Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

This Week’s Episode: Language Samples

This is the fourth episode this month and we’ve been talking all about assessments. Today I am excited to be talking about language samples! I’ll be sharing the importance of language samples and some great resources on how to streamline the language sample process to capture valuable data.

If you missed the previous episodes, head to episode 134, which kicks off the series, and we go over an assessment checklist as well as strategies to just manage your workload and work smarter and all of that good stuff. Then in episode 135 we talked about formal assessment. Episode 136 we dove into strategies for informal assessment and today is all about language samples.

Let’s jump on in!

Language Samples

Language samples are so very important. They have been required by all the schools I have been at and initially, I didn’t find much value in them. Boy, was I wrong! After doing the research and streamlining the process I have found language samples to be extremely helpful as an SLP and a great alternative to norm-referenced tests.

Click here for our Free Language Sample Cheat Sheet ✨

Language Sample Resources

🍎 SLAM Cards: These language elicitation cards and questions are designed as a tool to be used in assessing language for mid-elementary and high school-aged students.

🍏 Check out this blog post: My 6-Step Process to Quickly & Easily Collect Language Samples

🍎 Listen to this podcast episode: Quick Tips for the Language Sample Overwhelm for more discussion

🍏 Free Language Sample Cheat Sheet 

Next Up in this Pod Series

9/6/22  Assessment 101: A Checklist
9/13/22  Assessment 101: Formal Assessments
9/20/22 Assessment 101: Informal Assessments
9/27/22  Assessment 101: Language Samples

Subscribe & Review on iTunes

Are you subscribed to the podcast? If you’re not, subscribe today to get the latest episodes sent directly to you! Click here to make your listening experience auto-magic and as easy as possible.

Bonus points if you leave us a review over on iTunes → Those reviews help other SLPs find the podcast, and I love reading your feedback! Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews,” “Write a Review,” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is.

Thanks so much!


Speaker 1: Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now podcast, where we share practical therapy tips and ideas for busy speech language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this week's episode.

Speaker 1: Well hello there, I am very excited to be diving into all things language samples today. This is the fourth episode this month and we've been talking all about assessments. So if you missed the previous episodes, head to episode 134, which kicks off the series, and we go over an assessment checklist as well as strategies to just manage your workload and work smarter and all of that good stuff. Then in episode 135 we talked about formal assessment. Episode 136 we dove into strategies for informal assessment and today we get to talk all about language samples.

Speaker 1: So I want to start off the conversation talking about why we even want to collect a language sample. Then we're going to close out the episode by talking about how to actually do this and make it feasible within your school SLP workload. The good news is that there's a way to totally streamline the process and make it take a lot less time than you might think.

Speaker 1: Before we dive into why we even want to collect a language sample, I have a resource. I'll talk about this throughout the episode, but there's a freebie that helps you. It's the magical spreadsheet that helps you calculate all the things and give you really good metrics and helps structure your language process. So head to the show notes at 137 to grab that and we'll also link any other relevant resources in those show notes as well. So that's at

Speaker 1: So without further ado, why do we even care about language samples? A little bit of a story first. So language samples were required by the school districts that I've worked in. Initially I would always forget to do them. I didn't see the value in them and I felt like they took me five million hours. So I don't know if you're in the same boat, but if any of those apply to you, I have absolutely been there. But the good news is that it doesn't have to take a bunch of time and it can be a really, really helpful measure.

Speaker 1: So language samples, especially narrative language samples, offer a valid compliment or even an alternative to norm-referenced testing. We've talked about this in several episodes of the podcast. We'll link those in the show notes if you want to dive in more. But a couple points to consider are that language samples address many of the weaknesses of norm-referenced testing. They provide rich in depth information about a child's use of language in a real world situation. They have strong ecological validity and they can really help us derive meaningful, relevant language treatment targets. Targets and goals that will actually make a difference and impact the student's ability to participate in the classroom, interact with peers, all of that. It's very valid assessment for diverse populations, including bilingual children and speakers of nonstandard dialects. We can analyze it accordingly.

Speaker 1: So there's lots of benefits to collecting language samples. Like I said, if you want to dive into any more of those reasons, we will link the related episodes in the show notes. But for today, I want to get super, super practical super quick and talk about how to actually do this.

Speaker 1: There are a number of measures that we can collect and I really like to work off of a spreadsheet template that I made. So how this works is I open the spreadsheet. You can do it on Google Sheets or in Excel. I just enter the student's information. If you're doing this in Google and you don't have a compliant... Your school district doesn't have a HIPAA compliant agreement with Google, then I would just enter student initials, but then I just provide some details. So I put the students' initials, the date when I collected the language sample and potentially how long it took, because that can sometimes be interesting. Then I document the type of language sample.

Speaker 1: If you have time, it can be really, really helpful to collect conversational sample, story retell, maybe picture description is another option. You can decide which type you want to collect based on what you're seeing from parent report, teacher report, formal assessment results, all of that. So choose strategically and use your clinical judgment there. But I think it can be really helpful to collect multiple samples and see where things fall.

Speaker 1: Then for older students we can have them persuade us about something. We can have them tell a summary or explain how to do something. There's lots of different types of language that we can elicit with the different sample types. Then the prompt will vary depending on the type of sample collected. I absolutely love slam cards. They have a variety of levels. They have some beautiful prompts. They can be used across the whole school age range, depending on the ones that you select. That's definitely a staple. I just printed those out and have them laminated so I can grab them whenever. They also have a boom cards version, which is really cool.

Speaker 1: So once we have the basic things documented, we collect the samples and what I do is I just try to collect the students, and this isn't possible with all students, but I try to write down what they're saying as they're saying it. If that's not possible, I'll just grab a recording and type it in real quick after the session. But I just type in whatever I hear. I'll take a quick minute after all of the text is in there and make a note of anything that strikes me in regards to the student's language content, their form, or their use. The cool thing is that the spreadsheet has some helpful tips and a checklist of things to consider as you're doing it. So it helps you navigate all of that. It has a list of areas to consider and then that can inspire you as you're filling in the notes.

Speaker 1: Okay, so what types of things might I be looking at in the language sample? That can be really helpful. So if they're telling a story, is their story sequenced logically? Did they use transition words? So you can just make note of nice use of transition words, or we didn't use transitions, or looking at different grammatical errors. Did they only use proper nouns? Did they never use reference? Did they use vocabulary? Did they demonstrate word finding difficulty? So there's a whole checklist of things that we can consider. So I can fill in the notes based on that.

Speaker 1: Then I also mark and only do this if it's relevant for you, I sometimes like to have a measure of clausal density. So I'll measure the number of clauses in each utterance. I'll make a note if it was grammatically correct or not, I just score it one or zero. Then the beautiful thing is that the spreadsheet automatically calculates the percent of grammatical utterances, which is a really helpful value. It calculates the clausal density and then it gives suggestions on how to calculate the number of different words. There's so much just built into it. I'm usually able to do this in real time.

Speaker 1: For most students I collect it in real time. I take a minute or two to jot down any notes if I don't get to that in real time. Then it calculates everything for me and I can just print this off and attach it to the evaluation if I want to. Or I can just reference it and use that to... It just makes it really easy to fill in the report and describe the language that you're using when you're using this type of format. It can really help drive goals depending on what you're seeing. Again, that checklist built into the sheet is super helpful.

Speaker 1: So that is the process to collect that language sample. It's really simple and it gives us some really great information. Yeah, it's totally doable. So again, head to to grab the free template. All of the other podcast episodes and everything that I mentioned will be linked there as well. I've gotten some really, really great feedback that this has completely streamlined the language sample process for SLPs. It's a lot less overwhelming. It's much easier to get data to include in the report. Then it also is structured in a way that makes it really easy to identify areas of need and areas that we can support and it really helps with that goal writing process.

Speaker 1: If we write goals and we'll want to use multiple data points, of course, but if we notice that a student struggle... Grammar shows up as an issue in the parent report in the formal assessment and maybe an informal present levels assessment, then if we collect a language sample, we can see what types of errors they're producing in conversation and just use that as we can write a goal based on percent of grammatically correct utterances. Or we can write goals for specific targets. But like I said, we have a series coming up all about goal writing in the very near future. So stay tuned for that because we wanted to build that strong foundation, how to do a really thorough assessment while still maintaining your sanity.

Speaker 1: So we'll continue the discussion on how to write goals from that and how to kind of structure the rest of therapy once we have that strong foundation. So that is officially a wrap. I hope you enjoyed this series on assessments and we'll see you soon. Thanks for listening to the SLP Now podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your SLP friends and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episode sent directly to you. See you next time.



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.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *