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Thinking aloud: Effects on text comprehension by children with specific language impairment and their peers


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Background: Many lines of evidence now suggest that inferencing plays a substantial role in text comprehension. However, inferencing appears to be difficult for children with language impairments, many of whom are also struggling readers. Aims: To assess the effects of a 'think-aloud' procedure on inference generation and narrative text comprehension by children with expressive-receptive specific language impairment (SLI) and age-matched peers with typical language development (TLD). Methods & procedures: An SLI group (n = 12; mean age = 10;5) and an age-matched TLD group (n = 12) participated in the study. Narrative passages were read silently by participants and simultaneously read aloud by the examiner in two conditions: (1) uninterrupted reading and (2) a think-aloud, in which children verbalized their understanding as the text was read. Following the passages in both conditions, children responded to comprehension questions requiring either literal or inferential information (specifically, 'informational' and 'causal' inferences). The children's comprehension scores were analysed by group, condition and question type. The statements children generated during the think-aloud were also compared by group and examined in relation to children's comprehension scores. Outcomes & results: The SLI group scored lower than the TLD group on all questions (literal, informational and causal), in both conditions. For both groups, however, comprehension scores on all three types of questions increased when the think-aloud procedure was implemented. During the think-aloud, the SLI group generated a comparable number of literal statements compared with the TLD group, but fewer informational and causal statements. The number of causal statements children made correlated with their scores on the inferential comprehension questions. Conclusions & implications: Children with expressive-receptive SLI showed poorer comprehension of narrative texts than children with TLD, as expected. However, both groups' comprehension improved when participating in the think-aloud condition. While further investigation is warranted, the think-aloud procedure shows promise as a strategy to enhance narrative text comprehension in school-age children with, and without, language impairments.
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Research Report
Thinking aloud: effects on text comprehension by children with specific
language impairment and their peers
Brenna McClintock, Diane Pesco and Sandra Martin-Chang
Department of Education, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada
(Received June 2013; accepted December 2013)
Background: Many lines of evidence now suggest that inferencing plays a substantial role in text comprehension.
However, inferencing appears to be difficult for children with language impairments, many of whom are also
struggling readers.
Aims: To assess the effects of a ‘think-aloud’ procedure on inference generation and narrative text comprehension
by children with expressive–receptive specific language impairment (SLI) and age-matched peers with typical
language development (TLD).
Methods & Procedures: An SLI group (n=12; mean age =10;5) and an age-matched TLD group (n=12)
participated in the study. Narrative passages were read silently by participants and simultaneously read aloud by
the examiner in two conditions: (1) uninterrupted reading and (2) a think-aloud, in which children verbalized their
understanding as the text was read. Following the passages in both conditions, children responded to comprehension
questions requiring either literal or inferential information (specifically, ‘informational’ and ‘causal’ inferences).
The children’s comprehension scores were analysed by group, condition and question type. The statements
children generated during the think-aloud were also compared by group and examined in relation to children’s
comprehension scores.
Outcomes & Results: The SLI group scored lower than the TLD group on all questions (literal, informational and
causal), in both conditions. For both groups, however, comprehension scores on all three types of questions increased
when the think-aloud procedure was implemented. During the think-aloud, the SLI group generated a comparable
number of literal statements compared with the TLD group, but fewer informational and causal statements. The
number of causal statements children made correlated with their scores on the inferential comprehension questions.
Conclusions & Implications: Children with expressive–receptive SLI showed poorer comprehension of narrative
texts than children with TLD, as expected. However, both groups’ comprehension improved when participating in
the think-aloud condition. While further investigation is warranted, the think-aloud procedure shows promise as a
strategy to enhance narrative text comprehension in school-age children with, and without, language impairments.
Keywords: specific language impairment, inferencing, narrative comprehension, think-aloud.
What this paper adds?
Think-alouds, defined as verbalizing thoughts during a task, have been proposed as a means of revealing the inferences
children make as they listen to or read texts. Studies additionally suggest that engaging in a think-aloud might benefit
text comprehension. In the present study, children with expressive–receptive language impairments and a typically
developing comparison group participated in a think-aloud about narrative texts, with positive effects on their
comprehension of both literal and implicit (inferential) content. The study is the first to demonstrate that a think-
aloud procedure supports narrative text comprehension for children with SLI. The results show promise for the use
of think-aloud procedures in educational and speech–language therapy settings.
Address correspondence to: Diane Pesco, Department of Education (LB-501–3), Concordia University, 1455 Boul. de Maisonneuve West,
Montreal, QC, H3G 1M8, Canada; e-mail:
International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders
ISSN 1368-2822 print/ISSN 1460-6984 online C2014 Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
DOI: 10.1111/1460-6984.12081
638 Brenna McClintock et al.
In upper elementary school, building a foundation of
academic knowledge is central to success. To a large
extent this is accomplished by interacting with written
texts. However, many children struggle fully to com-
prehend what they have read. Recent estimates in the
United States, for example, suggest that the majority
of fourth and eighth graders demonstrate only a ‘basic’
level of reading comprehension (National Center for
Education Statistics 2011).
While there has been some discussion about the
number of independent skills that contribute to reading
comprehension, there is wide agreement that in addi-
tion to decoding, oral language abilities are important
(Gough and Tunmer 1986). Clearly, grasping literal in-
formation in a text depends partly on semantic and
syntactic knowledge. However, ‘higher-level’ language,
particularly inferencing—or deducing and integrating
information that is not overtly provided—also plays
a critical role in comprehension (Bowyer-Crane and
Snowling 2005, Oakhill and Cain 2012, van Kleeck
2008). Evidence that children with language impair-
ment make fewer inferences than peers when reading or
listening to texts is thus concerning (Adams et al. 2009,
Botting and Adams 2005, Dodwell and Bavin 2008).
The current study examined the effect of a think-
aloud procedure on the comprehension of literal and
implicit information by children with specific language
impairments and age-matched peers. Here, children an-
swered comprehension questions following two condi-
tions: a standard, ‘uninterrupted’ reading of a story, and
a think-aloud, where the children verbalized their un-
derstanding as they progressed through the story.
Specific language impairment (SLI)
Children with SLI have persistent difficulty with first
language acquisition. Expressive and receptive language
skills may both be affected, or expressive skills may be
the principal difficulty (receptive problems alone are
rare). To be diagnosed with SLI, children must meet
certain exclusionary criteria; they cannot, for instance,
be diagnosed with hearing impairment, neurological dis-
order (e.g., epilepsy), autism or intellectual impairment
(Rice 2009). According to inclusionary criteria used in
research, their scores on norm-referenced language mea-
sures should be at least 1 SD (standard deviation) below
the mean (Rice 2009), but in clinical practice a more
stringent criterion (i.e., 1.5 or 2 SDs below the mean)
is often applied.
In addition to the language difficulties that charac-
terize SLI, studies have shown that children with SLI
are at increased risk for reading difficulties. Catts et al.
(2002) reported that children with SLI were four to five
times more likely to have a reading impairment than
their typically developing peers in Grades 2 and 4, and
that reading difficulties often persisted through high
school (Catts et al. 2008).
Models of text comprehension
According to the simple view of reading by Hoover and
Gough (1990), comprehension of written texts is the
product of decoding ability and linguistic comprehen-
sion (R =D×L). These two components are equally
important and, amongst good readers, positively related;
as the two components improve, so does reading com-
prehension (Hoover and Gough 1990). However, the
correlation between decoding and linguistic compre-
hension does not always hold. Some children with SLI
resemble ‘poor comprehenders’ whose decoding abil-
ity is at, or above, age level, in conjunction with poor
comprehension (Nation et al. 2004). For other children
with SLI, both decoding and comprehension fall be-
low levels expected for their chronological age (Kelso
et al. 2007), but comprehension levels may still be
lower than decoding skills. For example, Bishop and
Adams (1990: 1033) described the reading comprehen-
sion scores of 8-year-old children with SLI as ‘dispro-
portionately poor’ given their decoding skills, and con-
cluded that the deficits observed were better explained
by poor language comprehension than by poor reading
While inferencing is a complex skill influenced by
pragmatic and even non-linguistic factors (Botting and
Adams 2005), there is reason to hypothesize that supe-
rior language comprehension fosters particularly effec-
tive inference generation. According to Kintsch’s (1988)
construction–integration model, text comprehension
occurs in two phases. In the first phase (construction), the
meaning of propositions raised in the text is activated
in the reader’s mind. The activated concepts enable the
reader to generate a number of inferences, some of which
may be incorrect. Thus, during this phase the reader
develops an enriched but incomplete and potentially in-
accurate representation of the text. In the second phase
(integration), the reader uses working memory to carry
information forward, and to select the propositions and
inferences most appropriate to the new section of text.
Additionally at this stage, more specific and controlled
inferences are made by the reader to fill in and make
casual connections between parts of the text. The end
result of the integration phase is a coherent and mean-
ingful representation, comprising many inferences that
both elaborate on, and connect, different parts of the
text. However, if inferencing relies partly on language
Thinking aloud effects on text comprehension by children with SLI 639
comprehension, then it may be compromised for chil-
dren with language impairments, as well as being poten-
tially affected by other factors, such as working memory
and world knowledge relevant to the text. Moreover,
children with language impairments may not utilise in-
ferences to the degree that they are able, but rather focus
on accurate decoding as other ‘poor comprehenders’ ap-
pear to do (Cain and Oakhill 1999).
Inferences and text comprehension
Two types of inferences, as described by van Kleeck
(2008),1were assessed in the present study: causal and
informational. Causal inferences entail linking two parts
of a text by incorporating world knowledge to fill in
missing information about cause-and-effect relation-
ships (Wright and Newhoff 2001). Such inferences help
readers to create a coherent and meaningful representa-
tion of the text. In the context of a story, causal inferences
are particularly important because they link story com-
ponents, i.e., the initiating event or problem of the story;
the protagonist’s internal states, goals and attempts to re-
solve the problem; the consequences of these attempts;
and finally the resolution or outcome of the problem
(van Kleeck 2008).
Studies attest to the importance of generating causal
inferences to text comprehension by children. On both
reading and listening tasks, the majority of inferences
made by third-graders described as ‘good comprehen-
ders’ were causal, while poor comprehenders made fewer
inferences of this type (Laing and Kamhi 2002). Cain
and Oakhill (1999) found that causal inferences pre-
dicted variance in the reading comprehension of good
and poor comprehenders (mean age 7;8), while measures
of literal comprehension did not.
The second type of inference explored here is ‘infor-
mational’. Informational inferences involve using world
knowledge to elaborate information explicitly stated in
the text. Such inferences create a richer representation
of the text, but are considered less critical than causal in-
ferences in creating a coherent representation (Bowyer-
Crane and Snowling 2005, Cain et al. 2001, van Kleeck
To the best of our knowledge, no studies have com-
pared the effects of instruction targeting particular types
of inferences (e.g., causal versus informational) on chil-
dren’s reading comprehension. However, Clarke et al.
(2010) included generation of various types of infer-
ences as a key element of the text comprehension in-
struction they provided to children with poor reading
comprehension (additional elements were metacogni-
tive strategies, narrative structure, and reciprocal teach-
ing). At post-test, the group receiving the instruction
had higher reading comprehension scores than a wait-
listed comparison group.
Inferencing in SLI
Both typically developing children and children with
language impairments have greater difficulty with infer-
ential than literal comprehension, as measured by com-
prehension questions asked after reading. Children with
SLI, in particular, have been found to perform below
expected levels on inferential comprehension on listen-
ing tasks (Adams et al. 2009, Botting and Adams 2005,
Dodwell and Bavin 2008), and on reading tasks, even
when stories contained familiar content (Norbury and
Bishop 2002). Taken together, the results suggest that
the text comprehension difficulties experienced by chil-
dren with SLI cannot be fully explained by difficulties
with decoding or inadequate world knowledge.
There is also some evidence that certain kinds of
inferential questions are more challenging for children
than others. Wright and Newhoff (2001) hypothesized
that children with language-learning disabilities (LLD),2
along with age-matched and language-matched con-
trols, would be more accurate in responding to infor-
mational inference questions than to causal ones, given
that informational questions require the child to elab-
orate a single premise in a text, while causal questions
require that two premises be integrated. Results con-
firmed their prediction. Moreover, similar performance
by the LLD and language-matched groups confirmed
velopment. Likewise, Botting and Adams (2005), and
Dodwell and Bavin (2008), found that children with
SLI performed similarly to language-matched groups
on story comprehension tasks requiring various kinds of
inferences, but scored significantly below age-matched
Think-aloud procedure
Inferencing has typically been measured by asking chil-
dren comprehension questions after they read or hear
a story. Think-aloud procedures have been proposed
as a complementary means of investigating inferencing
(Phillips 1988). For our purposes, ‘think-alouds’ refer
to verbal reports of thoughts during or immediately
following a task, also referred to, respectively, as concur-
rent or retrospective think-alouds (Yoshida 2008). They
have been used to investigate a wide range of cognitive
processes, including inferences made by children with
average reading skills (Trabasso and Magliano 1996b),
and good and poor reading comprehension (Laing and
Kamhi 2002).
Applied to text comprehension, think-alouds are
usually implemented by asking participants to verbal-
ize their thoughts after reading or hearing each sentence
of a text. Given that instructions typically do not entail
telling participants to focus on the reading or listening
640 Brenna McClintock et al.
process, verbalizations may simply reveal their thoughts
and reflect information that is consciously available to
In addition to making readers’ thoughts public,
think-aloud procedures might influence comprehen-
sion. On the one hand, they might reduce understanding
by increasing cognitive load and by potentially introduc-
ing meta-linguistic demands during reading, thus dis-
rupting the processes readers usually engage in (Yoshida
2008). On the other hand, think-aloud procedures likely
increase the time spent on the reading task. While in-
creased time on a reading task is not always associated
with better comprehension (Yoshida 2008), it might
have positive effects for children.3Simply put, when
asked to complete a think-aloud, children might spend
more time considering a text than they would otherwise,
and the increased time could enhance comprehension.
Additionally, children might spontaneously use a range
of comprehension strategies when thinking-aloud about
a text: inferencing, as well as other strategies critical to
reading comprehension, such as activating prior knowl-
edge and monitoring comprehension (National Institute
for Literacy 2001). The think-aloud does not provide
children with explicit instruction in using these strate-
gies, but most studies have involved brief demonstra-
tions that may provide children with an improved sense
of ‘what it means to read and think about text’ (Kucan
and Beck 1997: 289). Additionally, adult prompting,
although often minimal, is inherent to the procedure
when implemented with children. These characteristics
may encourage children to engage actively with text and
to employ comprehension strategies that are within their
repertoire but not used routinely.
Indeed, there is some evidence that exposure to
think-alouds via direct instruction, modelling, and/or
practice have positive effects on the reading compre-
hension of typically developing children (for reviews,
see Kucan and Beck 1997, and Yoshida 2008). Facil-
itative effects have also been found for children with
below average language or literacy. Laing and colleagues
showed that think-aloud procedures improved the literal
comprehension of expository text of children with SLI
(Laing et al. 2009), and augmented the inferences made
by children with average and below average reading skills
in a narrative context (Laing and Kamhi 2002).
The present study
The present study is the first to examine the effects of a
think-aloud on the literal and inferential understanding
of narrative texts by children with SLI, compared with
age-matched peers with typical language development
(TLD). Children in the SLI and TLD groups were asked
questions to assess text comprehension following two
conditions: a standard ‘uninterrupted’ reading of a text,
and an oral ‘think-aloud’ protocol. In both conditions,
children read the story silently and simultaneously heard
it read aloud. This procedure was implemented in order
to minimize difficulties with decoding that might arise
during independent reading.
Our main hypothesis was that both the SLI and
TLD groups would have higher comprehension scores
after completing the think-aloud procedure, based on
the evidence discussed above (see the section on ‘Think-
aloud procedure’). We were also interested in testing
four additional predictions. First, given the poor syn-
tactic and semantic knowledge exhibited on norm-
referenced language tests administered as part of the
study, we predicted that the SLI group would have
lower scores than the TLD group on the comprehension
Second, we predicted that scores on inferential ques-
tions (causal and informational) would be lower than
scores on literal questions, and, moreover, that the scores
on causal questions would be lower than scores on in-
formational questions. These predictions were based on
the patterns reported by Wright and Newhoff (2001)
for children with milder deficits in receptive language,
and on Bishop and Donlan’s (2005) finding that chil-
dren with mixed SLI have particular difficulty encoding
causal relationships in narrative.
The last predictions focused on the types of state-
ments made during the think-aloud task and their asso-
ciation with comprehension. Based on previous studies
(see ‘Inferencing in SLI’ above), we anticipated that the
children with SLI would make fewer inferential state-
ments than the group with TLD. If group differences
were found for inferential but not literal statements,
then fewer inferential statements would be taken to re-
flect poorer inferencing rather than solely being a con-
sequence of expressive language difficulties. We also ex-
pected the number of causal statements (versus literal
or informational) to correlate most strongly with scores
on the comprehension questions, given the important
role causal inferences play in reading comprehension
and in narrative comprehension, in particular (Cain
and Oakhill 1999, Laing and Kamhi 2002, van Kleeck
Research design
The current study used a mixed analysis of variance
(ANOVA) with group (SLI and TLD) as a between-
subjects factor, and condition (uninterrupted and think-
aloud) and question type (literal, causal inference, in-
formational inference) as within-subjects factors. The
number of literal, informational and causal statements
made during the think-aloud were also compared across
Thinking aloud effects on text comprehension by children with SLI 641
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for language measures, by group
SLI group (n=12) TLD group (n=12)
CELF-4aMean (SD) Mean (SD) t d.f.
Core Language Score 60.92 (7.40) 107.42 (19.37) 7.77∗∗∗ 14.2b
Receptive Language Index 70.25 (5.79) 100.58 (18.12) 7.28∗∗∗ 13.2c
Expressive Language Index 63.83 (6.85) 110.83 (14.84) 9.96∗∗∗ 22
Notes: aStandard scores; all measures have a population mean of 100, SD =15.
bAdjusted degrees of freedom (d.f.) as equal variances are not assumed; Levene’s test F,4.556,p=0.044.
cLevene’s test F,5.089,p=0.034.
the two groups and analysed in relation to the compre-
hension question scores.
Pilot participants
The procedures were piloted to refine their implemen-
tation and to hone a scoring key for the comprehension
questions. Pilot participants were recruited by word of
mouth. Individual consent was obtained from adults,
and parental consent and child assent was obtained
for children. Twenty adults, all of whom had some
university-level education, participated: eight in a first
phase (mean age =29;8 in years;months, SD =2;1),
and 12 in a second phase (mean age =26;10, SD =
4;8). Two children also participated: one girl aged 7;10
and one boy aged 9;11.
Study participants
Participants were recruited through letters distributed
in schools, word of mouth and flyers posted in public
settings, following ethics approval for the study from the
host university. Prior to beginning the study, consent was
obtained from each child’s parents and verbal assent was
given by each child.
The participants included 12 English-speaking up-
per elementary students (eight boys, four girls: mean
age 10;5) who were regularly receiving speech–language
services. The participants had previously met criteria
for mixed (expressive and receptive) SLI; hearing im-
pairment, neurological disorders and intellectual im-
pairments had been ruled out, and all had a history
of language test scores 1 SD or more below the mean.
As shown in table 1, the participants with SLI scored,
on average, more than 2 SDs below the mean on the
Core Language subtests of the Clinical Evaluation of
Language Fundamentals—4 (CELF-4).
Tw e l v e E n g l i s h - s p e a k i n g s t u d e n t s w i t h T L D a l s o
participated: eight boys and four girls, matched by sex
and age to the SLI group. Their mean age was 10;3
(SD =0;6). There was no significant difference in age
between the two groups: t(22) =–0.562, p=0.580.
TLD status was confirmed by scores of 85 or above
(within 1 SD of the mean) on the Core Language
subtests of the CELF-4 (table 1), and corroborated by
teacher or parent report.
Measures and apparatus
All tests requiring verbal responses from the participants
were audio recorded using a Panasonic RR-US-570 dig-
ital recorder. The story stimuli were pre-recorded into
mp3 files and saved onto an iPod Touch mp3 player. A
portable X-Mini II capsule speaker was used to play the
story recordings while participants read.
Standardized language test
CELF-4 is a standardized, norm-referenced test designed
to assess the oral language abilities of individuals aged
5–21 years (Semel et al. 2003). The Core Language
Score of CELF-4 has been shown to discriminate typ-
ical and language-disordered performance well, and is
also the basis of the test’s sensitivity and specificity, both
of which are high (Semel et al. 2003). This score was
thus selected to confirm SLI or TLD status (table 1).
The score is a composite, derived from scores on recep-
tive subtests (Word Classes—Receptive and Concepts
& Following Directions) and expressive subtests (Word
Classes—Expressive, Recalling Sentences, and Formu-
lated Sentences), which respectively yield Receptive and
Expressive Index scores, also reported in table 1.
Experimental stories and comprehension questions
Think-aloud demonstration stories. The examiner
used two stories (one in each session) to demonstrate
the think-aloud procedure. One (Rachel and the Giant;
51 words) was adapted from Trabasso and Magliano
(1996a), and a second story was written to parallel it:
Ivan and the Dragon; 55 words. The fantastical story
themes contrasted with the realistic themes of the ex-
perimental stories, so as to minimize carryover effects
from the demonstrations to the children’s own think-
alouds. Stories were written at a second- and third-grade-
level respectively, as measured by the Spache Readability
642 Brenna McClintock et al.
Formula, which takes into account the difficulty of
words used and average number of words per sentence
(Spache 1953). Participants read the story from a printed
copy, and simultaneously heard an audio recording of
the story, played over a speaker at a conversational vol-
Experimental stories. Four stories, two from Bishop
and Adams (1992) and two new stories (see the appendix
for the sample story), were used to measure story com-
prehension and inferencing. Children read each story
from a printed copy and simultaneously heard a record-
ing of the story read aloud. The stories ranged from 108
to 114 words and were written at a second-grade level
(Spache 1953). The stories were written below grade
level to avoid the potential effects of vocabulary knowl-
edge, syntactic complexity or decoding difficulties on
the variables of primary interest. Story themes were se-
lected to maximize the probability that story content
would be familiar to all students.
Comprehension questions. Nine comprehension ques-
tions were written for each of the four stories: three
literal questions, three informational and three causal,
resulting in 36 questions in total (see the appendix for
examples). Literal questions were based on information
that was stated explicitly within the text. Informational
questions required that the participant expand on a sin-
gle proposition in the text. Causal questions required
that the participant connect two propositions, establish-
ing cause-and-effect relationships between them. One of
the 12 literal questions was not recorded due to experi-
menter error, resulting in 35 questions in total.
A trained examiner conducted individual testing in a
quiet area of the child’s school or home, using stan-
dardized procedures. The two testing sessions were con-
ducted within the same week, separated, on average, by
audio-recorded for later review. The experimental stories
and measures preceded administration of the CELF-4
subtests in the two sessions.
Tw o s t o r i e s w e r e p r e s e n t e d p e r s e s s i o n . Co n d i t i o n
was counterbalanced, so that each child began one ses-
sion with the uninterrupted reading, and the other with
the think-aloud task. Stories were also counterbalanced
across the uninterrupted and think-aloud conditions so
that each story appeared equally in each condition.
Immediately prior to the think-aloud procedure in
each session, the examiner gave a scripted demonstration
of the task using one of the two demonstration stories
(counterbalanced between sessions and within group).
After the demonstration, children were presented one
of the four experimental stories and told that it was
now their turn to ‘tell what [they] understood about the
story’ after each story sentence. The child was asked to
read the written story as a recording of the story (read
by the examiner) was simultaneously played on a digital
audio player. The examiner followed the words on the
printed copy in front of the child with her finger. After
each sentence she pointed to an image (a light bulb in a
thought bubble) to remind the child of the task. After
the children completed the think-aloud procedure, they
answered the comprehension questions orally. In the
uninterrupted condition, the child read and listened to
the story without interruption and proceeded to the
comprehension questions.
During questioning, the examiner consulted a scor-
ing key devised for the study. The general prompt ‘Can
you tell me a little more?’ was used when participants
gave partially correct answers. Participants were not
prompted if they gave correct or clearly incorrect an-
swers. When a participant did not respond, the prompt
‘Do you want to guess?’ was used.
Coding and scoring
Standardized tests of language. The CELF-4 raw
scores were calculated and converted to standard scores
as per test guidelines, yielding a Core Language Score,
Receptive Language Index and Expressive Language In-
Comprehension questions. For each question type (lit-
eral, informational and causal), responses were scored
according to a 3-point system adapted from Bishop and
Adams (1992). Two points were awarded for a fully cor-
rect response, 1 point for a response that was correct
but omitted an important detail, and 0 points for an
incorrect response, or no response.
Think-aloud statements. Think-aloud statements
were transcribed and coded. A statement was broadly
defined as a clause that expressed a main idea, and
thus allowed a child to receive credit for both main
clauses and attached ones (i.e., subordinate, condi-
tional and -wh clauses) that provided novel infor-
mation. The transcribed statements were categorized
as either literal statements, which consisted of full
and partial repetitions and paraphrases of the sen-
tence; informational inferences which elaborated a story
proposition (i.e., gave ‘what, who, where, when’ infor-
mation); or causal inferences which expressed cause–
effect relationships that were not explicitly stated and
required the integration of two story propositions. Chil-
dren were given credit for statements related to the sen-
tence they had just read as well as statements related to
earlier sentences.
Thinking aloud effects on text comprehension by children with SLI 643
Table 2. Mean scores (in percentage points) for comprehension questions, by group, condition and question type
SLI group TLD group
Uninterrupted, Think-aloud, Uninterrupted, Think-aloud,
Comprehension questions mean (SD) mean (SD) mean (SD) mean (SD)
Literal questions: percentage points 67.08 (10.87) 76.93 (15.27) 86.67 (12.06) 92.42 (8.80)
Informational questions: percentage points 53.81 (22.45) 61.34 (18.15) 82.38 (18.83) 90.36 (10.20)
Causal questions: percentage points 52.08 (13.82) 68.81 (13.30) 81.25 (10.73) 88.89 (8.21)
Interscorer reliability. The first author scored all com-
prehension question responses (24 participants ×4sto-
ries) and think-aloud statements (24 participants ×2
stories). A trained assistant, blind to group, scored 25%
of the material, selected randomly from a set that equally
represented the groups and the four stories. Interscorer
agreement was 94.6% (kappa =0.91) for comprehen-
sion questions, and 85.4% (kappa =0.72) for think-
aloud statements. Disagreements were resolved via dis-
cussion between the scorers and authors.
Standardized tests of language
Table 1 shows the mean scores by group on the standard-
ized language measure, and independent t-tests com-
paring the means. As was expected, the Core Language
Score, the Receptive Language Index and the Expressive
Language Index of the CELF-4 were significantly lower
in the SLI group than in the TLD group.
Comprehension questions
Table 2 provides mean scores as a function of group,
condition and question type for descriptive purposes.
Comprehension scores are shown as percentages due to
the unequal number of literal questions (as noted in the
‘Methods’ section, one question was not recorded due
to experimenter error). Box plots, presented in figure 1,
illustrate the range and distribution of the scores.
As expected, the children with TLD answered more
questions correctly than did children with SLI. This
observation was confirmed with a mixed 2 (group)
×2 (condition) ×3(questiontype)ANOVA,with
a significant main effect of group, F(1, 22) =56.58,
p<0.001, partial η2=0.720. In accord with our hy-
pothesis, both groups answered more questions correctly
in the think-aloud compared with the uninterrupted
condition. The ANOVA showed a significant main ef-
fect of condition: F(1, 22) =15.48, p=0.001, partial
η2=0.413. Individual scores were in line with the group
pattern. Specifically, in the SLI group, eight out of 12
children scored higher in the think-aloud condition than
in the uninterrupted condition on the literal and causal
questions, and nine scored higher on the informational
questions. In the TLD group, eight of 12 participants
scored higher in the think-aloud on the literal and causal
questions, while six of the participants scored higher on
the informational questions. The group ×condition
interaction was non-significant.
In keeping with our third prediction, the ANOVA
also revealed a main effect of Question Type: F(2, 21) =
7.183, p=0.002. Planned paired t-tests (Bonferroni
adjusted α=0.016; all one-tailed, in accord with hy-
potheses) showed that percentage scores on literal ques-
tions (mean =80.78, SD =12.65) were higher than
scores on informational questions (mean =71.97, SD =
19.68): t(23) =2.84, p=0.002. The mean score for lit-
eral questions was also higher than for causal questions
(mean =72.76, SD =15.14), t(23) =3.31, p=0.001.
There was no significant difference between informa-
tional and causal comprehension scores. The condition
×question type interaction and group ×condition ×
question type interaction were both not significant.
Think-aloud statements
The final predictions were in regard to the statements
made during the think-aloud. First, we expected the
SLI group to make fewer inferential statements than
the TLD group. Findings from independent t-tests sup-
ported this prediction (Bonferroni adjusted α=0.016,
one-tailed). The SLI group made significantly fewer in-
formational statements (mean =5.38, SD =2.54),
compared with the TLD group (mean =9.04, SD =
4.85): t(22) =2.32, p=0.015. The SLI group also made
significantly fewer causal statements (mean =21.38,
SD =6.26), relative to the TLD group (mean =35.08,
SD =14.05): t(15.2) =3.09, p=0.004. The groups
did not differ significantly in terms of the number of
literal statements: SLI mean =6.21 (SD =3.91), TLD
mean =7.77 (SD =3.23).
Table 3 presents correlations between the statements
made during the think-aloud and the comprehension
question scores, also in the think-aloud condition. The
number of causal statements correlated significantly
with both the informational and causal comprehension
scores, but not the literal comprehension scores; the
results are thus partially in line with our prediction that
causal statements would correlate with comprehension.
644 Brenna McClintock et al.
Figure 1. Box plots of comprehension question scores (%), by group, condition and question type. Analyses of variance excluding the outlier
in the SLI group and the most extreme outlier in the TLD group led to the same pattern of results reported in the text; the outliers were thus
retained in the final analyses.
Table 3. Pearson product-moment correlations of think-aloud
statements and language measures with comprehension
questions in the think-aloud condition
Comprehension question scores
Literal Informational Causal
Number of TA statements
Literal statements n.s. n.s. n.s.
Informational statements 0.37n.s. n.s.
Causal statements n.s. 0.400.40
Language measures (CELF-4)
Receptive Language Index 0.57∗∗ 0.61∗∗ 0.59∗∗
Expressive Language Index 0.57∗∗ 0.74∗∗ 0.72∗∗
Note: p<0.05, one-tailed; and ∗∗p<0.01, one-tailed.
The number of informational statements correlated
significantly with literal comprehension, but not with
performance on informational or causal questions. The
number of literal statements did not correlate signif-
icantly with comprehension question scores. As table
3 also shows, the Receptive and Expressive Language
indices of the CELF-4 were significantly and strongly
correlated with scores on the three comprehension
question types.
Effects of a think-aloud procedure
Think-alouds have been proposed as a window into
children’s thinking (Trabasso and Magliano 1996a); the
evidence reported here both supports and extends this
analogy. Here, the think-aloud procedure served as a
‘window’ by making aspects of the children’s think-
ing public. However, engaging in the think-aloud also
seemed to reflect the children’s thoughts back to them
in a way that shaped, and ultimately benefited, compre-
hension. Our data show that children in both groups
(SLI and TLD) had higher scores on comprehension
questions in the think-aloud condition, relative to the
uninterrupted condition. Given the counterbalancing
of conditions and stories, it is unlikely that the observed
Thinking aloud effects on text comprehension by children with SLI 645
pattern reflect practice effects. Rather, we posit that the
think-aloud encourages children to spontaneously use
strategies known to benefit comprehension. Specifically,
when describing what they ‘understood about the story’,
children tended to fill in important but unstated parts
of the text (i.e., generated inferences).
Consistent with previous studies using think-alouds
with children (e.g., Laing and Kamhi 2002, Laing et
al. 2009, Wright and Newhoff 2001), we asked chil-
dren to verbalize their understanding of the story. The
examiner also demonstrated a think-aloud using a train-
ing story, and presented a visual ‘thought-cloud’ to re-
mind the child of the task and focus his or her atten-
tion. These features of the procedure, which can be
viewed as promoting active and sustained ‘meaning-
making’, may have sparked generation of inferences that,
in turn, contributed to higher scores on the comprehen-
sion questions. In addition, the verbalization inherent to
the think-aloud procedure may have transformed infer-
ences from implicit to explicit information, making the
information easier for participants to store and retrieve
from memory when responding to the comprehension
The positive effects observed in the present investi-
gation converge nicely with a small set of studies show-
ing positive effects of think-aloud protocols on com-
prehension for children with difficulties with language
and/or reading (Laing and Kamhi 2002, Laing et al.
2009, Wright and Newhoff 2001). The study adds to
the literature by demonstrating, for the first time, that a
think-aloud enhanced the comprehension of narratives
of children with SLI, all of whom, moreover, had marked
difficulties with both expressive and receptive language.
Furthermore, the benefits of the think-aloud (versus un-
interrupted reading) extended to an age-matched TLD
comparison group.
Group comparisons (SLI versus TLD) and question
Despite the positive effects of the think-aloud, children
with SLI were, as we expected, significantly less accurate
than same-age peers in their literal understanding of nar-
rative texts, and in their responses to questions requiring
inferences. Given that the participants simultaneously
read and listened to the text during testing, and that
the stories were written below grade-level about familiar
or accessible topics, our findings are unlikely uniquely
due to difficulties with decoding, or inadequate world
knowledge. Rather, the results are more likely due to par-
ticipants’ language levels, and their levels of inferencing
during reading, addressed in the next section. The con-
tribution of language is supported by the correlational
data showing a strong and positive relationship between
standardized language measures and scores on the ex-
perimental comprehension questions. The findings are
also in line with previous research demonstrating poorer
text comprehension in children with SLI, regardless of
whether texts are written or oral (Bishop and Adams
1990, Botting and Adams 2005, Dodwell and Bavin
2008, Norbury and Bishop 2002, Wright and Newhoff
In keeping with our predictions, the literal ques-
tions were nonetheless less difficult than the inferential
questions (informational and causal), for both groups.
Scores on the two inferential question types did not dif-
fer in either group, in contrast with Wright and Newhoff
(2001) who found that scores on informational ques-
tions exceeded those on causal questions for groups with,
and without, language-learning disabilities. The discrep-
ancy in findings might be explained in three ways. First,
the stories in the present study were intentionally writ-
ten with gaps in order to elicit inferences. Wright and
Newhoff’s stories may have had greater coherence as they
were also designed to assess story retelling; the informa-
tional inferences invited by their texts may have been less
challenging, leading to better performance on the infor-
mational questions than on the causal ones. Second, the
LLD group in their study had better receptive skills than
the SLI group in our study, possibly leading to better
overall understanding and subsequently, better infor-
mational inferencing. Thirdly, both informational and
causal inferences rely to some degree on world knowl-
edge. When language impairments are mixed (i.e., re-
ceptive and expressive), such knowledge is likely more
seriously compromised, perhaps rendering the two in-
ference types equally difficult and explaining the lack of
differences for our SLI group. For the TLD group, the
similarity of scores for both informational and causal
questions in our study might have a different explana-
tion; the participants may have simply found the two
question types equally easy, given the stories used here,
though only a minority scored at ceiling.
Think-aloud statements and correlations with
The number of causal statements produced by chil-
dren in the think-aloud condition correlated with scores
on both the informational and causal comprehension
questions, while the number of informational state-
ments did not. Perhaps causal statements were associated
with both types of inferential comprehension questions
because they helped children create a coherent story
with a causal chain of events that could subsequently
be supplemented with elaborative information (i.e., in-
formational inferences). At the same time, children in
the SLI group made fewer inferential statements than
the TLD group; this relative weakness in causally con-
necting and elaborating text propositions during reading
646 Brenna McClintock et al.
could help explain their weaker performance on infer-
ential comprehension questions.
No significant group differences were found for the
number of literal statements, nor did literal statements
correlate with comprehension scores. This finding is
broadly consistent with Cain and Oakhill’s (1999) find-
ing that inferencing contributed unique variance to
comprehension whereas measures of literal recall did
not. The lack of correlation of literal statements with
comprehension might also be partly due to their relative
rarity; the results indicated that both groups produced
fewer literal statements than inferential ones, possibly
because they interpreted the think-aloud task as one
in which they were being asked to make sense of and
elaborate the text, rather than reiterate it.
The CELF-4 scores (Core Language, Receptive Lan-
guage and Expressive Language) correlated more con-
sistently and strongly than the number of think-aloud
statements with comprehension question scores. One
plausible interpretation of these findings is that syntac-
tic and semantic abilities (measured by the CELF-4)
have a greater impact on text comprehension than in-
ferencing, at least as measured here by calculating in-
ferential statements. This does not, however, mean that
the think-aloud procedure is not useful, given that in-
tervention might target both basic language skills and
‘higher-level’ language.
A second interpretation is that the number of state-
ments shows only a modest association with compre-
hension scores because it is the reflection entailed in
the think-aloud that matters, rather than the statements
per se. One could test this hypothesis by comparing
the think-aloud procedure to other forms of concurrent
reflection. A third possibility is that the quality of chil-
dren’s inferences might be more strongly correlated with
comprehension than the number of inferences; this is
an interesting issue to explore in future work.
Limitations and additional directions for future
Some directions for future research have been alluded to
in our discussion of the correlational data. In the present
study, the inclusion of a younger, language-matched
group might also have provided additional insights into
the relationship between language skill and inferencing,
though including a younger group would have intro-
duced a new challenge of controlling the stories to suit
a wider range of skills. Adjusting the level of the texts
upwards might also have been an informative avenue;
indeed, had children in the present study been presented
with grade level texts and asked to read them indepen-
dently, the gap between children with SLI and TLD may
have been even wider than that observed here.
The design in the present study might also be en-
hanced in future studies by having two think-aloud con-
ditions: one in which participants would hear texts read
aloud, and another in which they would read silently.
In the present study, participants read a text silently as
the examiner read it aloud to minimize comprehension
difficulties that might arise from inadequate decoding.
Children with SLI might plausibly inference less in in-
dependent reading, but we have no reason to believe
that this would render the think-aloud ineffective. If, as
we have suggested, the think-aloud improves childrens
comprehension by prolonging engagement with a text,
stimulating inferencing, and promoting comprehension
monitoring, then it should affect comprehension re-
gardless of text presentation (aural, written, or com-
bination). Nevertheless, this hypothesis awaits further
Practical implications
The present study confirms that a think-aloud task can
provide insights into the nature of inferences made by
school-age children with TLD and SLI, and can also
positively influence their comprehension of narrative
texts. The feasibility of using the think-aloud to assess
and promote inferencing in instructional or intervention
contexts, particularly for children with SLI, is a promis-
ing direction for future research. There is an ample body
of work demonstrating that direct explanation, mod-
elling, guided practice, reciprocal teaching, and cooper-
ative learning are all fruitful avenues for teaching reading
comprehension strategies in classrooms (National Insti-
tute for Literacy 2001). Think-alouds, in particular, have
been shown to enhance comprehension strategies, with
positive effects on reading comprehension for children
and adolescents (Kucan and Beck 1997). With respect to
children with SLI, a think-aloud procedure might be in-
tegrated to a classroom setting or to small group sessions
held in therapeutic settings. With effective guidance
from a teacher, teaching assistant, or speech–language
therapist, gains in comprehension might be made for a
number of students at once. One might also implement
and study paired think-alouds (involving two children),
or self-directed ones, where children would be taught
the procedure and gradually exercise increasing indepen-
dence in using it to boost their reading comprehension.
In the present study a think-aloud procedure was used
with children with SLI and their age-matched peers
to elicit their interpretation of narrative texts during
reading. This procedure improved comprehension
relative to an uninterrupted condition, as reflected in
children’s responses to literal, informational and causal
Thinking aloud effects on text comprehension by children with SLI 647
comprehension questions. The think-aloud also allowed
examination of the types and number of inferences
children generated. The number of causal inferences
children made correlated significantly with their
responses to both informational and causal comprehen-
sion questions. These findings are striking, given that
causal inferences play a critical role in creating a coherent
mental representation of texts, particularly narratives.
The think-aloud procedure requires further investi-
gation but shows promise as an instructional or inter-
vention strategy to improve literal and inferential com-
prehension in children with language impairments, as
well as their typically developing peers. It is amenable
to implementation by clinicians or educators, and could
be gradually taught to children so that they can take an
active role in ‘reading between the lines’ and in the pro-
cess, enjoy and learn more from the texts they encounter
in and out of school.
Declaration of interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest.
The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the
1. A number of inference taxonomies have been proposed in the
literature, most of which distinguish between inferences that
connect text by filling in gaps or elaborate the text in some way.
2. The participants had greater deficits in expressive language than
receptive; their mean standard score on receptive language tests
was 90.5, within normal limits but lower than both age- and
language-matched peers.
3. Yoshida (2008) uses the term ‘reactivity’ to describe the changes
to cognitive processes that may occur when individuals perform
a task and concurrently verbalize their thoughts.
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Appendix: Sample story with comprehension
Anna and her Dog
Anna was walking her dog. They stopped by the swings
to play. Anna’s dog was very good at playing fetch. Anna
threw the ball over and over again. She threw the ball
too far. It went into the woods. Anna waited but her dog
didn’t come back. Anna looked by the water fountain.
Her dog was not there. She looked by the baseball field.
The baseball players had not seen her dog. Anna looked
until it started to get dark. Finally, she started to walk
home. She passed by the swings on her way. Her dog
was waiting for her with the ball. Anna ran and gave her
dog a hug.
Literal questions
!Where did Anna and her dog stop to play with
the ball?
!What game did Anna play with her dog?
!Where did Anna look for her dog?
Causal questions
!Why didn’t Anna’s dog come back?
!Why did Anna’s dog wait for her by the swings?
!How did Anna feel when she found her dog?
Informational questions
!Where did Anna take her dog for a walk?
!Who did Anna ask if they had seen her dog?
!What time of day was it when Anna’s dog got lost?
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... However, such studies have reported some conflicting findings. Some indicate that children with DLD struggle with both literal and inferential comprehension questions relative to TD peers (Adams, Clarke & Haynes, 2009;Bishop & Adams, 1992;McClintock, Pesco & Martin-Chang, 2014), whilst others report that children with DLD have a selective problem with inferencing (Crais & Chapman, 1987;Dodwell & Bavin, 2008;Karasinski & Weismer, 2010;Ellis Weismer, 1985). In addition, others report that at the group level there are no significant differences in response accuracy on literal or inferential questions between children with DLD and TD children (Norbury & Bishop, 2002). ...
... They found that children with DLD found inferencing more challenging than their TD peers. This supported findings by McClintock et al. (2014) and Wright and Newhoff (2001); that both TD children and children with DLD were more successful at literal than inferential questions, and TD children performed more accurately than children with DLD on inferential questions in general. No studies have investigated inferencing in children with LL who do not meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of DLD. ...
... In their examination of inferencing skill, some of the aforementioned studies (Norbury & Bishop, 2002;McClintock et al., 2014) only report group differences, while others have examined predictors of inferencing skill (Botting & Adams, 2005;Adams et al., 2009;Karasinski & Weismer, 2010;Dodwell & Bavin, 2008). Predictors of inferencing skill for children with DLD include vocabulary knowledge (Botting & Adams, 2005), grammatical knowledge (Botting & Adams, 2005), sentence comprehension and age (Adams et al., 2009) and verbal working memory (Karasinski & Weismer, 2010;Dodwell & Bavin, 2008), as well as non-verbal IQ (Botting & Adams, 2005). ...
Purpose: Reading comprehension is a key indicator of academic and psychosocial outcomes. Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) tend to find reading comprehension challenging. This study aimed to explore the literal and inferential (cohesive, elaborative, and lexical) comprehension of children with DLD, their typically developing (TD) peers, and, uniquely, a group of children with low language (LL) proficiency. Method: Children aged 10-11 years with either typical development (n = 16), LL proficiency (n = 14), or DLD (n = 14) were recruited from 8 primary schools. They completed a battery of standardized language and literacy assessments. Responses to literal and inferential questions on the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-Second UK Edition (Wechsler, 2005) were analyzed. Results: A disproportionate difficulty in answering inferential relative to literal questions was found for the DLD group compared to the LL and TD groups. Children with DLD were significantly poorer at elaborative inferencing than both their peers with LL proficiency and TD peers, but there were no group differences in cohesive or lexical inferencing. There was a significant positive association between inferencing ability and vocabulary knowledge, single word reading accuracy, grammatical skill, and verbal working memory. The importance of single word reading accuracy was especially evident as a partial mediator of the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and inferencing ability. Conclusions: These results indicate that interventions targeting the reading comprehension of children with DLD should focus on elaborative inferencing skill. There are also clinical implications as the development of new standardized assessments differentiating between inference types is called for.
... This introduction is often accompanied by a rubric that provides students with developmentally appropriate language targets based on the CCSS (see Table 2). Instruction moves to a brief shared reading of a text passage, during which the SLP sparingly models the language of academic thinking in the form of think alouds (McClintock et al., 2014). Next, the SLP asks open questions about the first passage's key idea and facilitates student comments that will build and elaborate the idea. ...
Purpose This tutorial describes a comprehensive approach to the development of collaborative academic conversations in older students with language delays and impairments. Support materials including a link to an instructional video are provided. Conclusions These students require systematic, explicit instruction to develop competence and to acquire the thinking and language skills required to productively engage in a collaborative academic conversation. Speech-language pathologists are uniquely equipped to prepare students for gainful participation and to collaborate with classroom teachers, ensuring transfer of language and thinking skills. Supplemental Material
Digital healthy eating interventions are an increasingly important tool; however, poor adherence and high dropout rates may compromise efficacy. It is crucial to develop usability and feasibility studies to identify barriers and facilitators of user engagement. A two-iteration mixed-method study was conducted to assess perceptions of the usability and feasibility of CANVAS® as a platform to deliver intervention for children. Both iterations included a guided exploration of the platform, questionnaires (i.e., System Usability Scale and Enjoyment subscale from the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory [IMI]), and semi-structured interviews. The sample comprised nine child-parent dyads (i.e., sixth-grade children and their mothers) from a school in which the study was publicized. Overall, participants perceived the platform positively. Facilitators (e.g., enjoyability) and barriers (e.g., lack of digital literacy) were identified. Lastly, participants enrolled in both iterations improved their performance. Data from this study will be critical for the implementation of the intervention.
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Diglossia in the Arabic language refers to the existence of two varieties of the same language: the Spoken Arabic (SA) and the Literary Arabic (LA). This study examined the development of listening comprehension (LC) among diglossic Arabic K1–K3. For this purpose, a large sample of typically developing (TD; N = 210) and developmental language disorder children (DLD; N = 118) were examined using SA and LA texts. The analysis of variance conducted on their performance in LC revealed significant effects of K-level, group (TD vs. DLD) and text affiliation (SA vs. LA): higher scores in TD and in SA. A significant interaction between text affiliation and K-level was observed among the TD but not the DLD group. This interaction indicated that the gap in LC between the SA and LA varieties decreased with age only among TD children. The theoretical and pedagogical implications of these results are discussed.
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Background The use of mediated learning in cognitive training has been shown to be effective in enhancing students’ cognitive development. Nonetheless, its effects on language development are less explored. Aims This study examined the effects of an early cognitive intervention (Think Bright program) in enhancing the cognitive and language development of Hong Kong preschoolers with developmental delay. Method Sixty-eight children (48 boys and 20 girls; mean age = 58 months) with developmental delay were recruited from preschool rehabilitation centres and randomized to two groups (Think Bright training vs. active control). Each child in the Think Bright group received 12 sessions of 1-hr individual training on thinking skills over 6 months. The control group received the same amount of training based on the regular training regimen adopted at the rehabilitation centres. Results After a 6-month intervention, the Think Bright group significantly outperformed the control group in language, general cognition, analogical thinking, sequential thinking, and logical reasoning. The Think Bright teachers’ mediation skills significantly improved during the course of intervention and correlated moderately with the improvement in students’ language abilities. Conclusion This study has shown promising results on the effectiveness of using mediated learning in early cognitive intervention in enhancing both the cognitive and language development of preschoolers with developmental delay.
Although children with developmental language disorder demonstrate poor inferential comprehension, few studies have evaluated the effect of interventions to improve inferencing. This study aimed to investigate the efficacy of a small-group intervention designed to improve oral inferential comprehension of narrative discourse. Thirty-seven 5- to 6-year-old children with developmental language disorder participated. The participants were randomly allocated to the oral inferential comprehension (IC) intervention or a control phonological awareness (PA) intervention. Small-group sessions took place twice a week over 8 weeks. Participants were assessed on narrative comprehension and phonological awareness skills pre- and post-intervention, and after a maintenance period of 8 weeks. Compared to the control PA group, the participants in the IC group demonstrated a significant increase in inferential comprehension scores from pre- to post-intervention, which was maintained over time. In addition, the IC group scored significantly higher than the PA group for inferential comprehension on a post-intervention generalization measure. There was no significant difference between the two groups for literal comprehension scores at any assessment point. The results demonstrate that the small-group intervention was effective at improving inferential comprehension of narratives in 5- to 6-year-old children with developmental language disorder. Additionally, generalized improvement was shown across the narrative context, and improvements were maintained two months following the intervention.
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The purpose of this review was to introduce readers of Child Development to the meta-analytic structural equation modeling (MASEM) technique. Provided are a background to the MASEM approach, a discussion of its utility in the study of child development, and an application of this technique in the study of reading comprehension (RC) development. MASEM uses a two-stage approach: first, it provides a composite correlation matrix across included variables, and second, it fits hypothesized a priori models. The provided MASEM application used a large sample (N = 1,205,581) of students (ages 3.5–46.225) from 155 studies to investigate the factor structure and relations among components of RC. The practical implications of using this technique to study development are discussed.
To identify actions, teachers and school leaders can take to ensure equity in terms of opportunities to learn literacy. We reviewed the professional literature in four major areas, including opportunity to learn (OTL), student mobility and its impact on learning, grade-level retention and its impact on equity and future success, and systems that can provide students access to complex text. We note the value of each of these four constructs (OTL, mobility, retention, and access to complex texts) in ensuring that schools become increasingly equitable such that all students develop as literate members of society. We provide classroom and school-based examples for readers to consider as they work toward equity. Far too many schools are inequitable and some students fail to develop their literate lives. We provide ideas and actions that teachers and school teams can take to ensure that diverse students have the best chance possible to learn.
Purpose: Preschoolers with language impairment (LI) are prime candidates for early-literacy interventions, given their susceptibility for future reading difficulties. To date, most studies of early-literacy interventions for this population has assessed short-term impacts, with limited attention to whether initial effects are sustained over time. This study was designed to evaluate longitudinal impacts of print-focused read-alouds implemented by early childhood special education teachers for a clinic sample of children with LI. Method: Assessment data available for 172 children with LI were analyzed to examine their print knowledge 1-year postintervention. Measures examined children's alphabet knowledge, print concepts, and name-writing skills, which were used to derive a print-knowledge composite. Results: Results of hierarchical linear models examining children's print knowledge at 1-year postintervention showed that the effect size (d = 0.20) favoring the treatment group was similar to that observed one year prior (d = 0.21) at the end of intervention, suggesting that results did not fade over time. Results also showed that children with LI and comorbid low nonverbal cognition benefited the most from the intervention delivered 1 year earlier. Conclusion: The maintenance of short-term effects to 1-year postintervention supports the value of early childhood teachers using print-focused read-alouds to improve the early-literacy skills of children with LI in their classrooms.
The study examines the effects of a short period of explicit instruction on the narrative comprehension of French-speaking kindergarteners, as measured by story retell and comprehension questions. A group of kindergarteners that received explicit instruction ( n = 15) was compared to a control group that was exposed to the same storybooks and afterwards shared related experiences ( n = 15). In the explicit instruction group, comprehension was facilitated through instruction on story grammar, cause–effect relationships, and the internal states of characters. Instructional strategies included explanation, modelling of the identification of story components, guided practice, feedback, and the use of visuals to map story elements, depict causes and effects, and represent internal states. At posttest, children in the explicit instruction group had significantly higher scores on the retell task, as expected, but not on the comprehension questions, a finding we discuss in light of task demands. Although further investigation is needed, the retell results are consistent with findings by others, demonstrating the benefits of instruction on children’s narrative skills. The study is the first we are aware of to assess instruction of brief duration and for French-speaking children, and one of the very few to examine explicit instruction with kindergarteners, regardless of language. Narrative instruction of the kind reported here might be of particular interest to speech-language therapists given the benefits that accrue to children as well as the opportunities that such instruction provides for ‘push in’ service delivery and collaboration with classroom educators.
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This is a review of research on thinking aloud in reading comprehension that considers thinking aloud as a method of inquiry, a mode of instruction, and a means for encouraging social interaction. As a method of inquiry, the analysis of verbal reports provided by readers thinking aloud revealed the flexible and goal-directed processing of expert readers. As a mode of instruction, thinking aloud was first employed by teachers who modeled their processing during reading, making overt the strategies they were using to comprehend text. Subsequently, instructional approaches were developed to engage students themselves in thinking aloud. Such endeavors revealed facilitation effects on text understanding. Current efforts to engage students in constructing meaning from text in collaborative discussions seem to indicate a new direction for thinking aloud research, one in which social interaction assumes increased importance.
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We report a longitudinal study investigating the predictors of reading comprehension and word reading accuracy between the ages of 7 to 8 (UK Year 3) and 10 to 11 years (Year 6). We found that different skills predicted the development of each. Reading comprehension skill measured in Year 3 was a strong predictor of comprehension in Year 6; vocabulary and verbal IQ also made significant unique contributions to the prediction of comprehension ability across time. Three comprehension components (inference, comprehension monitoring, and knowledge and use of story structure) emerged as distinct predictors of reading comprehension in Year 6, even after the autoregressive effect of comprehension was controlled. For word reading accuracy, early measures of word reading accuracy and phonemic awareness predicted later performance.
The purpose of the present investigation was to examine story retelling and inference abilities in children with language-learning disabilities (LLD). There were 10 children in the LLD group and 20 who showed normal acquisition of language, 10 of whom were matched for chronological age (NACA) and 10 of whom were matched for language ability (NALA) to an LLD child. Stimuli were both orally presented (Heard Condition) and read silently (Read Condition) by the participants. Four stories were presented in each of these conditions. After each story, participants completed two tasks: retelling the story and answering questions that were either factual or that required inferencing. Generally, results indicated that children with LLD and NALA retold stories and drew inferences more poorly than NACA children regardless of stimulus presentation mode; children with LLD drew inferences best with orally presented stimuli; and children with NACA and NALA drew inferences best with stimuli presented in writing. A number of possible explanations for the differences between groups are discussed, including working memory and attending to relevant information in text, both of which are skills needed for reading comprehension. These children's difficulties in making inferences were attributed to impairments in cognitive functions. Clinically, then, teaching children with LLD to make inferences from both text and oral narratives would address impaired cognitive functions and reading comprehension abilities.
A group of 61 schoolchildren with specific language impairment (SLI) was compared with a control group on a comprehension task, in which the child was questioned about a story that had been presented either orally or as a series of pictures. Half the questions were literal, requiring the child to provide a detail that had been mentioned or shown explicitly in the story. The remainder required the child to make an inference about what had not been directly shown or stated. SLI children were impaired on this task, even after taking into account "comprehension age," as assessed on a multiple-choice test. However, the effects of mode of presentation and question type were similar for control and SLI groups. Children who fitted the clinical picture of semantic-pragmatic disorder had lower scores than other SLI children on this task. In addition, they were more prone to give answers that suggested they had not understood the question. However, as with the other SLI children, there was no indication that they had disproportionate difficulty with inferential questions. It is concluded that SLI children are impaired in constructing an integrated representation from a sequence of propositions, even when such propositions are presented nonverbally.
To clarify the role of decoding in reading and reading disability, a simple model of reading is proposed, which holds that reading equals the product of decoding and comprehension. It follows that there must be three types of reading disability, resulting from an inability to decode, an inability to comprehend, or both. It is argued that the first is dyslexia, the second hyperlexia, and the third common, or garden variety, reading disability.
This study investigated conscious understanding during narrative comprehension as revealed through the use of think‐aloud methodology. An analytical model of conscious understanding is presented, which assumes that inference and memory processes function together in order to construct a coherent, mental representation of a text. Three working memory operations were operationally identified in the think‐aloud protocols: (1) activation of relevant world knowledge in working memory, (2) maintenance of information in working memory, and (3) retrieval of text and prior thoughts from a long‐term memory store. These memory operations are functionally necessary to three kinds of inferences that also occurred in the protocols: (1) explanation, (2) association, and (3) prediction. The data revealed that understanding is, for the most part, explanation based. Memory processes serve to provide the information that readers use to explain sentences or thoughts that occur while they try to understand the text. Coherent understanding is achieved by keeping available via maintenance or retrieval higher order goal information that explains a number of actions and outcomes of a plan. The data are discussed with reference to current models of text understanding and the use of thinking‐aloud methods in the general study of discourse comprehension.
This study identified strategies used by Grade 6 readers reading three short narratives. Differences in strategy use were studied with reading proficiency and background knowledge varied. Eighty students-40 low-proficiency and 40 high-proficiency readers-comprised the sample. Equal numbers of students were randomly assigned to read either three passages on familiar topics or three passages on unfamiliar topics and to report verbally their thinking as they constructed interpretations. Qualitative analyses showed similarities and differences between young readers' inference strategies and those used by adults as reported in the seminal work of Collins, Brown, and K. M. Larkin (1980). The quantitative analyses showed that an interaction between proficiency and text familiarity determined frequency of strategy use. The strategies most frequently associated with high-proficiency and high-background-knowledge readers are shifting focus when an impasse is reached, confirming prior interpretations, and empathizing with story content. The strategies most frequently associated with low-proficiency and low-background-knowledge readers are assuming default interpretations and withholding or reiterating information.
A significant gap in emerging literacy intervention with preschoolers relates to a skill that is crucial to later reading comprehension–the ability to engage in inferencing. This article presents a theoretical rationale for fostering inferential language during book sharing with preschool children, and provides research-based ideas for how this can be best accomplished. It is suggested that, at the preschool level, children can be supported in their ability to make inferences about stories read aloud to them by having adults ask both literal and inferential questions that, first and foremost, relate to the causal structure of stories. Additionally, questions focused on informational and evaluative inferences serve to further enhance story comprehension. A rubric for connecting such questions to the elements of story grammar is offered, and a specific example from a published preschool level storybook is provided. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.