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Oral Expression Tools and Interpretive Support

by | Jun 10, 2023 | Academic | 0 comments

What is Oral Expression?

Students with a disability in oral expression have difficulty putting their thoughts into speech. A
student may also have difficulty remembering a word when needed, or being able to recall the
formal names of objects. These students tend to overuse the word “thing” when trying to do so. A
student with this disorder understands language that he/she hears and reads but will have difficulty summarizing the information efficiently.

Oral expression is also described as the ability to convey wants, needs, thoughts, and ideas in a
meaningful way using appropriate syntactic, pragmatic, semantic, and phonological language
structures. This relates to the student’s ability to express ideas, explain thinking, retell stories,
categorize, and compare and contrast concepts and/or problem-solve verbally (NCS Pearson. (2020).

Oral Expression Difficulty Indicators

  •  The student struggles to convey his or her own wants, needs, and ideas in a meaningful way using appropriate syntactic, pragmatic, semantic, and phonological languages structures.
  •  The student struggles to retell stories and compare and contrast.
  •  It is difficult for the student to problem solve verbally.
  •  The student struggles to learn vocabulary words and understand concepts associated with antonyms and synonyms.
  •  The student struggles to make inferences and predictions.
  •  The student has difficulty formulating complete, semantically, and grammatically correct sentences both spoken and written.
  •  The student struggles to understand directions that they hear

Common Batteries/Subtests That Measure Oral Expression

The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, 4th Edition (WIAT-4)
o Expressive Vocabulary (Ages 4 – 17+) Measures speaking vocabulary and word
retrieval ability. The student says the word that best corresponds to a given picture and

o Oral Word Fluency (Ages 4 -17+) Measure efficiency of word retrieval (i.e., how easily
he or she can produce words) and flexibility of thought processes. The student names
as many things as possible belonging to a given category within 60 seconds.

o Sentence Repetition (Ages 4 – 17+) Measures oral syntactic knowledge and shortterm memory. The student listens to sentences that increase in length and complexity
and repeats each sentence verbatim (NCS Pearson. (2020).

The Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Third Edition (KTEA-3)
o Oral Expression (Ages 4 – 25) The student says a sentence to describe a photograph.
Later items require the use of specific words or phrases (Kaufman, A.S., & Kaufman,
N.L. (2014).

The Woodcock Johnson Oral Language, 4th Edition (WJ-IV Oral Language)
o Sentence Repetition (Grades PK – 12+) Measures short-term memory span; requires
the ability to listen and recall sentences of increasing length and complexity.

o Picture Vocabulary (Grades PK – 12+) Measures vocabulary, verbal ability, and
knowledge of culture. This requires naming pictures (familiar to less familiar) (Mather,
N., & Wendling, B.J. (2014).

Other Standardized Batteries Which Measure Oral Language

  •  OWLS-II
  •  CASL-2 *
  •  CELF-5 *

  • *Typically administered by a speech-language pathologist

Report Writing Tips

It is encouraged to include your speech and language pathologist on any assessment you are
completing in which an oral expression disability is suspected. Assessment batteries such as
the OWLS-II, CASL-2, and CELF-5 are best administered and interpreted by a speech and
language pathologist.

Questions to possibly ask parents and teachers to provide ecological validity to oral expression

a. Does the student struggle learn new vocabulary words?

b. Is the student able to formulate complete, grammatically correct sentences both spoken
and written?

c. Is the student able to understand the concepts associated with antonyms and synonyms?

d. Are they able to retell stories and make accurate predictions?

e. Is the student able to follow directions they hear?

f. Are they able to compare and contrast or problem solve verbally?

g. Is the student able to convey his or her wants, needs, thoughts, and ideas in a meaningful

h. How are the oral expression concerns impacting the student’s classroom performance?
(Braaten, 2007).

Oral Expression Strategies

  • Allow ample opportunities to practice without penalty (e.g., brainstorming, conferencing, sharing).

  • Provide questions/topics in advance to allow time for preparation.

  • Provide safe opportunities for students to develop skills. For example, do not grade presentations; consider them an exercise in skill development.

  • Increase the ‘wait time’ for expecting a response.

  • Incorporate oral recitation activities such as poetry readings, parts in plays, etc. to help students build expressive fluency.

  • Let students speak regularly through combinations of the following: a) answering questions and participating in discussions, b) taking positions and arguing those positions in class, c) debating other children, d) making formal and informal presentations, and e) engaging in or analyzing oral expression processes.

  • Provide a wide range of situations: – Telling stories and anecdotes – Describing and comparing places, people, and habits – Expressing opinions – Showing agreement and disagreement-Reacting to an event – Expressing judgment, wishes and feelings – Expressing probability and degrees of certainty – Elaborating on, retelling, and summarizing what has been said- Expressing permission – Giving instructions – Expressing plans and intentions.

  • Have children arrange oral and written sentences or paragraphs in logical, sequential orderHave children practice identifying the parts of a story in terms of the beginning, middle or ending.

  • Have students explain the steps of a procedure orally and in writing.

  • Teach children how to make a flow chart that breaks down a procedure into its component parts.

  • Give children opportunities to apply new vocabulary in classroom discussions.

  • Have students make up stories using wordless picture books.

  • Have a child speak into a tape recorder and play it back.

  • Provide props and encourage students to make up a play.

  • Create new verses to songs.

  • Allow children to use puppets to communicate thoughts or stories.

  • Provide opportunities to be in conversations that use extended discourse.

  • Encourage children to speak in complete sentences.

  • Do not interrupt or finish a sentence for a student.

  • Play a game in which a child describes a simple design to a peer, and have the peer follow the directions to draw it without looking at it.

  • Incorporate multisensory activities into lessons to allow chance to use descriptive language.


Braaten, E. (2007). The child clinician’s report writing handbook. Guilford Press.

Idaho Special Education Support. (2017). SLD webinar 5: oral expression and listening


Kaufman, A.S., & Kaufman, N.L. (2014). Kaufman test of educational achievement, third edition.

Bloomington, MN: NCS Pearson.

Mather, N., & Wendling, B.J. (2014). Examiner’s Manual. Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of
Achievement. Rolling Meadows, IL: Riverside Publishing.

NCS Pearson. (2020). Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (4th ed.).

O’Malley, Patricia. (2007). Strategies to promote oral expression.


Ventura County SELPA. (2019). The Patterns of Strengths and Weaknesses Manual.


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