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Contextualized, Multicomponent Language Instruction: From Theory to Randomized Controlled Trial.

PURPOSE: Clinicians address a wide range of oral language skills when working with school-age students with language and literacy difficulties (LLDs). Therefore, there is a critical need for carefully designed, rigorously tested, multicomponent contextualized language interventions (CLIs) that have a high likelihood of successful implementation and measurable academic impacts. This clinical focus article summarizes the development and testing of a CLI entitled Supporting Knowledge in Language and Literacy (SKILL), which is a supplementary narrative intervention program for elementary school-age children. Our aims are to (a) to review the foundational theoretical models that are the foundation of SKILL; (b) describe the iterative process used to develop the phases, lessons, procedures, materials, and progress monitoring tool; (c) summarize recent findings of the randomized controlled trial that was conducted to test its efficacy; and (d) discuss factors that may contribute to successful implementation of multicomponent language interventions.

METHOD: A total of 357 students in Grades 1-4 with LLDs were randomized to a treatment group or to a business-as-usual control group. The treatment group received the SKILL curriculum in small groups during 30-min lessons by trained speech-language pathologists, teachers, and special educators.

RESULTS: Students who received SKILL significantly outperformed those who did not on oral and written measures of storytelling and comprehension immediately after treatment and after 5-months at follow-up. Gains were similar among students with different levels of language ability (at-risk, language impaired) and language status (monolingual, bilingual) at pretest.

CONCLUSIONS: There is growing support for the use of multicomponent CLIs to bring about educationally relevant outcomes for students with LLDs. The authors present this review of how SKILL was designed, manualized, and rigorously tested by a team of researchers and practitioners with the hope that this approach will serve as a springboard for the development of future multicomponent CLIs that may meaningfully improve communicative and educational outcomes for students with LLDs.

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