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This Week’s Episode: Targeting Grammar Goals with Literacy-Based Therapy: Secondary

So far in this month’s podcast series we’ve targeted MLU goals with our preschoolers,  irregular and regular plural nouns with our early elementary students, and compound and complex sentences using conjunctions with our later elementary students.

We are going to close out this podcast series with our secondary students. In this episode I provide evidence based strategies to target producing sentences with three or more clauses, producing sentences with passive voice, and producing sentences with adverbial clauses.

We will be diving into a non-fiction ReadWorks article called Wild Calls in the Springtime Sky. Like last week’s article, this once includes both an audio and written version which means extra options for exposure to the text! 🙌

In addition to producing more complicated sentences, we want to make sure our students are working on their comprehension by answering questions that include those more complex sentence structures.

It’s common to see difficulty with comprehension as they up the grammar ante.

I do have to say that I really love diving into nonfiction units, especially once my students have mastered story grammar, because it’s so important that our students are able to access new information from expository texts in the classroom.

They have to be able to read and comprehend to learn new information, and this kind of work provides some really great context for therapy with meaningful outcomes.

Strategies + Tips Discussed:

-Model / Recast / Sentence Expansion
-Tip: To keep your student engaged, have them create a YouTube or Toontasic video as a newscaster for our parallel story.


-Gould, B. W. (2001). Written Language Disorders: Theory into Practice. University of Virginia: Pro Ed

Here’s what we discussed:

[5:18] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[6:50] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[7:40] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[9:08] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[12:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

Want to hear more about this topic? Click here to see this month’s content!

Links Mentioned

SLP Now Membership (This is where you can find the summarizing organizer we mentioned!)
The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
– ReadWorks Article: Wild Calls in the Springtime Sky

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Speaker 1: Let's dive into some plans for our secondary students. So we've got some sample goals here, and as always, this is not a comprehensive list. For this whole grammar series, we took a list of common grammar goals and just split them up by age group, just for ease of presentation. If you're not seeing the types of goals that you're working on with your students, then definitely scroll back to the previous podcast from this month to find your goals and the related evidence-based strategies.
But the goal is that we have here are producing sentences with three or more clauses, producing sentences with passive voice, and then producing sentences with adverbial clauses. And then we also might have students answer questions about paragraphs that include passive voice or adverbial clauses because we can often see some difficulty with comprehension of those structures as well. And I thought that would fit in nicely with this unit.
In terms of the text for this unit, we are using a ReadWorks article called Wild Calls in the Springtime Sky. This is free, you can create a free ReadWorks account to access the article. And this article does include an audio version, so it's a nice support that we can have access to. And the article is about Canada geese and their migration patterns. It's a nonfiction article, so it's really great to target that expository text. It includes more of that complex syntax. And I really love diving into nonfiction units, especially once my students have mastered story grammar. I think that's a very important skill, and I don't like to skip that if students don't have mastery of that. I'd like to stick there, but sometimes we just got to move on and dive into the expository texts because it's so important when it comes to reading textbooks and just accessing any information in the classroom. Because so much of it is expository, they're having to read to learn new information, and it's a really great context for therapy with really meaningful outcomes.
And so let's just dive into those plans. And then just a quick recap. The text, again, is from ReadWorks, Wild Calls in the Springtime Sky. And the goals we're targeting are creating sentences with three or more clauses, passive voice, adverbial clauses, and we can also work on comprehension of texts that include these targets.
Just to get us set up for success, I think we want to know which structures are included in the text. So in the SLP Now units, we break down all of the different structures. In this particular text, we have some adverbial clauses and some relative clauses, but we don't have passive voice. So the nice thing about these summaries are that if we really want to target passive voice, we probably don't want to use this article. But if we do want to target sentences with three or more clauses or adverbial clauses, relative clauses, this would be a great text for that. And the cheat sheet for the article just quickly helps you identify those, and so I'll talk about how we can use that list throughout the unit.
With pre-story knowledge activation, I'd like to just pull up the article, take a quick look at it, we can look at the title and the picture, and we can pull out inaudible because we're no longer using story grammar, we're summarizing the article, we can pull out the summarizing organizer which includes a circle for the main idea and three boxes for the key details. And if the students, after doing the book walk, if they have enough background knowledge to fill that in, I'll have them identify, just kind of take a guess, at what the main idea is and what the key details might be, just based on their background knowledge and what they know about the topic and just kind of make an inference.
If that's really challenging, if they don't have the adequate background knowledge to make that happen, we might take a virtual field trip and pull up a video through Edpuzzle about migration and geese, just getting some background information and having a visual aspect to hang things on. And then we might also do some pre-teaching of the key vocabulary words. Because if they don't know what migration is, they're really going to have trouble summarizing the article.
And then definitely stay tuned. Next month, we will be focusing all on vocabulary and sharing similar evidence-based strategies and all of that good stuff. So, stay tuned if you want to learn more strategies. But just in the interest of time, we're going to keep moving on to step two, where we actually read the article.
And then through step one and step two, it really depends on where the student is, but we would definitely want to provide some strategies in our toolbox inaudible one to model the target structures. So we can model sentences with multiple clauses, we can model passive voice, adverbial clauses, relative clauses, all of that good stuff. We can provide the models. We can also recast because during all of these activities, the students are doing a lot of talking, so if they produce two simple sentences, we can combine them and recast using their target structures. And we can provide opportunities for this, too, by asking specific question types and all of that good stuff.
And then moving on to step three, we can use the same types of strategies when we are working on story comprehension. So as we're asking the literal comprehension questions, the inferential questions, as we're filling in the summarizing graphic organizer, throughout all of these steps, we can model, recast, or we can have the students use another evidence-based strategy of sentence expansion. So the Goal 2001 article includes a nice overview of this strategy. But we can use the students' sentences, or the therapist can provide a sentence, and we give them a simple sentence and then we have them build the sentence by increasing the length and complexity. So that's another way that we can recast, as well. We can take a simple sentence and then add to it.
So that's what we've got for story comprehension. As students are responding to questions, we can model the use of these phrases, recast, and provide an expansion. Or if the students have had adequate exposure to the target structures, if they've gone through that introduction, if they've been taught how this all works, they've done some of the drill practice, we can do some embedded practice where they take the simple sentence that they produced and expand it by adding a different clause or adding multiple clauses to it.
And then for step four, this will really depend on how the student does. And as I say in pretty much every presentation, these steps are not necessarily linear. So just because it's step four doesn't mean it happens fourth in the sequence of all these steps. We might decide that, "Okay, last unit, we gave the student tons and tons of exposure, we introduced a skill, we did a mini-lesson introducing these adverbial clauses, we're ready to move on." We might just do a quick drill activity and dive into a lot of embedded practice.
Or if they're super familiar with it, we might just expect them to produce that skill. And in step four, we might work on introducing a different skill. We don't necessarily focus on the same skill in every step of the framework. It's really dependent, because our students have multiple goals, and we kind of strategically split up the practice in a way that makes sense. So in the first unit, I might teach them about compound and complex sentences first, after having given them, of course, some different exposures.
And then during that unit, I might just do some modeling and recasting. And then the next time, I might step up the ante a little bit and require them to do some more of that sentence expansion on their own. And each student will progress differently. And then I would just alternate their goals and adjust the focus as we move through the unit in a way that makes sense. And I know that's very broad. And it really depends on the combination of students' goals, how they're performing on those goals, the dynamics of the groups, lots of different factors. So that's what we've got there.
And I would just pull out the visual introducing that type of clause and give them some very structured practice with expansion. It is typically helpful to create sentences about like the here and now, about things that they're experiencing, things that they're seeing in the speech room, for example, so that it's very concrete and they don't have the cognitive load of trying to comprehend a text. I find that that's a really great way to start and give the students inaudible practice and build their confidence with the skill, and then we can dive into the embedded practice. And so that's what I like to do for step four, if that's necessary.
If they've had practice, we'll just pull out the visual, review it, and then move on to embedded activities. And again, just like in every other unit, any language activity would be great to target these skills. Anything that involves language, they'll be producing sentences and they have the opportunity to produce all of these types of clauses that we're trying to target.
And then to wrap up the unit, we have step five where the students create a parallel story. So I'd like to start, and this is a little bit different because we're using a nonfiction text, so I like to have students take their summary, their graphic organizer, and create something from that. So a lot of times, these students love YouTube and they are all aspiring YouTubers, so one really motivating activity is for them to create a YouTube video about what they learned. So sometimes they just pretend to be a newscaster and they share a summary of the article.
Sometimes they get a little creative and switch things up and just create a news story based on what they read. But we can get creative with that. And then the students have the opportunity, I like to have them write out, especially at this level, I like to have them write out their sentences. And then it's a really nice way to work on that sentence expansion and they can work on including all of those clauses. And then they're motivated to work through this because they know they'll get to make a fun video. So that's one example of what I like to do.
Another fun example, there's apps like Tunetastic, where the students can create an animated video. They can pick a scene and characters, and they can use that to build a different type of newscast where they pick the characters and they record their voice to create a similar final product, except it's just not them on video. So those are both really fun activities and just really fun, engaging ways to embed these new clauses and structures into a meaningful context.
So that's a wrap with our therapy plans for secondary students using a nonfiction text, and we'll see you next month for some vocabulary strategies.


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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