language development we’ve looked at thecore of the core. Critical to the Common Core standards is the discourse level of interven-tion. The speech and language pathologist is able to deliver that intervention collaborativelyor in small groups or in therapeutic sessions. For every student -- for those who are at riskand for all of children who have different challenges -- the SLP can help meet the goals forcommunicative competence, academic and social success, and prepare them for collegeand career.About The AuthorsMaryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed. CCC-SLP is internationally recognized for special educa-tion professional development and is president of MindWing Concepts, creator of popularspeech language program, Story Grammar Marker®Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed. CCC-SLP
  • 9. A Forum for School Leaders© PresenceLearning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.580 Market Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, CA 94104 | www.presencelearning.com 9new realitiesnew choicesAt PresenceLearning, we love to see children thrive, which is why we are making thepromise of live online speech therapy (sometimes called telepractice) come true.With the ongoing shortage of SLPs (speech language pathologists) and budget pressuresin school districts reaching crisis proportions, innovative modes of delivery have becomeessential for giving children the speech therapy services they need.A large and growing body of research, starting with a seminal study by the Mayo Clinic in1997, demonstrates that live online speech therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy.Our mission is to make live online speech therapy practical, affordable and convenient whileproviding an extraordinary therapy experience for each child. The PresenceLearning solutionincludes:• access to our large and growing network of top-notch SLPs• the latest video-conferencing technology• the most engaging games and evidence-based activities• time-saving collaboration and practice management tools targeting SLPs and educatorsJoin the growing group of SLPs, educators and parents committed to seeing children thriveas part of the online speech therapy revolution.About SPED AheadAbout PresenceLearningSPED Ahead is an opportunity for school administrators and special education specialists tocatalyze discussions about new ideas and promising practices that help exceptionalstudents achieve. With a series of free interactive online events and related multimedia web-based resources, we will explore answers to tough questions and shape effective leadershipstrategies for addressing special needs students’ challenges for literacy skills, scholasticachievement and peer relationships.