Chat It Up An expert shares how SLPs can help increase their students’ participation in classroom discussion. Overheard
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Overheard  |   October 01, 2015
Chat It Up
Author Notes
  • Judy K. Montgomery, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL, is a professor and chair of the communication sciences and disorders program at Chapman University in Orange, California. She is a board-certified specialist in child language and a past ASHA president, and she has 21 years of experience as a clinician and administrator in the public schools. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 10, Issues in Higher Education; 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 16, School-Based Issues. montgome@chapman.edu
    Judy K. Montgomery, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL, is a professor and chair of the communication sciences and disorders program at Chapman University in Orange, California. She is a board-certified specialist in child language and a past ASHA president, and she has 21 years of experience as a clinician and administrator in the public schools. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 10, Issues in Higher Education; 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 16, School-Based Issues. montgome@chapman.edu×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Overheard
Overheard   |   October 01, 2015
Chat It Up
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.OV.20102015.np
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.OV.20102015.np
Danielle Godden: Are there any specific tools/evaluation procedures that you find help to give normed/comparative assessment when determining if a child has classroom discourse difficulties, or is it mostly done informally and by observation/teacher report?
Montgomery: I do not know of any normed assessments to measure classroom discourse. However, it is normed in a sense by its introduction into Common Core State Standards at the fourth-grade level and mentioned every year after that. So we know it is an expectation of typical learners by age 9.
Julie Weare: If teachers are not welcoming of SLPs in classroom or generally don’t invite SLPs in, what suggestions do you have for informing them of the benefit—other than in-service?
Montgomery: It is always best to be invited into the classroom. And once you are successful in one teacher’s room, the good news spreads! (Especially at the secondary level—if you have a successful 10- to 15-minute discussion on a content area in a “friendly” teacher’s class, you are in!) Naturally, you need to be prepared for those first couple of opportunities. Try to prep briefly with the teacher so the two of you are “in charge.” Share what you are going to do ahead of time. And of course, the very best plan is a classroom with one or more of your own caseload students. They get fired up, too. You can even prep them ahead of time, so they are participants.

Try to prep briefly with the teacher so the two of you are “in charge.” Share what you are going to do ahead of time.

Marena Acre: I’m curious about administrators. Classroom teachers are usually pretty open, but I have trouble getting support from administrators.
Montgomery: I agree—administration is slow to see the advantages to their schools. They have heard we are overscheduled and overworked for so long that they don’t even consider us a resource for the rest of the school. But we are! Try to sell the idea that you can help the whole school achieve more.
Ann Roesch: Do you co-plan with classroom teachers?
Montgomery: Yes, I do co-plan. Quick and easy—nothing big. Be sure you have the content that matters in their class at that time. Keep the discourse/discussion quick and lively and easy for at least 10–15 students to respond. Have the teacher keep track of the responders so you can de-brief on what happened.
Barbara Samfield: I am interested in working with secondary and post-secondary clients in social-language groups outside the school setting. From cultivating classroom discourse, I know which topics I will likely choose, but was wondering which ones you might recommend for a four-week (one meeting per week for 60 minutes) social-language group?
Montgomery: I have done some interesting things with adults in post-secondary groups outside the school setting. I have a few topic ideas for you: Discussing a movie we all saw. Discussing an amusement place we have all been to. Discussing a rock star or celebrity. We used reverse brainstorming to get started and they loved it. [They] first laughed when things did not “fit” their favorite rock star, but they really had to have a reason/rationale when the choices became more difficult/close to the truth, but not exactly right.
Marnie Weinberg: If we are working outside the school setting, what would be an ideal number of participants to have? Is there a minimum you would consider necessary for a true discussion?
Montgomery: Lovely question! I have played with this idea a lot. I think the critical part is being able to see each other. My best discussions have been with six to eight students in a circle around a table. My worst have been 60 in a lecture hall—oh, dear! (This does happen. I used paddles to hold up responses—it was not pretty.) A group of 10 will work if they can see one another’s faces. Classroom discussions in secondary schools are a unique, unusual world. Like college classrooms in which the teacher is the only one who sees all the faces, and that awful moment when a student gives an answer or asks a question and everyone turns around to look at them. Ick! But high schools are the same—discussion has to move quickly, be lively, cover several points, and ideally be directed by two educators (teacher and SLP) so we can also respond to the other teacher-leader in front of the students.
Patricia Johnson: Do you have suggestions for data collection tools as the SLP works in the classroom on discourse?
Montgomery: Data collection during a discussion is always dicey! You are so involved that it is hard to keep data on 25 or more students. You want to know a few things: 1) How many different students responded? 2) How many responded more than once? 3) How many asked questions instead of answering them? (Very important.) 4) Did you stay on topic? 5) Did you reach a conclusion or explore a new concept? Finally, give a little one-sentence wrap-up question on an index card—no names. “Why did people in the U.S. decide to move west?” “Why is oxygen important?” “What does a green planet mean?” “Do you think the book had a good ending? Why or why not?”
Melissa Smith: I am excited to use this information for students with word-retrieval difficulties as well. Have you additionally used these methods with that population?
Montgomery: Word-retrieval challenges! Good idea. I have not done so specifically, but I see the application. The discussion may be a good trigger or it may further confuse or complicate. Will be interesting to see. I think it will be useful.
Elaine Hagan: Vocabulary is developed and acquired over the course of a person’s life. How would you suggest to best increase a student’s vocabulary in middle school, as it seems there are years of missing language?
Montgomery: Research tells us we have the largest vocabulary (approximately 80,000 words) when we are seniors in high school. For typical learners, this will happen when we have been exposed to the greatest range of words in the greatest range of topics—many topics we will never return to again as adults and as our life actually reduces in breadth to our college pursuits, our jobs, our families and our hobbies. (Those who travel usually continue to grow for a longer period of time.) So, school is where it all happens for us. It is the widening period of our life— including our vocabulary. We happily sit with about 40,000 words as an adult. Perhaps part of the answer is the curriculum of school life is the best way to increase our vocabulary.

Research tells us we have the largest vocabulary (approximately 80,000 words) when we are seniors in high school.

Lisa Byank: Hypothetically, let’s say teachers and administrators are supportive and on board with SLPs. How do you suggest involving parents and implementing carryover skills, if at all? (When working with patients in an outpatient hospital setting, I always implement carryover skills.)
Montgomery: Carryover skills from classroom discourse activities convert best into further education settings and work settings, and overall problem solving. I think discourse skills are useful in organizations, clubs, hobbies, travel conversations and most work settings. Problem- solving occurs throughout our lives, and many students with communication challenges—from mild to severe limitations—need to work with others, have time to talk through a problem, etc.
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October 2015
Volume 20, Issue 10