Book Club Discussion

Book club discussion: the text Language Intervention for School-Age Students - Setting Goals for Academic Success by Geraldine Wallach is the focus of a professional practise book club. The book club is made up of school-based speech-language clinicians and led by a professional practice leader. The group meet on a monthly basis either face to face or via polycom link. The role of a professional practice leader is to promote and maintain the standards of best practice for school-based speech-language pathologists.

The goal of the book club is to discuss relevant text books that are specific to school based speech and language and how the books inform and guide service delivery and decision making.

Language Intervention for School-Age Students - Setting Goals for Academic Success

Chapter 1: Innovative Language Intervention at School-Age Levels

Summary Statement: The introduction sets the stage for the remainder of the text. The chapter challenges readers to question the conventional wisdom of traditional language intervention. The chapter also prompts readers to give thought to the metaphors such as focus on the forest, not the trees, and tip of the iceberg phenomenon. Both of these metaphors will be explored in this discussion.

The professional practice leader provided three questions for book club readers to consider and discuss at the first meeting.

  1. How do you define and understand language?
  2. What theories of language influence your practice?
  3. How is this reflected in your practice?

How do you define and understand language?

I have always related most to the ASHA language definition, in that language is a rules based system and involves understanding of human interaction and understanding the demands of the environment. I perceive environment to relate to language use within a classroom or formal classroom decontextualized discourse being quite different from language of the home environment which, in contrast, would be informal and contextual. Bloom and Lahey's form content use model has also been easy to understand and relate to.

But language is also far more. Language is embedded in and intimately woven into every thought we have as humans, every action we undertake and every communication we take part in. This applies to both written and spoken communication. As speech-language clinicians, we need to have a solid grasp of what language is if we are to provide effective advice for teachers and parents. In addition, knowledge of language becomes of critical importance if we are provide competent and practical intervention that will make a real difference for the children with language difficulty on our caseloads.

What Theories of Language Influence your Practice?

I don't have a conscious view of which theory has influenced my practice most. I tend to read books that lead me onto other books. So if there is a specific language theory I follow I don't know that I could articulate it. For me, my present view of school-based language theory began with Wallach's Language Intervention for School-Age Students back in 2009, the focus of the book club. Reading Wallach's book soon led me to Catt's and Kamhi's book Language and Reading Disabilities, which has been a guiding light for me personally. I've also read and used Kathryn DeKemel's Intervention in Language Arts which, again, is something I read over and over, and always manage to find new information that inspires and prompts me to use contextual based intervention.

I also managed to track down Contextualized Language Intervention by Teresa Ukrainetz which wasn't easy. But I managed to find it on the Super Duper website. Contextualized Language Intervention is a massive tome that is in fact a detailed manual on how to use communicative reading strategies to help school-age students engage with the curriculum.

How is This Reflected in your Practice?

My understanding of what can be achieved with language intervention was altered quite considerably after reading both DeKemel's and Wallach's books. I made a conscious decision to attempt to adopt the style and philosophy of intervention they recommended.