PowerPoint Outline
I. Background and Introduction
II. Potential Negative Effects of Poverty
III. Situational vs. Generational Poverty
IV. Oral Language Skills of Low-SES Children
V. Literacy Skills of Low-SES Children
VI. Considerations in Assessment of Language
• VII. Considerations in Language Intervention
• VIII. Increasing Executive Functioning Skills
• IX. Developing a Growth Mindset
My own story…
I’ve written a book: **
• Increasing language skills of students from
low-income backgrounds: Practical strategies
for professionals (2nd ed. 2013). Plural
Publishing Company.
• (no stats are on exam)
National Center** for Children in
Poverty, 2015:
22% of children in the U.S. live in
families that are considered officially
National Center for Children in
Poverty, 2015 (continued):**
• Child poverty rates are highest among Black,
Latino, and American Indian children
• Across the states, official child poverty rates
range from 11% in New Hampshire to 32% in
According to the Pew Research Center (2014):**
• Today, most poor Americans are in their prime
working years (ages 18-64)
• In 1959, only 41.7% of Americans in this age
group were poor; in 2012, 57% of poor
Americans were ages 18-64
• Today in the U.S., 21.8% of poor Americans
are children under the age of 18
In terms of race and ethnicity, the
following numbers of children live
in low-SES homes:**
• 27% White
• 30% Asian
• 61% African American
• 63% Hispanic
Children in the Hispanic community…..
• **32% of migrant workers have less than a 9th
grade education as compared to 3% of the
American workforce as a whole (U.S.
Department of Agriculture, 2012)
• Many migrant workers have an average income
below the national poverty line (Castillo, 2012)
• **U.S. is shifting from
manufacturing, industrial
society to service-oriented,
high-tech society, many
blue-collar jobs requiring
little education but paying
well are disappearing/being
outsourced 2015**
• 63% of all job openings by 2018 will require
workers with at least some college education
• The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that total
employment is expected to increase by 20.5
million jobs from 2010 to 2020. Jobs requiring a
master’s degree are expected to grow the fastest,
while those requiring a high school diploma will
experience the slowest growth over the 2010- 20
time frame.
Blue collar positions…**
Are ↓
Adults w/ low literacy skills ↓ choices
In many countries like the Philippines, many
jobs such as fishing and farming that do not
require literacy skills
Homelessness is a factor for many
• Homeless children and youth lack a fixed,
regular, and adequate night time residence
• Live: cars, parks, public places, abandoned
buildings, or bus or train stations
• Homelessness: inability of people to pay for
housing; impacted by both income and
affordability of available housing (National
Alliance to End Homelessness, 2012)
My husband Mike and my son Mark
and I…**
• Have been privileged to work directly with
members of the homeless community through
a church ministry
• Homelessness → irregular attendance
• Lack of food→learning problems, and
stunted physical growth
• Neighborhood problems, such as
increased exposure to crime and
violence, post-traumatic stress
syndrome, inferior schools, fewer safe
places for children to learn, play, and
When it is dangerous outside…**
• Children stay indoors, watch TV
• Some low-SES children watch up to 11
hours of TV a day
If you were a single, low-SES mom in a dangerous
neighborhood, how would you fill your preschool
child’s 14-hour day? (day care…..? Assume you have
4 children)**
• **Family stress, including
parental depression, fighting,
potential neglect and abuse of
• Fewer learning resources such
as books, quality child care,
good libraries
• Home and work
responsibilities take priority
over school
• Fewer extracurricular activities,
travel opportunities
• **Asthma
• Exposure to lead
• Prematurity
• Lack of access to health care, including
dental care
Research has shown that (Owens, 2016):
We know from research that:**
• The overall warmth and affect of a home,
which promote caregiver-child bonding, are
the very foundation of language development
Remember that responsiveness is not
just verbal…**
• Maternal emotional
responsiveness and
attachment are
foundational for
building linguistic and
cognitive skills as well
as resiliency,
optimism, and hope
Westby, 2015
Generational poverty: (,
They have an external locus of
Situational Poverty:
There is an internal locus of control:**
• They can influence the future by making good
choices now
• People believe they can shape their own fate
• Open toward intervention
In order to move out of generational
• Research has found that SES is more critical to a
child’s language development than ethnic
• The factor most highly related to SES is the
mother’s educational level
• Early communication
experiences differ based on
family income to such a degree
that SES can predict a child’s
academic performance during
the school-age years
Low-SES caregivers who have little
• Tend to provide less oral language
stimulation for their children
• Hart and Risley (1995, 2003) studied
children from professional, working-class,
and welfare homes
• They found that in a 365-day year, children
from professional families heard about 4
million utterances; children from welfare
families heard about 250,000 utterances
Hart and Risley extrapolated
• In order for the welfare children to gain a
vocabulary equivalent to that of children from
working class homes, these welfare children
would need to attend a preschool program for
forty hours per week where they heard
language at a level used in professional homes
Other research has found that…
Low-SES caregivers…**
• Are also more likely to slap or spank their
children rather than using verbal discipline
• These children then grow up to solve problems
by means of physical aggression rather than
Low-SES children tend to have:**
• Low vocabulary skills
• Poorer grammar
• Pragmatics problems (e.g., being “rude,”
interrupting, not using conventional
manners or saying things such as “please”
and “thank you”)
Westby, 2015—we need to teach
academic talk:
Westby 2015 continued:
Scheule, 2015:
We can also use teachable moments**
• Dr. R. to Jeffrey: “Please finish your paper so we
can play our game.”
• Jeffrey: “No, b---”
• Dr. R.: “Jeffrey!” (etc.)
• Jeffrey (starts crying) “But my dad always calls my
mom that!”
• Dr. R: “Honey, I understand what happens at
home. But there are different rules at school”
• Families may be too poor to buy books
• Parents’ low educational level leads to less
• Also, reading style is affected. Research shows
that low-SES parents use lower level language, tell
children to pay attention without interrupting,
and ask very basic, straightforward questions that
don’t require much thought
According to Moran
• A child growing up in a middle-class
neighborhood will own an average of 13+
• Low-income communities average about
one book for every 300 children
Having reading difficulties:
• Reading and writing skills are often
low—very basic and concrete
• There is difficulty with
decontextualized language
Many low-SES children…**
• Have substantial
difficulty with
awareness skills
• Low-SES children get overreferred to
special education
• Many standardized tests of language skills
are biased against low-SES students
• There can be grammatical bias
• Test tasks are often highly decontextualized
(“Tell me everything you can about a bird.”)
In addition…
In order to validly evaluate the language skills
of low-SES children, we can use:
• Reach out to families, by giving them
lists of resources like youtube videos
• We can also send books home
• We can send home short DVDs that
demonstrate language stimulation
We need to focus on developing:
We also need to teach basic safety**
Caesar and Nelson (2013)**
• Described a highly effective program called
SALSA—Supporting Acquisition of Language and
Literacy Through School-Home Activities
• This study assessed the efficacy of a simple
literacy-building program with migrant
Hispanic families who had limited English, low
literacy levels, high mobility, and challenges with
• **The SALSA project explored how a parentchild journaling activity could be used to build a
home-school partnership
• Experimental group—given children’s books and
also did a home journaling activity on the
• Control group—just books, no journaling
The experimental group:**
• Was given (at the end of each week) red SALSA
bags, with spiral notebooks, colored pencils, and
other inexpensive drawing supplies
• Parents were asked to talk with their children
about their activities and produce simple
drawings about everyday events and activities,
adding written notes (when possible) in
Spanish and/or English
• **The weekend gave the parents and children
time to complete the assignment; children
brought the bags back to Head Start on Monday
• In the control classroom, preschoolers
brought home green SALSA bags with books and
were encouraged to talk about the books with
their parents (no journaling)
A fantastic article:**
• Neuman, S.B., & Wright, T.S. (2014). Teaching
vocabulary in the early childhood classroom.
American Educator, Summer 2014, 4-13.
Neuman and Wright (2014) suggest that to increase
vocabulary for literacy, we use knowledge networks
We can also use categories**
• Marine Life
• Farm Animals
• Fish
• Cow
• Whale
• Chicken
• Shark
• Pig
According to Neuman and Wright
Neuman and Wright 2014:**
• Research has shown that with low-SES English
Language Learners, multi-media instruction
significantly narrowed the gap between ELLs and
non-ELLs in knowledge of target words
• The addition of dynamic visuals and sounds in
video accompanied by informational books
provides children with multiple strategies for
acquiring word knowledge
Key Steps in Teaching Vocabulary Words:
• Low-SES students are vulnerable in this
area due to environmental and
physiological factors
They have a lot of chaos in their
Executive Functioning Involves:**
• The problem-solving processes that are utilized at
the outset of a novel, nonautomatic task
• Goal-directed behavior that we engage in to be
successful in life
• Thinking about and planning for the future,
and considering our choices and their
We can help children develop these skills
Teach kids to ask:**
• What is the problem I am having
right now?
• Why am I having this problem?
• What can I do about it?
Help students to think as follows:**
• The choice I made was____
• The consequence of this choice
• Next time, I could choose to
• I could also choose to____.
To help students move out of
• We can be caring, involved
role models
When children are little: **
• High levels of warmth and nurturance from
caregivers promote bonding, attachment, and a
secure foundation
• However, when children reach early adolescence,
they are motivated by a very different kind of
• This includes being taken seriously and challenged
to work hard and improve themselves—a growth
The research of Carol Dweck**
• Divided people into 2 types: those who have
a fixed mindset, and those who have a
growth mindset
• Those with a fixed mindset believe that
intelligence and other skills are inborn and
static, or not amenable to change
Those with a growth mindset…
• **We have believed for years in a “fixed brain,” or
that we are born with a certain fixed amount of
innate intelligence
• Recent findings in neuroscience and cognitive
psychology have shown that the brain has a great
deal of plasticity and can be taught, even into older
• (I love the story of a student’s grandma, who began
studying Spanish when she was 80!)
In Dweck’s research…
Students in the experimental
Again, the experimental students
heard that:
In other words…
The researchers reported that:
For example:
Students were taught that:
At the end of the year…
The researchers concluded: **
• It is important, particularly if this era of high
stakes testing continues, for students to
understand that these tests assess current skills
and not long-term potential to learn
• This is critical since many students make take
their disappointing achievement test scores as a
measure of their fixed, underlying ability and
become discouraged about their academic
Interestingly, the researchers also
commented that:
We can help students by… **
• Teaching them about the new science of brain
plasticity and the new view of talent and
giftedness as dynamic attributes that can be
• Too often, the brain is believed to be static, and
talent and giftedness are seen as permanent,
unchanging personal attributes that
automatically bring later success
Process praise is best:
• Process praise contributes to much better
outcomes than intelligence or product praise
• “You are such a hard worker. I’m really excited
about how you’re stretching yourself now and
working to learn hard things.”
• It may take more time for you to catch on to this
and be comfortable with this material, but you if
you keep at it like this you will.”
• “
• Thus, when we teach new skills, it is important
for us to emphasize that skills in this area are
acquired through instruction and personal
• This is not to deny that students may learn at
different rates, but it is meant to emphasize
that these skills are not the domain of a
special few
Examples of what to say: **
• “Let’s go around and have each of you share something
hard you learned today that you didn’t know before.”
• “Who had a good struggle? Let’s share what we
struggled with today”
• “Get ready for a terrific struggle! Are you ready? Here
we go.”
• “That was a lot of hard work. Can you just imagine all
the connections you grew to-day?”
• “Who thinks they made a really interesting mistake?”
• “Who else made a terrific mistake that will help us
Me with a defiant (and huge!) 15-year
old with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and a
history of violence: **
• Dr. R.: “Kiree, I want you to do 50 productions of
sentences with slow, careful speech.”
• Kiree: “No way. I can’t.”
• Dr. R. (after the hour was up): “Just so you know,
you did 120 good productions. You didn’t even
think you could do 50! Look at you! “
Recent research concludes: **
• Low-SES students can succeed when they
receive constant encouragement and messages
about how hard work, grit, and perseverance
can change things for the better
• It’s all about character, conscientiousness, and
good habits—and these can be developed!
How have I applied this?**
My latest:**
PowerPoint Outline**
I. Background and Introduction
II. Potential Negative Effects of Poverty
III. Situational vs. Generational Poverty
IV. Oral Language Skills of Low-SES Children
V. Literacy Skills of Low-SES Children
VI. Considerations in Assessment of Language
• VII. Considerations in Language Intervention
• VIII. Increasing Executive Functioning Skills
• IX. Developing a Growth Mindset

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