A. Introduction

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A. Introduction
BilingualSE SALT is an assessment tool for identifying language disorder among bilingual children, i.e., children whose native language is Spanish and who are learning English as a second language. In the past such children have often been either over diagnosed, failing to consider English as the second language, or under diagnosed, assuming that more time was needed to master English. Recent research has addressed these issues, highlighting the need for language assessments that are comparable in each language that have normative data on bilingual speakers. There are a number of unique challenges and assumptions accompanying this clinical problem. The length of the language development process (Nippold, 1998) is a challenge considering Spanish speaking children may encounter English at any time through the school years or may have simultaneous language exposure. The language skills of an English Language Learner (ELL) must include a range of Spanish language proficiency along with English proficiency ranging from no English to grade level performance. When considering what constitutes a language disorder in this population, you must consider proficiency in each language and review the child’s opportunity to learn English as an explanatory factor (Goldstein, 2004; Genesee, et. al, 2004). Consider the language spoken in the home, community, and peer group as well as the child’s classroom program (immersion, dual language, and early or late transition).

There are no measures of English or Spanish language proficiency with normative data on bilingual children, only monolingual children in each language. Documenting language proficiency in each language throughout the developmental period must rely on alternative procedures to norm referenced tests. Language sample analysis (LSA) has long been held as a valid indicator of expressive language performance in children. Recent research, focusing on bilingual (Spanish/English) children using LSA, suggests that oral language measures calculated from language sample data are strong predictors of reading achievement in both languages (Miller, et. al, 2005; Miller & Iglesias, 1983-2005). LSA is the assessment procedure of choice because; 1) it uses real communication contexts; the same context can be used to elicit a sample of Spanish and English, 2) it allows for tracking performance over time in each language, and 3) reference databases of language samples from 798 bilingual (Spanish/English) children in grades K-3 are available for comparison in each language.

The focus of Bilingual SALT is on language production which is the most measurable aspect of language performance. This focus does not minimize the importance of language comprehension to language and communication development. Production is accessible. The behavioral categorization and measurement problems in production have been advanced with the continued development of the SALT program. These solutions should aid the more difficult problem of quantifying the largely private event nature of language comprehension.
2. Task
The task is a story retell elicitation procedure which requires the child to listen to a story while observing the story’s picture sequence, and then to retell the same story. This task is repeated for both Spanish and English to provide the opportunity for direct comparison of language proficiency. This narrative task provides the child with optimum support to retell the story in each language - with an audio model and the visual support of the story book.
3. Who is this tool designed for?
This tool is designed to assess the expressive language proficiency of native Spanish-speaking bilingual (Spanish/English) children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Since this task requires collecting narrative language samples in both Spanish and English, the child must have at least a minimal level of fluency in both languages. The task may be appropriate for a wider range of grades and ages but the Bilingual Story Retell reference databases, used for comparison, are limited to these grades and ages.

C. The Bilingual Story Retell Reference Databases
The Bilingual Spanish Story Retell and the Bilingual English Story Retell reference databases consist of English and Spanish story-retell narratives from over 2,000 native Spanish-speaking bilingual (Spanish/English) children. These English language learners (ELLs) were drawn from public school ELL classrooms in urban Texas (Houston and Austin), border Texas (Brownsville), and urban California (Los Angeles). The children reflect the diverse socio-economic status of these areas. Age, grade and gender data is available for all children and mother's education is available for many.
Additional inclusion criteria:

  • The children were described as “typically developing” as determined by normal progress in school and the absence of special education services.

  • All children were within the following age ranges.


Age Range


5;0 – 6;9


6;0 – 7;9


7;0 – 8;9


8;0 – 9;9

  • All children were able to produce both English and Spanish narratives containing at least one complete and intelligible verbal utterance in the target language. Although the language samples may contain code-switched words (English words in the Spanish samples or Spanish words in the English samples), at least 80% of the words from each sample were in the target language.

Part 2: Elicit the Language Samples
A. Introduction
Elicit two language samples, one in Spanish and the other in English.
What constitutes a valid language sample?

  • The examiner follows the elicitation protocol.

  • The child produces at least one complete and intelligible verbal utterance in the target language.

  • The child uses the target language for at least 80% of the words in the sample.

  • The child produces a sample that is representative of his/her language.

  • At least 80% of the sample is intelligible (find a quiet area and use an external microphone).

What language skills are needed by the examiner to elicit the samples?
To elicit the Spanish language sample, the examiner should be proficient in Spanish. The examiner should be able to provide directions in Spanish. The examiner should be able to understand the child as he or she is retelling the story in order to be an engaged listener and to prompt the child in Spanish as needed. Similarly, to elicit the English language sample, the examiner should be proficient in English.
What materials are needed to elicit the samples?

  • The wordless picture book entitled Frog, Where Are You? by Mercer Meyer, 1969.

  • The elicitation protocol in Section B and story scripts in Appendix A.

  • The audio CD with Spanish and English FWAY scripts (alternate elicitation protocol).

  • An audio recorder (cassette or digital) with a good external microphone.

  • A quiet area with a table and two chairs.

B. Elicitation Protocol
1. General Directions
Elicit two language samples, one in Spanish and the other in English. If possible, elicit the first language sample in Spanish in order to maximize support for the English sample. You may elicit the second language sample immediately after the first, or you may prefer to wait several weeks in between. Do not wait longer than one month for a valid comparison of the child’s competence in each language.
The task is a story retell using the picture book Frog Where Are You? by Mercer Mayer. First the story is modeled for the child in the target language (Spanish or English). Then the child is asked to retell the same story. All instructions and prompts are given using the target language.
2. Before You Begin

      • Tape the child's ID, date of birth, your name, today’s date, etc., and play it back right away. This way, you have checked the recorder and have also let the child hear what the recording sounds like.

        • Explain why you are using a recorder (so I can remember what you said after you’re gone; because I can't write as fast as you can talk).

3. Steps
a) Sit next to the child at a table. The book Frog Where Are You? by Mercer Mayer should be on the table. The recorder should be checked and ready to be turned on.
b) There are two options for providing the story model:
Option 1. Tell the story to the child loosely following the story script provided in Appendix A. This is the preferred method and is the method that was used to collect all the samples for the Bilingual Story Retell reference database.
Directions to the child (Spanish sample):

Examiner: Aquí tengo un libro. Te voy a contar este cuento mientras miramos el libro juntos. Cuando terminemos, quiero que me vuelvas a contar el cuento en español. Okey? Vamos a mirar el primer libro. Este libro nos cuenta un cuento sobre un niño [point to picture on the cover], un perro [point], y una rana [point].
Directions to the child (English sample):

Examiner: Here is a book. I am going to tell you this story while we look at the book together. When we finish, I want you to tell the story back to me in English. Ok? Let’s look at the book. This book tells a story about a boy [point to picture on the cover], dog [point] and a frog [point].
You control the book and turn to the first picture. Tell (not read) the story to the child loosely following the story script. You do not need to memorize the story script, but become familiar enough with it to tell a similar story.
Option 2. Play an audio recording of the story to the child. This option should only be used if you are not sufficiently fluent in the target language to feel comfortable telling the story. The child needs to concentrate on the content of the story, not on your speech. Although option 1 is preferred, it is better to elicit one or both of the samples using the audio recording than to provide the child with an inadequate story model. The audio samples are provided in two formats. The audio CD may be played on your computer or on any CD player. Track 1 contains the Spanish story and track 2 contains the English story. The same audio recordings are also provided as MP3 files in the folder “FWAY MP3 Audio” located in the folder where the BilingualSE SALT software was installed (C:\Program Files\SALT Software\SALT 2008 BilingualSE by default). These audio files may be played on your computer or downloaded to an MP3 player.
Directions to the child (Spanish sample):

Examiner: Aquí tengo un libro. Vamos a escuchar esta cuento juntos mientras que miramos el libro. Cuando terminemos, quiero que me vuelvas a contar el cuento en español. Okey? Vamos a mirar el primer libro. Este libro nos cuenta un cuento sobre un niño [point to picture on the cover], un perro [point], y una rana [point].
Directions to the child (English sample):

Examiner: Here is a book. We are going to listen to this story together while we look at the book. When we finish, I want you to tell the story back to me in English. Ok? Let’s look at the book. This book tells a story about a boy [point to picture on the cover], dog [point] and a frog [point].
You control the book and turn to the first picture. Begin the audio recording. The recording contains a signal when it is time to turn the page.
c) Leave the book with the child and move away – either at an angle facing the child or across the table. Moving away from the child helps minimize pointing and encourages explicit labeling of items and actions. Turn on the recorder and instruct the child to tell the story back in the same language.
Directions to the child (Spanish sample):

Examiner: Ahora, cuentame lo que pasó en este cuento.
Directions to the child (English sample):

Examiner: Okay, now I would like you to tell me the story.
Refer to the following section for a list of prompts that you may use while the child retells the story. Remember, all prompts should be in the target language.
d) After the child finishes telling the story, turn off the tape recorder and thank the child for telling his/her story.
e) Repeat these steps to elicit the sample in the other language. You may elicit the second language sample immediately after the first, or you may prefer to wait several weeks in between. Do not wait longer than one month for a valid comparison of the child’s competence in each language.
4. Prompts
Use minimal open-ended prompts when eliciting the samples. Using overly-specific questions or providing too much information to the child compromises the process of capturing the child’s true language and ability level. Open-ended prompts do not provide the child with answers or vocabulary. They do encourage the child to try or they let the child know it is ok to move on if needed. Use open-ended prompts/questions as necessary.

  • Use open-ended prompts when the child:

is not speaking

says “I don’t know.”, “Cómo se dice?”

starts listing (e.g., “boy”, “dog”, “jar”)

  • Acceptable verbal prompts (in the target language) include:

Tell me more. Dime más.

Just do your best. Haz lo mejor que puedas.

Tell me about that. Dime sobre eso/esa.

You’re doing great. Estás haciendolo muy bien.

I’d like to hear more about that. Me gustaría oír más sobre eso/esa.

Tell me what you can. Dime lo que puedas.

That sounds interesting. Eso/Esa suena interesante.

What else? ¿Qué más?

Keep going. Siguele. Dale.



  • Acceptable nonverbal prompts include:

Smiles and eye contact

Nods of affirmation and agreement

  • Unacceptable prompts include:

What is he doing? ¿Qué está haciendo (él)?

Where is he? ¿Dónde está (él)?

Pointing at scenes in the book while prompting

What’s this? ¿Qué es esto?

What’s happening here? ¿Qué está pasando/ocurriendo aquí?)
Avoid asking the “wh” questions, who?, what?, when?, where? These often lead to obvious and limited responses/answers.
What if the child code switches?
If the child uses an occasional Spanish word in the English sample, just ignore it. However, if the child uses a lot of Spanish words or phrases, prompt the child with “in English, please” or “tell it to me in English” or “tell me the story in English”.
Similarly, if the child uses a lot of English words in the Spanish sample, prompt the child with “en Español, por favor” or “dimelo en Espanol” or “dime el cuento en Español”.
Direct the child to use the target language with minimal interruption of his or her story. But keep in mind that at least 80% of the words should be in the target language in order for the sample to be valid.
C. Suggestions for Eliciting a Good Sample
Children are more likely to converse if they believe others are really interested in what they have to say. If they doubt a listener's sincerity, younger children may simply refuse to cooperate; older children may cooperate but provide only minimal responses that do not reflect their language ability. The child who has difficulties is usually quite reticent and requires an environment of trust to achieve optimal communication. How can the examiner create this environment and gather the most representative sample of the child’s productive language skills?
The first few minutes of the language sample interaction are critical. If the examiner fails to establish a comfortable rapport with the child, the resulting language sample will be strained and will lack the necessary spontaneity to function as a valid index of the child's productive language performance.
Be enthusiastic: Pay attention as if it were an adult interaction.

  • Generate a friendly demeanor.

  • Show interest with smiles, vocal inflection and eye contact.

  • Give the child your undivided attention.

Be patient: Allow the child space and time to perform.

        • Do not be afraid of pauses.

        • Use open-ended prompts when necessary.

It is important to remember that these suggestions are relevant for all children regardless of their cultural, economic, or language background, or their cognitive, physical, or speech and language differences. The goal is to provide the child the maximum opportunity to communicate to the best of his/her ability. There is no substitute for experience in talking with children of various ages and ability levels. But even the most experienced examiner must guard against any possible behavior that would inhibit the child's performance.

Also see
The SALT web site for narrated slide shows and tip sheets with suggestions for talking with children as well as general elicitation procedures and equipment.
Select “Web Training” from the Help menu. This takes you to www.SALTSoftware.com/training/. You can also use your browser to go to this web site. Once there, select ElicitationBasics from the menu bar on the left.

Appendix A: Story Scripts

Spanish Story Script




Había un niño quien tenía un perro y una rana. El tenía la rana en su cuarto en un jarro grande.


Una noche cuando el niño y su perro estaban durmiendo, la rana se escapó del jarro. La rana se salió por una ventana abierta.


Cuando el niño y el perro se despertaron la siguiente mañana, vieron que el jarro estaba vacío.


El niño buscó en todas partes a la rana. Aún adentro de sus botas. El perro también buscó a la rana. Cuando el perro trató de mirar adentro del jarro y no podía sacar la cabeza.


El niño empezó a llamar desde la ventana abierta: “¿Rana, dónde estás?”. El perro se asomó a la ventana con el jarro todavía en la cabeza.


¡El jarro estaba tan pesado que hizo que el perro se cayera de cabeza por la ventana!


El niño fue a ver como estaba el perro. El perro no estaba herido, pero el jarro se rompió.

8 – 9

El niño y el perro buscaron a la rana afuera de la casa. El niño llamó a la rana.


El niño llamaba a la rana en un hoyo que estaba en la tierra, mientras que el perro le ladraba a unas abejas en su panal.


Una ardilla salió de su hueco y mordió la nariz del niño por molestarla. Mientras tanto, el perro seguía molestando a las abejas, brincaba hacia el árbol y les ladraba.


El panal de abejas se cayó y las abejas salieron volando. Las abejas estaban enojadas con el perro.


El niño no prestó ninguna atención al perro. El vió un hueco grande en un árbol y quería ver si su rana se escondía allí. Así que trepó el árbol y llamó a la rana en el hueco para ver si estaba.


De repente un buho salió del hueco y lanzó al niño al suelo. El buho lo vió fijamente y le dijo que se fuera.


El perro pasó al niño corriendo tan rápido como pudo porque las abejas lo perseguían.


El buho persiguió al niño hasta una piedra grande.


El niño se encaramó en la piedra y llamó otra vez a la rana. Se agarró a unas ramas para no caerse de la piedra.


¡Pero las ramas no eran ramas reales! Eran los cuernos de un venado. El venado levantó al niño con su cabeza.


Y el venado empezó a correr con el niño que estaba todavía en su cabeza. El perro también corrió al lado del venado. Se acercaron a un precipicio.

20 – 21

El venado se paró de pronto y el niño y el perro se cayeron por el precipicio.


Había un estanque debajo del precipicio. Aterrizaron en el estanque uno encima del otro.


Oyeron un sonido que conocían.


El niño le dijo al perro que se callara.


Los dos se acercaron con cuidado y miraron detrás de un tronco de un árbol.


Allí encontraron a la rana del niño. Había con él una rana mamá también.


Ellos tenían algunas ranitas bebés y una de ellas saltó hacia el niño.

28 – 29

La ranita quería mucho al niño y quería ser su nueva mascota. El niño y el perro estaban felices de tener una nueva rana y llevarla a casa. Cuando se iban, el niño dijo adiós a la que fue su rana y también a su familia.

English Story Script




There once was a boy who had a dog and a pet frog. He kept the frog in a large jar in his bedroom.


One night while he and his dog were sleeping, the frog climbed out of the jar. He jumped out of an open window.


When the boy and the dog woke up the next morning, they saw that the jar was empty.


The boy looked everywhere for the frog. He even looked inside his boots. The dog looked for the frog too. When the dog tried to look in the jar, he got his head stuck.


The boy called out the open window, “Frog, where are you?” The dog leaned out the window with the jar still stuck on his head.


The jar was so heavy that the dog fell out of the window headfirst!


The boy picked up the dog to make sure he was ok. The dog wasn’t hurt but the jar was smashed.

8 - 9

The boy and the dog looked outside for the frog. The boy called for the frog.


He called down a hole in the ground while the dog barked at some bees in a beehive.


A gopher popped out of the hole and bit the boy on right on his nose. Meanwhile, the dog was still bothering the bees, jumping up on the tree and barking at them.


The beehive fell down and all of the bees flew out. The bees were angry at the dog for ruining their home.


The boy wasn’t paying any attention to the dog. He had noticed a large hole in a tree. So he climbed up the tree and called down the hole.


All of a sudden an owl swooped out of the hole and knocked the boy to the ground.


The dog ran past the boy as fast as he could because the bees were chasing him.


The owl chased the boy all the way to a large rock.


The boy climbed up on the rock and called again for his frog. He held onto some branches so he wouldn’t fall.


But the branches weren’t really branches! They were deer antlers. The deer picked up the boy on his head.


The deer started running with the boy still on his head. The dog ran along too. They were getting close to a cliff.


The deer stopped suddenly and the boy and the dog fell over the edge of the cliff.


There was a pond below the cliff. They landed with a splash right on top of one another.


They heard a familiar sound.


The boy told the dog to be very quiet.


They crept up and looked behind a big log.


There they found the boy’s pet frog. He had a mother frog with him.


They had some baby frogs and one of them jumped towards the boy.


The baby frog liked the boy and wanted to be his new pet. The boy and the dog were happy to have a new pet frog to take home. As they walked away the boy waved and said “goodbye” to his old frog and his family.

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