Oral language difficulties discriminate against no one : good oral language skills can positively impact school achievement

The relationship between oral and written language has long been documented[i]. In fact, 40 to 75% of students with oral language difficulties also have issues when learning to read[ii]. Writing development is considerably delayed in students with oral language difficulties[iii]. These poor oral language skills often result in limited academic achievement in all subjects of the curriculum[iv], and such performance gaps persist during secondary and postsecondary studies[v], in all subjects.

Did you know that…

  • About 50% of low-skilled readers in Grade 2 also experience difficulties in understanding oral language?[vi]
  • There is an 88% probability that a student who has difficulty reading in Grade 1 is still failing in Grade 4?[vii]
  • The presence of unresolved speech and language disorders at age 5 indicates academic[viii] and language difficulties[ix], including struggles with writing[x], reading[xi], learning[xii], and behaviour[xiii], along with antisocial behaviour[xiv] and decreased health[xv] and mental well-being[xvi]?

As a speech-language pathologist, I have always focussed on school-aged children. I worked for a number of years as an educational SLP, where my main responsibility was to assess students, provide information to parents and teachers, and support the special education staff.

Upon entering any school, I often heard staff say: “Yes, I saw so-and-so this morning, and I did 20 minutes of speech therapy with him…”

But what does “doing 20 minutes of speech therapy” really mean? I knew they were telling me that the speech and language goals set out in the Individual Education Plan (IEP) had been targeted, but my reply was always the same: “Speech therapy is targeted throughout the day, and in all subjects.” In reality, the appointment-based approach to speech-language therapy does not foster authentic oral language interaction.

But what if oral language skills were integrated throughout the day in fun and authentic interactions in all subjects of the curriculum? What would that look like?

The analogy of the hand[xvii] best describes the skills that appear to be the foundation of academic achievement, and the relationships they have with authentic language interactions. Every day, children use their hand skills to make meaningful gestures (i.e., greeting, applauding, taking, pointing). These skills are essential to their social fulfillment and potential to discover their environment. Likewise, authentic language skills are important for children to maximize their potential for academic success. Interactions with family members, friends and their environment give students opportunities to express themselves, make their needs and desires known, and understand the world around them. The classroom at the primary level is rich in authentic language interactions: it is the ideal place to develop skills in phonological awareness and vocabulary, discover word, sentence and text structure, and understand inference. Strong verbal skills serve as a foundation for academic achievement and help students go from learning to read and write, to actually using written language to learn.

An educational resource at your fingertips

A team of speech-language pathologists – with the support of the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) – recognized the importance of bringing together in one easy-to-use document information on authentic oral language interactions between teachers and students, to promote students’ academic success.

Oral Language At Your Fingertips is an educational resource that shows how oral language and literacy are linked and interact. It is founded on evidence-based practices and integrates principles of differentiated instruction, while highlighting the importance of developing strong oral language skills to foster written language competencies, thus promoting academic success. This resource is intended mainly for teachers and speech-language pathologists working in schools, but can be useful for keen parents looking to help their children maximise their language skills. Although it targets JK to Grade 3, it can be very useful for all those who work with older students at this level of development. Several of the strategies in the chapters dealing with text structure, or understanding and inference, can be applied to teaching students at higher levels of education.

A chapter on authentic oral language interactions in the classroom and language components that are essential to mastering oral and written language is presented in this educational resource. Chapters on phonological awareness, vocabulary, word and sentence structure, text structure, understanding and inferences, as well as teacher-SLP partnerships, deal with how to best teach these language skills in an interdisciplinary collaboration perspective.

Each chapter starts with a vignette illustrating the use of these strategies in the classroom in a playful learning context that is part of the student’s zone of proximal developmental.

Strategies targeting these themes are an integral part of this resource, and take into account linguistic and cultural diversity as well as distinctions between language differences and oral language difficulties. These strategies include suggestions for scaffolding (see excerpt on page 140, Table 7.3) to allow for the creation of evidence-based activities for all students based on their response to intervention.

Icons guide readers through this resource to enable them to quickly locate the information they need.

Canada’s dual linguistic reality

This resource is available in French and English. Given the academic reality of Francophones educated in minority settings, Anglophones in a majority setting, or English-language learners, both documents are distinct: the theories and research that lend themselves well to both languages ​​are mentioned in each of the documents, but each has been adapted significantly to better target the linguistic needs of these separate populations and the different realities in which they live.

Strategies addressing each above-mentioned theme are included in the « Oral Language at Your Fingertips » resource. To order this resource, rich in information and evidence-based strategies, click on the .PDF icon.

English version: http://micheleminorcorriveau.com/theme1/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Bon-de-commande_LOPM.pdf

French version: http://micheleminorcorriveau.com/theme1/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Livres_2_Oral-language-at-your-fingertips_ORDER-FORM-for-OLAYF.pdf

Forward the completed order form to skhan@osla.on.ca. To benefit from the OSLA members’ rate of $25 per copy, indicate “Let’s talk about learning” on the purchase order.

Alternatively, click on the respective ‘pdf’ icons here http://micheleminorcorriveau.com/livres/


Antoniazzi, D., Snow, P., & Dickson-Swift, V. (2010). Teacher identification of children at risk for language impairment in the first year of school. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 12(3), 244-252. 10.3109/17549500903104447.

Aram, D.M., & Nation, J.E. (1980). Preschool language disorders and subsequent language and academic difficulties. Journal of Communication Disorders, 13(2), 159-170.

Billard, C. (2001). Le dépistage des troubles du langage chez l’enfant. Une contribution à la prévention de l’illettrisme. Archives de pédiatrie, 8(1), 86-96.

Bishop, D. V. M. et Adams, C. (1990). A prospective study of the relationship between specific language impairment, phonological disorder, and reading retardation. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 31, 1027-1050.

Callu, D., Jacquier-Roux, M., Giannopulu, I., & Dellatolas, G. (2003). Pertinence du repérage par les parents des retards de langage chez l’enfant entre quatre et six ans. Archives de pédiatrie, 10, 1061-1067.

Catts, H. W., Fey, M. E., Tomblin, J. B. et Zhang, X. (2002). A longitudinal investigation of reading outcomes in children with language impairments. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, 1142-1157.

Catts, H. W., Hogan, T. P., & Adlof, S. M. (2005). Developmental changes in reading and reading disabilities. In H. W. Catts & A. G. Kamhi (Eds.), The connections between language and reading disabilities (pp. 25–40). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Fey, M., Catts, H., & Larrivee, L. (1995). Preparing preschoolers for the academic and social challenges of school. In M. Fey, J. Windsor, & S. Warren (Eds.), Language intervention: Preschool through the elementary years (pp. 3–37). Baltimore: Paul Brookes.

Gaines, B. R. (2002). Screening for childhood speech-language problems. The Canadian Nurse, 98(5), 15.

Gernter, B.L., Rice, M.L., & Hadley, P.A. (1994). Influence of communicative competence on peer preferences in a preschool classroom. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 37(4), 913-923.

Gillam, R. et Johnston, J. (1992). Spoken and written language relationships in language learning impaired and normally achieving school-age children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 35, 1303-1315.

Guay, F., Boivin, M., & Hodges, E. (1999). Predicting change in academic achievement. A model of peer-experiences and self-esteem processes. Journal of Educational Research, 91(1), 105-115.

Johnson, C. J., Beitchman, J. H., Young, A., Escobar, M., Atkinson, L., Wilson, B., et al. (1999). Fourteen-year follow-up of children with and without speech/language impairments: Speech/language stability and outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 744–760.

Juel, C., (1988). Learning to Read and Write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology. 80(4), 437-447.

Knox, E. (2002). Educational attainments of children with specific language impairment at year 6. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 18, 103–124.

Levett, L. & Muir, J. (1983). Which three year olds need speech therapy? Uses of the Levett-Muir language screening test. Health Visitor. 56(12), 454-456.

Loban, W. (1976). Language development: Kindergarten through grade twelve. National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Committee on Research Report No. 18 (ED 128 818).

Luinge, M. R., Post, W. J., Wit, H. P., & Goorhuis-Brouwer, S. M. (2006). The ordering of milestones in language development for children from 1 to 6 years of age. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49(5), 923-940.

Mackie, C. et Dockrell, J. E. (2004). The nature of written language deficits in children with SLI. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47, 1469–1483.

Morais, J., Pierre, R. et Kolinsky, R. (2003). Du lecteur compétent au lecteur débutant : implications des recherches en psycholinguistique cognitive et en neuropsychologie pour l’enseignement de la lecture. Revue des sciences de l’éducation, 29, 51–74.

Mustard, F., McCain, M. (1999). Early Years Study: Reversing the real brain drain. The Founder’s Network. Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Récupéré le 29 mars 2017 à http://www.childcarecanada.org/documents/research-policy-practice/02/07/early-years-study-reversing-real-brain-drain.

Paul, R. (2013). Language disorders from infancy through adolescence: Assessment and intervention (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Pierre, R. (1992). La compréhension des textes écrits face au rehaussement des standards de littératie. Scientia paedagogica experimentalis, 29, 3–21.

Roy, B., Maeder, C., & Beley, G. (1992). Dépistage des troubles de la parole et du langage en cabinet pédiatrique. Le Pédiatre, 28(133), 63-65.

Agence de la santé publique du Canada (2017). Qu’est-ce qui détermine la santé ? Récupéré le 29 mars 2017 à http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/determinants/index-fra.php

Scarborough, H. S. (2002). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory and practice. In S. B. Neuman et D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of Early Literacy Research (pp. 97–125). New York: Guilford Press.

Scarborough, H.S., & Dobrich, W. (1990) Development of children with early language delay. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 33(1), p. 70-83.

Scott, C. et Windsor, J. (2000). General language performance measures in spoken and written discourse produced by school-age children with and without language learning disabilities. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 43, 324–339.

Stattin, H. & Klackenberg-Larsson, I. (1993). Early language and intelligence development and their relationship to future criminal behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 102(3), 369-378  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.102.3.369

Stothard, S., Snowling, M., Bishop, D., Chipchase, C. et Kaplan, C. (1998). Language-impaired preschoolers: A follow-up into adolescence. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 407–18.

Teberosky, A. (2002). La compréhension progressive du fonctionnement du système alphabétique : une perspective évolutive. Repères : recherches en didactique du français langue maternelle, 26–27, 49–59.

Vallance, D., Cummings, R. L., & Humphries, R. (1998). Mediators of the risk for problem behavior in children with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31(2), 160-171.

Westby, C. E. (2005). Assessing and remediating text comprehension problems. In H. W. Catts et A. G. Kamhi (Eds.), Language and Reading Disabilities (2nd ed.) (pp. 157–232). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

[i] Billard, 2007; Callu, Jacquier-Roux, Ciannopulu, & Dellatolas, 2003

[ii] Bishop & Adams, 1990 ; Catts, Fey, Zhang & Tomblin, 1999 ; Catts & Kamhi, 2005

[iii] Gillam & Johnston, 1992 ; Mackie & Dockrell, 2004 ; Scott & Windsor, 2000 ; Teberosky, 2002

[iv] Knox, 2002 ; Stothard, Snowling, Bishop, Chipchase & Kaplan, 1998

[v] Johnson, Beitchman, Young, Escobar, Atkinson, Willson et coll., 1999 ; Stothard et coll., 1998 ; Pierre, 1992

[vi] Catts, Hogan, & Adlof, 2005

[vii] Juel,1988

[viii] Aram & Nation, 1980; Loban, 1976; Paul, 2013

[ix] Aram & Nation, 1980

[x] Roy, Maeder, & Beley, 1992

[xi] Roy et al., 1992; Stattin & Klackenberg-Larsson, 1993

[xii] McCain & Mustard, 1999; Roy et coll., 1992

[xiii] Gaines, 2002; McCain & Mustard, 2002; Vallance, Cummings, & Humphries, 1998

[xiv] Stattin & Klackenberg-Larsson, 1993

[xv] Luinge, Post, Wit, & Goorhuis-Brouwer, 2006; McCain & Mustard, 2002

[xvi] Young, Beitchman, Johnson, Douglas, Atkinson, Escobar, et al., 2002

[xvii] Blaxley, Kyte, Leggett, McWhirter, & Minor-Corriveau, 2014


Posted in langage écrit, langage oral, lecture, oral language, reading, réussite scolaire, written language.

Michèle a obtenu une maîtrise ès sciences de la santé en orthophonie de l’Université Laurentienne en 1998. Elle est membre en règle de l’Ordre des audiologistes et orthophonistes de l’Ontario (OAOO). Depuis 1998, elle a travaillé auprès des enfants d’âge scolaire ayant des difficultés ou un trouble du langage et/ou de la parole. En 2012, elle obtenu un doctorat ès sciences humaines, un programme doctoral interdisciplinaire de l’Université Laurentienne visant à intégrer des professionnels de différente discipline autour d’un problème commun et complexe. Ses intérêts de recherche sont centrés, sans toutefois s’y limiter, à la normalisation des outils d’évaluation et d’intervention ciblant le langage écrit et la parole pour ceux retrouvée en minorité linguistique, soit la population franco-ontarienne. Depuis 2008, elle détient un poste de professeure agrégée à l’Université Laurentienne, dans le cadre du baccalauréat et de la maîtrise ès sciences de la santé en orthophonie. C’est toujours avec fierté qu’elle accepte de promouvoir la profession d’orthophoniste en milieu bilingue. Michèle a obtenu plus de 250,000.00$ en subventions de recherche à titre de chercheuse principale ou co-chercheuse.