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Children who struggle with writing are a heterogeneous group and may experience difficulties in a range of domains, including spelling, reading, and oral language. These difficulties are reflected in their writing and may influence their responsiveness to writing interventions. The effectiveness of a targeted sentence-combining intervention to improve the writing skills of 71 struggling writers, aged 7 to 10 years, was compared with a spelling intervention and a business as usual (waiting list) control condition. Some struggling writers also performed poorly on measures of reading and oral language. Children's performance on a range of writing measures were assessed at baseline ( t 1), immediate post-test ( t2) and delayed post-test ( t 3). Children receiving the sentence-combining intervention showed significant improvements in the sentence combining measure at t 2 and t 3 compared to both the spelling intervention and waiting list controls. Exploratory regression analyses found that children in the sentence-combining intervention, with a low t 1 sentence combining score, low reading skills or better t 1 spelling skills, were more likely to show improvements at t 2. Findings indicate that when devising interventions for struggling writers, specific profiles of skills should be considered. Specifically, sentence combining may be more appropriate for SWs whose primary area of difficulty is reading, rather than poor spelling or oral language.
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Vol.:(0123456789)
Reading and Writing (2021) 34:1825–1850
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-021-10135-8
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:
response tointervention
KirstyWalter1,2 · JulieDockrell1· VinceConnelly2
Accepted: 1 February 2021 / Published online: 20 February 2021
© The Author(s) 2021
Abstract
Children who struggle with writing are a heterogeneous group and may experience
difficulties in a range of domains, including spelling, reading, and oral language.
These difficulties are reflected in their writing and may influence their responsive-
ness to writing interventions. The effectiveness of a targeted sentence-combin-
ing intervention to improve the writing skills of 71 struggling writers, aged 7 to
10years, was compared with a spelling intervention and a business as usual (waiting
list) control condition. Some struggling writers also performed poorly on measures
of reading and oral language. Children’s performance on a range of writing meas-
ures were assessed at baseline (t1), immediate post-test (t2) and delayed post-test
(t3). Children receiving the sentence-combining intervention showed significant
improvements in the sentence combining measure at t2 and t3 compared to both
the spelling intervention and waiting list controls. Exploratory regression analyses
found that children in the sentence-combining intervention, with a low t1 sentence
combining score, low reading skills or better t1 spelling skills, were more likely to
show improvements at t2. Findings indicate that when devising interventions for
struggling writers, specific profiles of skills should be considered. Specifically, sen-
tence combining may be more appropriate for SWs whose primary area of difficulty
is reading, rather than poor spelling or oral language.
Keywords Intervention· Writing· Sentence combining· Spelling· Writing
difficulties
* Kirsty Walter
kwalter@brookes.ac.uk
1 Institute ofEducation, University College London, London, UK
2 Department ofPsychology, Health andProfessional Development, Oxford Brookes University,
Gipsy Lane, OxfordOX30BP, UK
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K.Walter et al.
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Introduction
Writing development
Becoming a skilled writer is necessary for academic success and participation in
the global economy; yet, it is well-established that around 20% of students strug-
gle with the writing process (DfE, 2019; Graham & Harris, 2009; NCES, 2012).
The written products of struggling writers (SWs) are exemplified by shorter texts,
increased errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, reduced lexical diversity,
poorly constructed, short or incomplete sentences, and poor compositional qual-
ity (APA, 2013; Dockrell & Connelly, 2015; Dockrell, Connelly, & Arfe, 2019;
Saddler, Behforooz, & Asaro, 2008a, b; Sumner, Connelly, & Barnett, 2014).
Understanding the skills that underpin writing development supports the develop-
ment of interventions for SWs.
Models are designed to capture both the skills that children need to produce
a written text, the more distal factors which underpin these skills and the wider
task environment (Graham etal., 2018). The initial models of writing develop-
ment identified key components in the writing process (transcription and idea
generation) and other factors, such as working memory, which supports written
text production (Berninger & Winn, 2006; McCutchen, 1996; Olive, 2014). More
recently, researchers have moved towards considering both direct and indirect
factors influencing writing development (Dockrell etal., 2019; Kim & Schatsche-
nider, 2017). Proximal factors include those skills which directly impact on the
production of written text such as spelling. By contrast, distal factors are those
which indirectly impact on the writing process, such as oral language and read-
ing. SWs often experience associated difficulties in these areas (see O’Rourke,
Connelly, & Barnett, 2018 for a review).
The role of reading and oral language in writing interventions remains under-
explored. Poor readers produce texts with more spelling errors, less lexical diver-
sity and reduced compositional quality than typically-developing peers (Cara-
volas, Hulme, & Snowling, 2001; Sumner, 2013; Sumner etal., 2014). Reading
abilities are most closely associated with spelling skills (Abbott & Berninger,
1993; Berninger etal., 2008) and so reading may influence writing both directly
and indirectly through spelling. By corollary oral language at word, sentence
and text level supports text generation (Abbott & Berninger, 1993; Babayiğit &
Stainthorp, 2010; Kim, Al Otaiba, Folsom, Greulich, & Puranik, 2014; Oling-
house & Leaird, 2009; Savage, Kozakewich, Genesee, Erdos, & Haigh, 2017;
Sénéchal, Hill, & Malette, 2018). The importance of oral language in supporting
written text production is evident by the significant difficulties in writing experi-
enced by children with language problems (for review see Graham, Hebert, Fish-
man, Ray, & Rouse, 2020).
There is evidence which indicates that children with poor oral language are
less responsive to effective reading interventions (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002) or
may need more intensive interventions as such poor oral language skills may also
affect writing interventions. By extension, reading difficulties may reduce the
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
efficacy of writing interventions given that reading interventions support writing
performance (Graham et al., 2018). Thus, understanding the indirect influence
of oral language and reading to SWs response to intervention provides the basis
for developing effective and targeted writing interventions. The current study
explores the role of reading (both directly and indirectly through spelling) and
oral language (listening comprehension and oral expression) in SWs responsive-
ness to writing interventions.
Effective interventions forstruggling writers
Identifying where to intervene for SWs in upper primary (ages 7 to 11) is challeng-
ing as although many children will have automaticity in the word-level transcrip-
tion skills (e.g. spelling) the classroom teaching has typically moved to higher-
level skills, such as morphology and sentence-level skills (Applebee & Langer,
2011; Dockrell, Marshall, & Wyse, 2016). The process of identifying and adapt-
ing effective interventions can be considered within the Response to Intervention
(RTI) framework (Jimerson, Burns, & VanDerHeyden, 2007). Tier 1 interventions
focus on whole-class teaching practices when children who do not respond to regu-
lar effective classroom teaching, progressing them to interventions at Tier 2 should
be considered. Tier 2 interventions are designed to supplement classroom-based
instruction and typically occur in small groups. Finally, those still falling behind
need to progress to more intensive and specialised Tier 3 interventions, delivered
individually. The current study implements a writing intervention designed to sup-
plement classroom teaching by providing small-group interventions to support the
writing skills in those students who are most at risk of falling behind their peers and
are implemented as a Tier 2 intervention (Jimerson etal., 2007).
Sentence combining interventions
Complex, syntactically-correct sentences characterise competent writing. Construct-
ing well-formed sentences can be problematic for SW’s. Berninger etal., (2011) found
the ability to combine syntactically-correct written sentences develops around seven
to eight years of age in typically-developing children. However, this can be delayed
for SWs, for whom sentence-level difficulties are a significant weakness up to age 11
and often beyond (Dockrell etal., 2019). Research has established sentence-combining
teaching practice as an effective way to develop sentence-level competence for children
aged five to 18years, with moderate to large effect sizes (Andrews etal., 2004; Gra-
ham etal., 2012; Graham, Harris, & Hebert, 2011; Graham & Perin, 2007; Saddler,
Ellis-Robinson, & Asara-Saddler, 2018; Santangelo & Olinghouse, 2009). Sentence-
combining instruction teaches students to combine two or more simple sentences to
make one grammatically correct, sentence. Studies have found this leads to significant
improvements in sentence-combining ability and the syntactic maturity of written sen-
tences and also improves the compositional quality of children’s stories, with moderate
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K.Walter et al.
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to large effect sizes (Andrews etal., 2004; Datchuk & Kubina, 2013; Graham & Perin,
2007; Saddler, Asaro, & Behforooz, 2008a, b).
Morphological spelling interventions
Children who experience significant difficulties with spelling may find sentence level
interventions too challenging (Berninger & Amtmann, 2003). Consequently, a word-
level spelling intervention complementing existing classroom-based teaching may be
more effective. Morphological spelling interventions reflect the shift in focus of class-
room-based instruction in upper primary from phonology to morphology. Research has
shown morphological spelling interventions can improve children’s spelling, sentence-
combining, and text-level writing (Bryant & Nunes, 2000; McCutchen & Stull, 2015;
McCutchen, Stull, Herrera, Lotas, & Evans, 2014; Nunes, Bryant, & Olsson, 2003). A
series of studies by Nunes and Bryant (2006), with children eight years of age, dem-
onstrated that making children explicitly aware of morphemic spelling principles,
such as the use of derivational suffixes, improved children’s spelling ability. Similarly,
McCutchen etal., (2014) found significant improvements in 10–11-year-olds’ use of
morphologically complex words in a sentence-combining task and an extended writing
measure following a 12-week morphological spelling intervention.
Assessing writing
Measures to identify SWs need to be reliable while capturing the key components of
written text production. Measures must also discriminate between typically developing
writers and SWs at different points in development (Bew, 2011; Dockrell, Connelly,
Walter, & Critten, 2017). Standardised measures often focus on the compositional qual-
ity of the text, using holistic or analytical scoring. These can be quick to mark; how-
ever, they can be unreliable and often lack the sensitivity to change which is required
for evaluating intervention effectiveness and often cannot be administered repeatedly
across short time intervals (Dockrell etal., 2017; Dunsmuir etal., 2015).
Curriculum-based Measures of Writing (CBM-W), have a dual focus on the writ-
ers’ productivity and accuracy; they are quick to administer, reliable, valid, sensitive to
change, and able to discriminate between SWs and typically-developing children aged
7–12 at the word-, sentence- and text-level (Dockrell etal., 2017; Gansle, Noell, Van-
DerHeyden, Naquin, & Slider, 2002; Weissenburger & Espin, 2005). CBM-Ws involve
pupils writing, for a short (three to seven minutes) time, in response to a prompt, texts
are then scored on a range of measures (Dockrell etal., 2017; Gansle etal., 2002).
These measures can be repeated over time and thus offer a useful tool for evaluating
interventions.
Current study
Significant numbers of students struggle to learn to write; therefore, practitioners
need access to effective resources that can be utilized as Tier 2 interventions. To
date, research suggests that sentence combining interventions have the potential
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
to improve children’s writing. Yet little is known about the moderating effect of
reading or oral language in response to the sentence combining interventions nor
whether word-level interventions would be more effective for these children.
To address these limitations, the current study used a RTI framework to eval-
uate the effectiveness of a Tier 2 sentence-combining (SC), intervention on writ-
ten composition skills in comparison to a word-level morphological spelling (MS)
intervention and a waiting list control (WLC) group receiving standard classroom
teaching. The SC intervention was adapted from the work of Saddler and colleagues
(e.g. Graham etal., 2008; Saddler, 2012; Saddler & Graham, 2005) to be a Tier 2,
small group, intervention to support SWs. Furthermore, since children’s writing is
influenced indirectly by oral language and reading, the current study explored the,
currently neglected, role of these skills in children’s response to intervention. A
CBM-W measure was used to assess writing; capturing both productivity (e.g. total
words written, words spelled correctly, and number of sentences) and accuracy (e.g.
proportion of correct word sequences) at the word-, sentence- and text level.
It was hypothesized that the sentence-combining intervention would improve
sentence combining ability, compositional quality and measures of productivity and
accuracy captured by the CBM-W. It was also expected that children with poorer
language and spelling skills would be more resistant to change. The MS intervention
was predicted to improve spelling accuracy within the text. It was anticipated that
this intervention would be beneficial for weaker spellers.
Method
Participants
Participants were drawn from three primary schools in the UK which were also par-
ticipating in a parallel longitudinal study on children’s writing development. Screen-
ing for the intervention, conducted at the start of the academic year, was the longi-
tudinal study’s first-time point. 532 children were screened in years 4 (aged 8–9)
and 5 (aged 9–10) and were identified as SWs if, on a standardised writing measure
(Progress in English 9, PiE, Kirkup, Reardon, & Sainsbury, 2006), they were in the
bottom 20% of their year group from each school.
These 123 identified SWs had significantly lower writing scores on the PiE
screening measure than their typically-developing peers, t (326) = 11.72, p < 0.001,
d = -1.73. Parental and child consent was provided. Two further exclusionary cri-
teria removed children who were not monolingual English language speakers and
children already receiving another writing intervention. Thus, a total of 108 SWs
were invited to participate in the intervention, and 76 (70.4%) received parental con-
sent. Attrition rate was 6.6% as five participants failed to complete the intervention
through withdrawal (n = 2) or disruptive behaviour (n = 3).
A total of 71 SWs, aged between 7years 10 months to 10years and 2months
(mean age = 9.08, SD = 7.85) completed the intervention period and were present for
t1 and at least one post-test session (t2 and, or t3). There were 22 girls (10 from
school 1, 7 from school 2, 5 from school 3) and 49 boys (24 from school 1, 13 from
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K.Walter et al.
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school 2, 12 from school 3) and no significant school-based differences in t1 perfor-
mance were found in any measures in the study.
Assessment battery
The assessment battery was administered in class for the PiE, 1:1 for the oral lan-
guage and reading measures, or in small groups for CBM-W.
Screening andmatching
Progress inEnglish (screening) Children completed the long form for the PiE 9
(Kirkup etal., 2006) in two blocks on consecutive days. This included narrative and
non-narrative reading comprehension tasks, a story writing task, a letter-writing task,
a ten-word spelling test and a grammar test. SWs were identified using the writing
subtests; correlation with teacher assessment levels for writing = 0.65; reliability of
the whole PiE assessment battery = 0.93.
Oral expression (t1) Wechsler Individual Achievement Test 2nd Edition UK (WIAT-
II) Oral Expression (Wechsler, 2005) subtests were administered to assess children’s
ability to communicate using oral language. There are three subtests for this age
range, word fluency, visual passage retell and giving directions. The visual passage
retell task requires children to look at tell a story based on a pictorial storyboard.
Stories are marked, 0, 1 or 2, with the inclusion of specific story elements and elabo-
ration being rewarded. Test–retest reliability = 0.86, internal reliability = 0.83–0.89.
The standardised score for this scale was used as a measure of children’s oral expres-
sion.
Listening comprehension (t1) WIAT-II Listening Comprehension (Wechsler, 2005)
subtests (receptive vocabulary, sentence comprehension and expressive vocabulary)
were administered to assess children’s ability to understand what they are hearing;
reliability = 0.80. The standardised score for this scale was used as a measure of chil-
dren’s listening comprehension.
Single word reading (t1) The British Ability Scales 2nd Edition (BAS-II, Elliott,
Smith, & McCulloc, 1997) word reading subtest was administered to assess chil-
dren’s oral reading of single words, with a focus on their word decoding skills; reli-
ability = 0.93. The measure’s ability score was used to assess children’s single word
reading skills.
Target measures
Sentence combining (t1, t2, t3) Children completed all five items, including those
designed for older children, from the WIAT-II Sentences subtest (Wechsler, 2005).
They combined a series of five sentences, of gradually increasing complexity in writ-
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
ing. Each sentence received a score of 0, 1 or 2. Therefore, the maximum score was
10. Inter-rater reliability κ = 0.86.
Single word spelling (t1, t2, t3) The BAS-II (Elliott etal., 1997) single word spelling
subtest was administered to assess children’s spelling ability. Children were asked to
write the given words which were read out alone and in the context of a sentence.
Words gradually increased in difficulty, ceiling and basal rules were applied, and
raw scores were converted to ability scores. The test was discontinued when children
passed two or fewer words in a block. Reliability = 0.91.
Writing product: curriculum‑based measures ofwriting (CBM‑W)
The outcome measure of intervention effectiveness was the CBM-W narrative writ-
ing task (Dockrell, Connelly, Walter, & Critten, 2015) undertaken by the children
at all three assessment time points. Children were given five minutes to write in
response to a prompt, e.g. One day I had the best weekend ever. This measure was
used to establish the extent to which the interventions were effective in generalizing
to writing by assessing writing productivity and accuracy.
Compositional quality (t1, t2, t3) The text-level outcome was the compositional qual-
ity of the text; this was scored using an adaptation of the WIAT-II Holistic Scoring
criteria for written expression (Wechsler, 2005). The stories were scored on a scale
from 0 to 6. A low score indicates a limited attempt to respond without additional
details. A high score means the text is well organised, clear, uses effective transitions
and vivid vocabulary. Inter-rater reliability, κ = 0.82.
CBM‑W accuracy measures (t1, t2, t3) Accuracy measures for the CBM-W were the
proportion of correct word sequences (CWS) and the proportion of words spelled
correctly (WSC). A CWS is defined as a pair of consecutive words that are grammati-
cally and syntactically correct within the context of the phrase. Interrater reliability
(Cohen’s Kappa) for the proportion of CWS and WSC were 0.80 and 0.90, respec-
tively. All scoring followed the criteria set out by Dockrell etal., (2015).
CBM‑W productivity measures (t1, t2, t3) Productivity measures for the CBM-W task
were the total words written (TWW), the number of complete sentences (CS) and the
number of words in complete sentences (WiCS). A sentence was counted as com-
plete if it started with a capital letter, appropriate ending punctuation, had a recognis-
able subject and ending punctuation. Inter-rater reliability (Cohen’s Kappa) for these
measures were 1.00, 0.85 and 0.86, respectively. These were scored according to the
criteria developed by Dockrell etal., (2015).
CBM‑W lexical diversity (t1, t2, t3) In addition to the established scoring criteria for
CBM-W, the narrative scripts’ lexical diversity was analysed using the online soft-
ware, Text Inspector (textinspector.com). Due to the brevity of the texts and to enable
normalised gains to be calculated, Type Token Ratio (TTR) was selected as the meas-
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K.Walter et al.
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ure of lexical diversity. TTR is calculated by dividing the number of different words
(types) divided by the total number of words produced (tokens).
General procedure
SWs were matched in triads across intervention groups according to their reading
and oral language profiles. Children within each triad were randomly assigned to
one of the three intervention groups. There were no differences between the groups
(SC, MS and WLC) on the oral language and reading measures used for matching
(Table1). The descriptive statistics for these measures suggest many of the SWs also
had difficulties with oral language and reading. Furthermore, comparisons between
the intervention groups (SC, MS and WLC) at t1 showed they were equivalent in
the key measures of WIAT 2 sentence combining (F (2, 70) = 0.63, p = 0.535),
BAS spelling (F (2, 69) = 0.63, p = 0.535) and CBM compositional quality (F (2,
62) = 0.41, p = 0.665) (see Table2).
SWs in the intervention groups were given an intervention targeting either sen-
tence-combining or morphological spelling. Those in the WLC group continued
with regular teaching for the duration of the study. The interventions ran twice a
week for eight weeks, in small group sessions (4–6 children per group). Sessions
lasted 25–30 min. All sessions followed a standard manualized procedure, with a
script for each activity, within which it was possible to provide minor adaptations to
meet the needs of the individual children. The progress of SWs in the interventions,
during the intervention period, at both immediate post-test (t2) and 3-month delayed
follow up (t3) was compared to a WLC group. Both interventions were administered
by the first author.
Children’s writing (spelling, sentence combining and text level), reading,
and oral language skills were assessed at baseline (t1, mean age = 9.08 years,
SD = 7.93 months). Following the completion of the intervention writing skills
at the word-, sentence- and text-level (spelling, sentence combining and text pro-
duction measures from the CBM-W) were re-assessed (t2, mean age = 9.12 years,
SD = 7.85months). The post-test assessment battery was repeated at a 3-month fol-
low-up (t3, mean age = 9.05 years, SD = 7.84 months). Testing sessions were con-
ducted over two days. At the end of the study, those in the WLC group received the
SC intervention.
Intervention procedures
The SC programme was adapted from Saddler (2012). The alternative, MS interven-
tion programme was adapted from the work of Nunes and Bryant (Nunes & Bry-
ant, 2006; Nunes etal., 2003; Nunes, Bryant, & Olsson, 2009). Adaptations focused
on developing Tier 2, small group interventions for those at risk of falling behind,
which complemented classroom teaching. A brief outline of the interventions is pro-
vided below. Contact the first author for further details.
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
Table 1 Descriptive Statistics for matching variables by intervention group
SC, Sentence−combining; MS, Morphological Spelling; WLC, Waiting List Control
SC MS WLC One-way ANOVA
N Mean SD N Mean SD N Mean SD
Age (months) 23 107.52 7.83 26 108.65 8.40 22 110.45 7.39 F(2,70) = 0.78, p = .461
Oral language measures
WIAT-II Listening Comprehension Standard Score 23 87.00 13.53 26 89.34 10.96 22 87.45 12.91 F(2,70) = 0.25, p = .781
WIAT-II Oral Expression Standard Score 23 77.09 10.37 26 77.00 10.22 22 77.17 10.08 F(2,70) = 0.01, p = .987
Reading measures
BAS Single Word Reading Test Standard Score 23 90.43 11.00 26 84.31 15.28 22 87.27 12.55 F(2,70) = 0.33, p = .274
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K.Walter et al.
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Target intervention: sentence combining
The main body of each session provided strategies, or techniques, teaching the chil-
dren how to combine sentences, gradually increasing in complexity using guided
practice. For the first session, the researcher explained that they were going to learn
some ways to make their sentences better, children then practised sentence combin-
ing and discussed how they found the activity, they were then introduced to the first
strategy of identifying important words. Each subsequent session followed a stand-
ard format of a revision of the previous session (approximately 3min), then two or
three activities focused on practising verbal and written sentence combining (lasting
between 5 to 15min). The first activity typically began with explicit modelling by
the instructor, followed by guided practice. The final activity asked the children to
practice the skills independently. All sessions encouraged students to provide peer
feedback. Sessions finished with a summary (approximately 2min). The final two
sessions taught children to break long sentences into simple sentences and then
improve them. Children were encouraged to discuss answers, provide formative
feedback, and write down responses using either whiteboards or on paper.
Table3 shows the topics for each intervention session. An example script for a
whole session is presented in Fig.1.
Alternative intervention: morphological spelling
The main body of each session used activities or games to teach children mor-
phemes and their spellings. Children were given opportunities to receive feedback
Table 2 Raw score means and SD for WIAT-II sentence combining, BAS spelling and CBM-W compo-
sitional quality scores at each time point
SC = Sentence−combining intervention, MS = Morphological Spelling Intervention, WLC = Wait-
ing List Control. Maximum scores: WIAT−II Sentence Combining = 10, BAS Spelling Ability = 200,
CBM−W Compositional Quality = 5
SC mean (SD) MS mean (SD) WLC mean (SD)
WIAT-II sentence combining
t1 2.43 (1.50) 2.92 (1.90) 3.05 (2.03)
t2 4.04 (1.92) 2.96 (1.84) 2.95 (2.01)
t3 4.30 (2.22) 3.48 (1.78) 3.11 (1.91)
BAS spelling ability score
t1 92.00 (14.33) 86.88 (15.46) 89.38 (17.95)
t2 97.30 (12.65) 93.46 (17.33) 93.18 (14.72)
t3 98.43 (15.97) 95.26 (15.51) 96.53 (14.04)
CBM-W compositional quality
t1 1.76 (0.83) 1.75 (1.19) 2.00 (0.77)
t2 2.48 (0.85) 2.31 (1.12) 2.38 (1.02)
t3 2.39 (1.20) 2.04 (1.12) 2.18 (0.80)
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
and correct their answers. The target morphemic principles, and adapted instruc-
tional materials, were taken from Nunes and Bryant (2006), who designed a series
of inflectional and derivational morphological spelling interventions for 8-year-
olds. In session 1, children were introduced to the structure of the intervention and
told they were going to be taught some spelling rules; they discussed how they felt
about spelling and discussed the different ways words can be broken down using a
short spelling test. Subsequent sessions started with a revision of the previous ses-
sion and included two or three activities designed to support the learning of the ses-
sion’s principle. An example activity, called the ’analogy task’, taken from Nunes
and Bryant (2006) is presented in Fig.2, for this activity, children were asked to find
the missing word. Other activities included: grouping words into word classes, iden-
tifying morphemes, finding the missing word and discussion and identification of
affixes. See Table4 for an overview of the topics for each session. To control for dif-
ferences in the amount of time spent writing between the two interventions, children
wrote sentences using some of the target words at the end of each session.
Intervention fidelity
One researcher administered the interventions. To ensure intervention fidelity,
the researcher completed checklists designed to ensure each child participated
and received feedback and timed the sessions. Checklists did not differ between
Table 3 Overview of sentence combining intervention
Session Overview
1 Introduce sentence combining
Strategy 1: Identify important words within kernel sentences
2 Practice Strategy 1 when combining more than two sentences
3 Strategy 2: Using connectives
Practice on two sentences, with a connective provided
4 Practising rearranging the sentences using the two strategies learnt so far on two sentences
5 Practice skills so far on three sentences
6 The role of adjectives
7 Strategy 3: Alter some words by adding affixes
8 Practice Strategy 3 on three or more sentences
9 What makes a good sentence? Practice with less support combining two sentences
10 Practice Strategy 1 solo and combine 2–3 sentences
11 Develop understanding of connectives. Make own list of connectives and use these when
combining sentences
12 Group connectives into similar categories. Practice Strategy 2 with their connectives
13 Practice Strategy 1 and 2 solo, using connectives list, on two sentences
14 As above, with three or more sentences
15 Introduce de-combining sentences. Practice re-combining new simple sentences
16 Practice de-combining skills from session 15
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K.Walter et al.
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intervention sessions, and there was no difference in the duration of the interven-
tion sessions, t (10) = 0.24, p = 0.817, with the SC and MS interventions lasting
an average of 24.95 and 25.07min respectively. With the exception of one session
from the sentence combining intervention, where one activity was cut from the
session due to time constraints, all activities from each session were successfully
administered.
Fig. 1 Example session script for Sentence Combining Intervention, taken from Session
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Data analysis
Two approaches were taken to control for t1 performance. First, for those measures
with a maximum score (sentence combining, BAS spelling raw score, compositional
quality, CBM-W accuracy measures and CBM-W Lexical Diversity), normalized
Fig. 2 Examples of materials used for analogy game, used to teach suffixes. Adapted from Nunes and
Bryant (2006, pp. 71–74)
Table 4 Overview of morphological spelling intervention
Session Overview
1 Focus on breaking down simple words, e.g. letters, sounds or syllables
2 Explore receptive and expressive knowledge of word classes
3 Grouping words into word classes. Introduce the concept of morphemes
4 Count morphemes. Introduce and use affixes
5 Focus on prefixes that tell us numbers or opposites. Recognise similar
spelling patterns
6 Introduction to suffixes
7 Magic ’e’ when adding suffixes
8 Affixes for person words from verbs and nouns
9 Practice person word affixes
10 Difference between –ion and –ian: same sound, different spelling
11 Continue from previous session. Correct others mis-spellings
12 Past tense endings
13 Use the –less and –ful suffixes
14 Use the –en suffix
15 Recap magic ’e’ and person word suffixes
16 Recap prefixes for number, past tense suffix and –less and –full suffixes
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K.Walter et al.
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gain scores were calculated, these were analyzed using two-way analyses of variance
(ANOVAs). Second, for measures with no maximum score (CBM-W productivity
measures of TWW, CS, and WiCS), t1 performance was entered as a covariate in a
series of one-way analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs). Hedge’s g was used to estab-
lish the size of the effect for each analysis; effect sizes exceeding 0.40 are reported
in the text. Finally, for those measures with significant group-level differences,
exploratory regression analyses were conducted to explore the role of oral language,
spelling and reading skills in SWs responsiveness to the interventions.
Results
The results are presented in two sections; the first examines the impact of the inter-
vention on sentence-combining, compositional quality, spelling and the CBM-W
accuracy and productivity variables. The second section uses exploratory regression
analyses to examine the role of oral language, spelling, and reading skills in chil-
dren’s response to the interventions for measures where the SC intervention group
showed greater gains than the MS or WLC groups.
Intervention effectiveness
To examine differential progress across the three groups between t1 and the t2 and
t3 post-tests normalised gain scores were used for sentence combining, spelling,
compositional quality (for raw scores see Table2), and all the CBM-W accuracy
variables (for raw scores see Online Materials 1).
WIAT‑II sentence combining
Results from the mixed-measures ANOVA (Table5) for WIAT-II sentence combin-
ing revealed a significant main effect of the intervention group (F (2, 62) = 5.81,
p = 0.005,
𝜂2
𝜌
= 0.16). Post hoc comparisons (LSD adjustment) revealed the SC group
showed greater gains than the MS group who in turn showed greater gains than the
WLC group (see Fig. 3). There was no significant main effect of time from t2 to
t3 (F (1, 62) = 1.57, p = 0.215), and no significant group by time interaction (F (2,
62) = 0.05, p = 0.949).
Further analyses, using a Bonferroni correction (α = 0.025), show the difference
between groups was present at both t2 (F (2, 62) = 4.54, p = 0.014) and t3 (F (2,
62) = 4.67, p = 0.013). Post hoc tests (LSD adjustment) showed the SC group had
greater gains, with moderate to large effect sizes, than both the MS (g = 0.78) and
WLC (g = 0.76) groups at t2 (see Table 5). At t3, the MS group had made some
small gains, though not enough to reach significance. These gains meant the dif-
ference between the SC and MS groups at t3 was no longer significant, while still
maintaining a moderate effect size (g = 0.61). The significant difference between SC
and WLC groups was maintained at t3, with a large effect size (g = 0.84).
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Compositional quality
The mixed-measures ANOVA for compositional quality (Table 5) revealed no sig-
nificant main effect of group (F (2, 62) = 0.61, p = 0.548) or time (F (1, 62) = 1.21,
p = 0.277), and no significant group by time interaction (F (2, 62) = 0.76, p = 0.471).
Despite the non-significant main effect, it is worth noting the moderate effect size
(g = 0.48) present when comparing the SC and WLC groups at t3 (see Table5), this
suggests meaningful improvements, which did not reach significance, for children in
the SC group compared to the WLC group at t3.
Table 5 Mean normalised
gain scores, effect sizes at
each time point for sentence
combining, spelling ability and
compositional quality
SC = Sentence−combining intervention group, MS = Morphologi-
cal Spelling Intervention Group, WLC = Waiting List Control Group
SC MS WLC
N Mean (SD) N Mean (SD) N Mean (sSD)
WIAT-II sentence combining
t2 23 0.20 (0.29) 26 0.01 (0.23) 22 -0.10 (0.47)
t3 23 0.23 (0.31) 23 0.06 (0.23) 19 -0.06 (0.37)
Compositional quality
t2 21 0.13 (0.32) 24 0.14 (0.24) 17 0.08 (0.28)
t3 21 0.15 (0.26) 22 0.05 (0.29) 18 0.02 (0.27)
BAS spelling ability
t2 23 0.05 (0.06) 23 0.05 (0.06) 18 0.03 (0.07)
t3 23 0.06 (0.09) 23 0.07 (0.06) 18 0.06 (0.07)
Fig. 3 Normalised gain scores for WIAT-II Sentence Combining for sentence combining (SC) interven-
tion group compared to the morphological spelling (MS) and waiting list control groups (WLC)
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K.Walter et al.
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BAS spelling
The mixed-measures ANOVA for BAS Spelling ability (Table5) revealed no signifi-
cant main effect of group (F (1, 61) = 0.31, p = 0.735), a significant main effect of
time (F (1, 61) = 4.44, p = 0.039), with an increase in from t2 to t3 and no significant
group by time interaction (F (2, 61) = 0.17, p = 0.845).
CBM‑W accuracy
Results for the CBM-W accuracy measures are presented in Table6.
The sample size is smaller for some measures as normalised gain scores could
not be calculated for children who had the maximum score at t1.
The mixed-measures ANOVA for proportion of Words Spelled Correctly (WSC)
revealed no significant main effect of group (F (2, 55) = 1.04, p = 0.360) or time
(F (1, 55) = 0.14, p = 0.715), and no significant group by time interaction (F (2,
55) = 0.13, p = 0.884).
The mixed-measures ANOVA on proportion of Correct Word Sequences
(CWS) revealed no significant main effect of intervention group (F (2, 55) = 1.04,
p = 0.360). Despite the non-significant main effect for the intervention group, there
are moderate effect sizes present when comparing the SC to both the MS (g = 0.56)
and WLC (g = 0.69) groups at t2 (see Table 6). These effect sizes were not main-
tained at t3. There was a significant main effect of time (F (1, 55) = 5.07, p = 0.028,
𝜂2
𝜌
= 0.08) where all groups showed greater gains at t3 than at t2 and no significant
group by time interaction (F (2, 55) = 1.77, p = 0.180).
The mixed-measures ANOVA for the lexical diversity measure, TTR, revealed
the main effect of intervention group was approaching significance (F (2, 46) = 2.83,
p = 0.070), no significant main effect of time (F (1, 46) = 0.84, p = 0.364) and no
significant group by time interaction (F (2, 46) = 2.95, p = 0.062). Post-hoc tests
(LSD adjustment) found the MS group made significantly more gains in TTR than
the WLC group with a very large effect size (g = 1.01) at t3. There was also a mod-
erate effect size for the SC group as compared to the WLC group at t3 (g = 0.51).
Table 6 Means, SD and effect sizes for the normalised gain scores of CBM-W proportion of words
spelled correctly, proportion correct word sequences and TTR
SC = Sentence-combining intervention group, MS = Morphological Spelling Intervention Group,
WLC = Waiting List Control Group
Normalised gain variables SC Intervention MS Intervention WLC
N Mean (SD) N Mean (SD) N Mean (SD)
Proportion of words spelled correctly t2 19 0.31 (0.43) 23 0.08 (0.65) 16 0.07 (0.78)
t3 19 0.28 (0.45) 23 -0.06 (1.33) 16 0.08 (0.65)
Proportion of correct word sequences t2 21 0.21 (0.56) 21 -0.27 (1.05) 16 -0.49 (1.38)
t3 21 0.17 (1.00) 21 0.16 (0.84) 16 0.07 (0.64)
Lexical Diversity (TTR) t2 16 -0.48 (0.57) 18 -0.16 (0.49) 15 -0.41 (0.72)
t3 16 -0.25 (0.54) 18 -0.01 (0.35) 15 -0.59 (0.74)
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
Although not significant, there were moderate effect sizes for the MS group as com-
pared to the SC group at both t2 (g = 0.59) and t3 (g = 0.52).
CBM‑W productivity
A series of mixed-measures ANCOVAs, with t1 performance as a covariate, was
conducted to explore the performance over time and by intervention group on the
CBM-W productivity variables: TWW, CS, and WiCS. There were no significant
main effects or interactions. For further details, see Online Materials 2.
Summary
To summarise, results for intervention effectiveness found the SC intervention group
made significant gains, with moderate to large effect sizes, in comparison to the
MS and WLC groups, on the WIAT-II sentence combining task at t2. Differences
between the SC and WLC groups were maintained at t3. There was indicative evi-
dence that children in the MS group showed more gains in lexical diversity than
those in the WLC group. There were no other group-level differences on the other
writing measures (compositional quality, spelling, or CBM-W accuracy and produc-
tivity measures).
Exploratory analysis fortherole oforal language, reading andspelling.
To explore the potential impact of oral language, reading and spelling on interven-
tion efficacy, exploratory hierarchical regression analyses were conducted on WIAT-
II sentence-combining gain scores where group group-level differences were signifi-
cant. Children’s oral language, spelling and reading abilities along with t1 scores for
WIAT-II sentence-combining, were entered into the model first. The two dummy
coded intervention variables (with the SC intervention as the reference group) were
added to the second model. There were no issues of multicollinearity.
At t2, the results of the first model were significant (see Table 7). Children with
lower t1 sentence combining scores, lower reading ability and better spelling ability
showed greater gains at t2. The results of the second model, adding the intervention
groups, significantly improved the model. In addition to reading, t1 sentence com-
bining and spelling ability predictors, both the MS and WLC dummy coded vari-
ables predicted children’s normalised gain scores on the sentence combining task at
t2 suggesting sentence combining groups showed the most gains.
At t3, the relationships between the predictor variables and children’s normalised
gain scores changed (see Table8). At this point, the models remained significant, but
the second model did not significantly improve on the first model. Single-word read-
ing was no longer a significant predictor of children’s gain scores for the sentence
combining task. Instead, listening comprehension, spelling ability and t1 sentence
combining predicted gains at t3. Furthermore, at t3, MS intervention was catching
up with the SC intervention as this predictor was no longer significant; those in the
SC group were still doing better than those in the WLC condition.
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1842
K.Walter et al.
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Table 7 Hierarchical multiple regression for sentence combining normalised gain scores at t2
* p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001
Predictors t p Standardised β SE F df p Adj. R2R2 change
Model 1
Overall model 8.68 5, 66 < .001 .37 .42
Single word reading standard score − 2.17 .034* − 0.01 0.00
Listening comprehension standard score 1.25 .217 0.00 0.00
Oral expression standard score − 1.51 .135 − 0.01 0.00
BAS spelling ability 3.28 .002** 0.01 0.00
t1 sentence combining − 5.72 < .001*** − 0.12 0.02
Model 2
Overall model 7.63 7, 66 < .001 .42 .06
Single word reading standard score − 2.57 .013* − 0.01 0.00
Listening comprehension standard score 1.44 .154 0.00 0.00
Oral expression standard score − 1.60 .115 − 0.01 0.00
BAS spelling ability 3.23 .002** 0.01 0.00
t1 sentence combining − 5.38 < .001*** − 0.11 0.02
Morphological spelling group − 2.25 .028* − 0.19 0.08
Waiting list control group − 2.22 .030* − 0.20 0.09
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Table 8 Hierarchical Multiple Regression for sentence combining normalised gain scores at t3
* p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001
Predictors t p Standardised β SE F df p Adj. R2R2 change
Model 1
Overall model 10.66 5, 60 < .001 .45 .49
Single word reading standard score − 0.74 .464 0.00 0.00
Listening comprehension standard score 2.19 .033* 0.01 0.00
Oral expression standard score − 1.29 .204 0.00 0.00
BAS spelling ability 4.39 < .000*** 0.01 0.00
t1 sentence combining − 6.33 < .000*** − 0.12 0.02
Model 2
Overall model 9.02 7, 60 < .001 .48 .05
Single word reading standard score − 1.06 .295 0.00 0.00
Listening comprehension standard score 2.42 .019* 0.01 0.00
Oral expression standard score − 1.27 .208 0.00 0.00
BAS spelling ability 4.34 < .000*** 0.01 0.00
t1 sentence combining − 5.79 < .000*** − 0.11 0.02
Morphological spelling group − 1.83 .073 -0.13 0.07
Waiting list control group − 2.29 .026* − 0.19 0.08
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K.Walter et al.
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Discussion
The current study aimed to establish the effectiveness of a sentence-level, SC inter-
vention in comparison to a word-level MS intervention and a business as usual WLC
group and to capture the impact of oral language and spelling skills on the effective-
ness of the intervention. It was predicted that the sentence-combining intervention
would improve sentence combining ability, compositional quality and measures of
productivity and accuracy captured by the CBM-W and that children with poorer
language and spelling skills would be more resistant to change. The MS intervention
was predicted to improve spelling accuracy within the text.
As predicted, the SC intervention was more effective at improving the sentence
combining ability of SWs in comparison with the MS and WLC control groups at
t2. The difference between the SC and WLC groups was maintained at t3. However,
contrary to expectation, the difference between the SC and MS groups on sentence
combining was no longer significant by t3. Contrary to predictions, there was no
significant group effect of the interventions on compositional quality. The MS inter-
vention did not lead to significant improvements in children’s standardised test spell-
ing scores, but there was weak evidence that the children were producing texts with
greater lexical diversity than those in the WLC groups. These results are discussed
below.
Intervention effectiveness
Consistent with previous research (Andrews et al., 2004; Berninger et al., 2011;
Saddler, 2012; Saddler, Asara, etal., 2008; Saddler & Graham, 2005), SWs who
received the SC intervention learned to combine sentences more effectively than
those in either the MS or WLC groups. Effect sizes comparing SC and WLC
(g = 0.48–0.84) for both sentence-combining and compositional quality measures
are comparable to previous research. For example, in their meta-analysis, Graham
and Perin (2007) found an average ES = 0.50, which was based on five articles with
ES ranging from 0.21–0.66.
However, the lack of wider comparative improvements in SWs written texts (in
quality, productivity and accuracy) suggests that the focus on sentence combining
alone was not appropriate for these SWs. This may reflect either the length of the
intervention or the children’s baseline skills. For example, in the current study, SWs
received an average of 400min teaching in groups of 4 to 6. By contrast, children
in Saddler and Graham’s (2005) Tier 3 intervention study received nearly twice the
amount of instruction (750min) in pairs. Further studies are needed to capture the
effects of intervention dosage for generalization to other aspects of text production.
Dosage and children’s baseline skills likely interact. Better spellers showed greater
gains on the sentence-combining measure suggesting that they had a greater capac-
ity to benefit from the intervention (McCutchen, 1996).
The weak evidence for greater lexical diversity in the texts of children in the MS
group, as compared to the SC and WLC groups, suggests the spelling intervention
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
may have begun to make some text-level impacts. Differences in lexical diversity
may result from increased confidence to attempt unfamiliar words (Sumner etal.,
2014), or due to exposure to new words during the intervention. Alternatively, the
measures used may have been insensitive to developmental change, as a result of the
short time between testing points in the current study.
Exploring theroles oforal language andreading
It was expected that children’s oral language, reading and spelling abilities would
moderate children’s response to the interventions. Many participants had poor oral
language (listening comprehension and oral expression), reading and spelling skills.
The exploratory hierarchical regressions showed that reading, spelling and baseline
t1 sentence combining scores best predicted gains for sentence combining at t2.
However, longer-term gains in sentence combining at t3 were predicted by listen-
ing comprehension, spelling and t1 sentence combining at baseline and confirm the
importance of oral language to maintaining learning from this intervention.
Poor readers with a reasonable level of listening comprehension seem to have
responded better to the intervention on the sentence combining measure while those
with poor oral language skills may be resistant to intervention (Al Otaiba & Fuchs,
2002). Those with poor oral language skills experience difficulties with both word-
and sentence-level skills (Graham etal., 2020) and this may explain their resistance
to intervention as compared to poor readers. Reading skills are thus important for
the initial response to the sentence combining intervention, and there was, in fact,
some small gains to reading decoding made by participants perhaps as a side effect
of the reading exposure undertaken during the intervention. However, to maintain
longer-term gains the distal, but important, language skills measured by listening
comprehension was a stronger predictor, and this conforms to other studies on writ-
ing growth in children (Dockrell, Connelly, & Arfé, 2019) and the importance of
comprehension for sentence combining (Saddler, Ellis-Robinson & Asaro-Saddler
2018).
The consistent influence of the proximal factor of spelling (Dockrell, Connelly,
& Arfé, 2019) at t2 and t3 suggests sentence combining interventions may be more
appropriate for children without significant spelling difficulties. For poor spellers, it
may be more beneficial to use a combined intervention, targeting multiple skills, to
help develop their spelling skills alongside other aspects of written text production.
The role of handwriting as a pre-, or co-, requisite for spelling development could be
a factor depressing spelling levels. However, no measure was taken of handwriting
fluency, and this could be examined in future studies.
Limitations
The small sample sizes, mean these analyses are underpowered, so more work is
needed to confirm the roles of oral language and reading in children’s response to
the interventions. Furthermore, the measure used to assess growth in sentence-com-
bining ability was relatively short in items in comparison to previous studies. For
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1846
K.Walter et al.
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example, Saddler and Graham (2005) used standard scores from a 20-item stand-
ardised measure and found their SC intervention was more effective than a grammar
instruction intervention. The brevity of the sentence-combining measure used in the
current study gives a minimal opportunity for students to demonstrate growth. In the
future, a longer measure, such as that used by Saddler and Graham (2005) should be
used.
Sentence combining is also, in part, a technique that can be used during revision
(B. Saddler, 2012); however, the current study did not encourage children to revise
or edit their work. Therefore, adapting the intervention to provide opportunities for
children to practice these skills during writing, or revision may improve the current
sentence-combining intervention’s effectiveness. As SWs commonly also neglect to
revise or edit their work (Flower & Hayes, 1980), this sort of alteration may be best
combined with an intervention aimed at also developing revision skills.
Implications andfuture research
The inhibiting role of spelling in the sentence-combining models may help explain
why gains were not seen in children’s compositional quality, as it suggests difficul-
ties with spelling may have limited the ability of these children to access the higher-
level skills needed for written text production. A combined intervention approach,
targeting spelling and sentence combining, may be more beneficial for these chil-
dren and so should be explored in future research.
Despite the similarities seen in texts of children with a range of co-morbid dif-
ficulties (Connelly & Dockrell, 2016), using a complete literacy profile (including
oral language, reading, spelling and writing skills) may help with identifying which
intervention(s) may be most effective. Given that, in the current study, longer-term
gains in sentence-combining ability were predicted by baseline levels of spelling
and listening comprehension it may not be appropriate to use this intervention with
children who are struggling with oral language and have not reached a sufficient
level of spelling to allow them to write sentences easily. Researchers should con-
tinue to identify which interventions are most effective for which children to enable
educators to adapt or combine effective interventions using techniques such as those
suggested by Al Otaiba etal., (2018), within a RTI framework.
Summary
The current study adds to the growing body of evidence that sentence-combining
interventions can be an effective tool for improving children’s writing regarding sen-
tence combining. However, they may require a long and intensive course of instruc-
tion before they impact text-level measures. Findings suggest children may need
competence in single word spelling to benefit from sentence combining. Further
research is needed to verify this finding and determine the level of single word spell-
ing that is needed. Furthermore, practitioners may find that sentence combining is
more appropriate for SWs whose primary area of difficulty is reading, rather than
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1847
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A sentence‑combining intervention forstruggling writers:…
poor spelling or oral language. The findings suggest researchers should consider lan-
guage profiles when devising interventions for SWs.
Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at https ://doi.
org/10.1007/s1114 5-021-10135 -8.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,
which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as
you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Com-
mons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article
are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the
material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is
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directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creat iveco mmons .org/licen
ses/by/4.0/.
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Full-text available
Purpose: The purpose of this narrative review of the literature is to provide a description of intensive interventions for elementary grade students with dyslexia, students with learning disabilities, and students with intensive reading and writing needs. Method: First, we provide a brief overview of response to intervention. Second, we explain our theoretical framework for the review. Third, we describe evidence-based interventions, which are divided into predominantly reading or writing interventions. Fourth, we explain data-based individualization for these programs based on a taxonomy of intensity, and we provide an illustrative case study. Conclusion: We conclude by describing a set of links to websites and technical assistance resources that may be helpful for speech-language pathologists, teachers, and other interventionists to stay current with this research base and to lead professional learning communities.
Article
In this meta-analysis, we examined whether children classified with specific language impairment (SLI) experience difficulties with writing. We included studies comparing children with SLI to (a) typically developing peers matched on age ( k = 39 studies) and (b) typically developing younger peers with similar language capabilities ( k = six studies). Children classified with SLI scored lower on writing measures than their typically developing peers matched on age ( g = −0.97) when all writing scores in a study were included in the analysis. This same pattern occurred for specific measures of writing: quality ( g = −0.92), output ( g = −1.00), grammar ( g = −0.68), vocabulary ( g = −0.68), and spelling ( g = −1.17). A moderator analysis revealed that differences in the writing scores of children classified with SLI and typically developing peers matched on age were not as large, but were still statistically significant, when assessment involved a contrived response format (vs. measured based on students’ writing), researcher-created measures (vs. norm-referenced tests), or SLI included just children with a speech disorder (vs. children with a language disorder). Children classified with SLI further scored lower on writing than typically developing peers with similar language capabilities ( g = −0.47). We concluded that children with SLI experience difficulties with writing.
Article
Conceptualising the difficulties experienced by struggling writers in middle elementary school is of both theoretical and practical importance. To further our understanding of the problems experienced by struggling writers we aimed to identify the writing measure which best discriminated struggling writers from their peers, and the proximal and distal factors which contributed to performance. The performance of 96 students (Mean age 10; 4), 39 of whom were independently identified as struggling writers using a norm referenced standardised test, was examined at word, sentence, and text level. Standardised measures of transcription, oral language and working memory were collected. The extent to which independent product and process writing measures accurately identified the students was tested using ROC analyses. The skills which underpinned performance were examined using regression analyses and path analysis. Written sentence generation was the most sensitive and specific measure to identify struggling writers at this point in development and, was concurrently predicted by both oral sentence level skills, handwriting fluency and listening span. Path models demonstrated that oral language contributed both directly and indirectly to sentence level writing. Implications for developmental models of writing and support for struggling writers are discussed.
Article
The study documented sources of individual differences in written composition. The stories written and told by 103 grade 4 children were analyzed according to a proposed model that separated dimensions of narrative quality (i.e., coherence, cohesion, and adherence to writing conventions) from linguistic productivity (i.e., the number of independent clauses, words, and different words). The results confirmed that different skills predicted each dimension after controlling for vocabulary, word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension. First, observed planning and revising behaviors were associated with texts that were more cohesive and linguistically productive. Second, children who reported reading more tended to write stories that were more coherent and adhered more to writing conventions. Third, oral storytelling dimensions each explained unique variance in the corresponding written narrative skill. In conclusion, considering written composition as multi-dimensional allowed for a greater understanding of the differential role of writing process factors, oral storytelling skills, and experiential factors.
Article
This meta-analysis examined if students’ writing performance is improved by reading interventions in studies (k = 54 experiments; 5,018 students) where students were taught how to read and studies (k = 36 investigations; 3,060 students) where students’ interaction with words or text was increased through reading or observing others read. Studies included in this review involved true- or quasi-experiments (with pretests) written in English that tested the impact of a reading intervention on the writing performance of students in preschool to Grade 12. Studies were not included if the control condition was a writing intervention, treatment students received writing instruction as part of the reading intervention (unless control students received equivalent writing instruction), control students received a reading intervention (unless treatment students received more reading instruction than controls), study attrition exceeded 20%, less than 10 students were included in any experimental condition, and students attended a special school for students with disabilities. As predicted, teaching reading strengthened writing, resulting in statistically significant effects for an overall measure of writing (effect size [ES] = 0.57) and specific measures of writing quality (ES = 0.63), words written (ES = 0.37), or spelling (ES = 0.56). The impact of teaching reading on writing was maintained over time (ES = 0.37). Having students read text or observe others interact with text also enhanced writing performance, producing a statistically significant impact on an overall measure of writing (ES = 0.35) and specific measures of writing quality (ES = 0.44) or spelling (ES = 0.28). These findings provide support that reading interventions can enhance students’ writing performance.
Book
Education professionals have traditionally relied on a wait-to-fail formula to identify and assist students experiencing academic difficulties. With the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, however, a unique early-identification tool – known as response to intervention (RTI) – now offers professionals the option of implementing a collaborative, problem-solving tool designed to ensure that all students achieve academic success. Until now, practitioners have had access to very few detailed descriptions of RTI methods and the effective role they can play in special education. The Handbook of Response to Intervention fills this critical information gap. In a single, comprehensive volume, more than 90 expert scholars and practitioners join together to provide a highly usable guide to the essentials of RTI assessment and identification as well as research-based interventions for improving students’ reading, writing, oral, and math skills. Each chapter explores crucial issues, defines key concepts, and answers real-world questions regarding implementation, including such major topics as: • Psychometric measurement within RTI • RTI and social behavior skills • The role of consultation in RTI • Monitoring response to supplemental services • Using technology to facilitate RTI • RTI and transition planning • Lessons learned from RTI programs around the country The Handbook of Response to Intervention is a must-have volume for all education practitioners, researchers, and graduate students as well as anyone involved in curriculum reform or resource allocation. "This handbook provides essential reading for all stakeholders seeking to increase their knowledge base about RTI. It is an excellent and timely resource. I challenge everyone to read it, and then follow-up with actions to ensure that every child benefits from RTI." -Bill East, Ed.D., Executive Director, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) "The Handbook of Response to Intervention: The Science and Practice of Assessment and Intervention is a comprehensive compilation of research articles and information on RTI. Noted researchers, university instructors, and practitioners have contributed to this handbook, addressing issues related to evidence-based instruction, systems consideration, and implementation. This handbook is an excellent resource for all educators." -Diane Morrison, Ed.D., Director of Support Services, Northern Suburban Special Education District "The Handbook of Response to Intervention represents a comprehensive and balanced presentation of the array of professional knowledge essential to understanding this important concept. The scope of the coverage includes theoretical aspects, reviews of important related issues, balanced coverage of controversial aspects, and practical steps towards implementation. Educators, advocates, school psychologists, and anyone interested in this critical innovation for American schools should carefully read this important professional reference." -W. Alan Coulter, Ph.D., Director, National Center for Special Education Accountability Monitoring, LSU Health Sciences Center