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Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2008 May;17(2):107-20. doi: 10.1044/1058-0360(2008/012).

Assessing the microstructure of written language using a retelling paradigm.

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Florida Center for Reading Research, 227 N. Bronough Street, Suite 7250, Tallahassee, FL 32301, USA.



The primary goal of this study was to document the progression of the microstructural elements of written language in children at 4 grade levels. The secondary purpose was to ascertain whether the variables selected for examination could be classified into valid categories that reflect the multidimensional nature of writing.


Written language samples were collected and transcribed from 120 children in Grades 3 through 6 using an expository text-retelling paradigm. Nine variables at various levels of language were analyzed.


Using a text-retelling paradigm, measures of productivity (e.g., total number of words and ideas) improved steadily with age, whereas measures of complexity (e.g., mean length of T-unit) did not. Results for measures of accuracy (e.g., spelling and writing conventions) were mixed, with some showing improvement across grades. Grade 3 students showed consistently poorer performance than students in Grades 4, 5, and 6. Grade 4 students showed poorer performance than students in Grades 5 and 6. Exploratory factor analysis suggests that writing can be represented by 3 factors: Productivity, Complexity, and Accuracy.


Clinicians can use this multidimensional scheme for examining writing skills using text-retelling formats with children from Grades 3 through 6. This empirically based framework for measuring microstructural variables of writing provides clinicians with a 3-prong conceptual framework for determining children's strengths and weaknesses within the translational stage of writing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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