The relation between school-age children's language ability and expository discourse production in two scaffolded tasks
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This study explored school-age children's expository discourse production and their use of language to convey complex information. Because school-age children encounter expository discourse daily in the classroom, skilled understanding and production of expository language is critical for academic success. This study addressed the following questions: (a) How do children's language skills relate to the quality of expository discourse samples in terms of the microstructure and macrostructure of the samples? and (b) How do children's expository samples from two tasks (generation and retelling) compare, in the language produced, when scaffolding is provided to support production? Twenty-six 9-to 12-year-olds with a range of language ability participated in this study, completing a battery of standardized language assessments, as well as producing two expository language samples -- an explanation of how to play their favorite game or sport and an explanation of scientific information they viewed in a short video. In order to scaffold, or support, their production of expository language, participants were given time to take notes and plan their explanations. In addition, they were given organizational guides for each task, providing cues as to the structure of their expository samples. Results of Pearson Product Moment correlations, controlling for the effects of age, suggested underlying receptive language ability directly and significantly correlated with children's performance on a variety of outcome measures (e.g., MLTU, CD, relative clause use, lexical diversity). Results of a series of one-way ANOVAs suggested syntactic complexity did not differ between expository sample types, while measures of language productivity, verbal fluency, lexical diversity, and content differed significantly. Findings indicate that using a generation task to sample expository language skills allows children to produce expository samples of greater length and with more detailed content (measured using a rubric); however, using a retell task similar to the one used in this study may allow children to exhibit their most sophisticated vocabulary skills (measured using MATTR). While this study examined the expository language skills of children representing a wide range of typical language performance, the emphasis on scaffolding the tasks and on how language ability related to expository language output have implications for future study with children who have language impairment, as this information will help clinicians and educators support children's acquisition of the expository language skills needed to succeed academically.
Access is limited to the campuses of the University of Missouri.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.