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Taking and Analyzing Language Samples

made it halfway through the school year! At this point, students and teachers have
settled into routines, we’re working hard to meet those IEP objectives and some
teams are even starting to think about upcoming spring evaluations and

With progress reports on the horizon, language samples can
provide valuable data to include in a student’s evaluation. Language sampling
is a great way to analyze the structures that students are using spontaneously,
as well as to determine which structures they omit outside of structured
activities. I like to compare language samples three times each year: Starting
in the fall, midway through winter and a final formal evaluation at the end of
the school year.

While there are many ways to obtain language samples, I
prefer to use my iPad to record the sample that I will analyze—rather than
depending on my ear alone. This way I have what my student actually said, in
terms of both the actual language used, and the speech sounds they used, omitted,
or substituted. In order to get an accurate representation of the language
structures my student uses, I generally record a casual conversation, during
which I ask my student open-ended questions. For instance, I’ll ask them to retell
a familiar story or to narrate a personal experience. Additionally, I provide materials
of interest (such as dolls, Legos or a magnet board with a variety of magnets)
and ask my student to create and narrate a story, which I also record.

After recording and transcribing the language sample,
analysis begins. A tool like the Cottage
Acquisition Scales for Listening Language and Speech
(CASLLS) helps break
down language in a way that makes it easy to see where our students lack skills,
and assess language from Pre-Verbal through Complex Sentences. 

Determining the Mean Length Utterance (MLU)—the average
number of words used in a sentence—is important for understanding how our
students with hearing loss compare with their peers with typical hearing. The
goal over time is for our students to speak in the long, complex sentences that
their peers with typical hearing tend to use, rather than in shorter, simpler

Additionally, a Type Token Analysis allows for an objective
look at the type of words our
students are using, not just the number of words per sentence. Students with
hearing loss often tune into nouns and verbs, subsequently using just these
types of words in their connected language. It is important to be sure we are
helping them use various types of words—not just nouns and verbs. Charts such
as the one below allow to analyze the words they’re using. From a transcribed
language sample, it is easy to count the nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives,
etc. and write the number of each word type in each column. Over time, we can
chart growth by recording how our students use a wider variety of words and
higher number of more complex, rich words. 

sampling takes some time to complete and analyze, but it is the most
comprehensive and objective way to really know the type of language our
students use.

How do you use language samples to inform your own work?

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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