Language Sampling in Present Level Assessments | slptoolkit

Language Sampling in Present Level Assessments

The Present Level Assessments that we created in SLP Toolkit were created based on developmental milestones, research on adolescent langauge development, and review of academic standards from across the country.  They are designed to assess various language underpinnings necessary for sutdents to access their curriculum, preschool through high school. 

All of our language-based PLAs have two primary components:

  • Specific skill assessment
  • Descriptive Language Assessment 
The specific skill assessment subtests allow you to test specific skill areas we expect students in that grade level band to be able to do in order to access their curriculum.  Some of these tests are found throughout all of the grade bands (e.g. antonyms); however, stimulus items are leveled for vocabulary and/or level of prompting to match the age/ability level of the student.  Other subtests are specific to the grade band (e.g. later developing skills such as idioms).

However, current research in our field indicates that a language sample is the most authentic measure of language performance. Students perform quite differently on tasks that are contextualized vs. decontextualized, and in order to gather information on the whole child and their communication present levels, we need to be doing a language sample at the time of the IEP.  It is the most effective and ecologically valid method to determine a student’s expressive language functioning. Therefore, we wanted to create an easy and efficient way for you to do this for every student on your caseload.

You do not have to complete a comprehensive langauge sample like you did in graduate school, or may do for language evaluations when determining eligiblity.  Rather, you are given prompts to engage the student in conversation, as well as guiding questions to either flag or mark as adequate as you listen to the student talk.

We also included ways to assess more complex language use beyond conversational abilities to better assess how the student is expected to use his/her language in the classrom.  For younger students, we need to get a narrative sample.  Examples of narratives include: creating a novel story; completing a story retell; providing a personal narrative; telling a story from a sequence of pictures/picture book; and/or telling a story from a single picture (picture description task).

Research shows that difficulties with narrative production are associated with educational and social achievement.  Students with language impairment typically produce narratives that are shorter, less complete, and less elaborative, so the sample can give us a lot of good information on how we can support the student in therapy.  Is the student able to use grammatically correct sentences? Does s/he have an understanding of story grammar elements? Can s/he sequence story details? How is the student's vocabulary in this context?

For older students, expository samples are more indicative of how they use their language in the classroom.  Examples of this are describing the rules of a game or how to complete a task such as how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  This really taps into a student’s ability to organize and sequence language, and is closely connected to academic tasks such as writing reports and completing projects.  You can analyze coherence of the information, word retrieval skills, use of sufficient details, grammar, and organization within an academically meaningful context.

The purpose of this type of language assessment is to not just to find out the areas that the student is having difficulty with, but also to identify  areas in which the child is functioning relatively well. With this information, and information from the teacher on performance in the classroom, you can make a lot of meaningful programming decisions for the student.

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