EDSE 555: Language Development and Emerging Literacy



Thomas E. Scruggs, Ph.D.


Office Hours

T, 2:00 - 4:00

or by appointment


Robinson B441A

(703) 993-4138

Time, Date & Room

Tuesdays, 4:30 – 7:10p

Robinson B220 click on "EDSE 555"

Class Website

Intended Audience

Language Development and Emerging Literacy is a three credit-hour course required for state teacher licensure in special education (ED/LD) in Virginia. EDSE 555 is intended for students who are preparing to become special education teachers, K-12. However, the course could be of benefit to anyone intending to work in public schools.

Course Description

Reviews major theories and stages of normal language development. The course provides an overview of language disorders associated with various handicapping conditions, techniques of language assessment, and strategies for intervention in oral and written language.


Students will be able to:

Describe the theories and stages of normal language development.

Describe the nature, function, and rules of language.

Describe disorders and deviations in language and related areas.

Describe relevant curriculum materials and their purposes

Implement appropriate instruction in oral language, reading, writing, and spelling for students with learning and behavioral disabilities.


Relationship to Program Goals and Professional Organization

This course is part of the George Mason University, Graduate School of education, Special Education Program for teacher licensure in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the special education areas of Emotional Disturbance and Learning Disabilities. This program complies with the standards for teacher licensure established by the Council for Exceptional children, the major special education professional organization. As such, the learning objectives for this course cover many of the competencies for language development and emerging literacy for individuals with emotional disturbances and learning disabilities.

The CEC Standards are listed on the following web site:

CEC standards that will be addressed in this class include some of the following:

Standard 4 - Instructional Strategies

Use strategies to facilitate integration into various settings.

Teach individuals to use self-assessment, problem solving, and other cognitive strategies to meet their needs.

Select, adapt, and use instructional strategies and materials according to characteristics of the individual with exceptional            learning needs.

Use strategies to facilitate maintenance and generalization of skills across learning environments.

Use procedures to increase the individual’s self-awareness, self-management, self-control, self-reliance, and self-esteem.

Use strategies that promote successful transitions for individuals with exceptional learning needs.

Standard 6 - Language


Effects of cultural and linguistic differences on growth and development.

Characteristics of one’s own culture and use of language and the ways in which these can differ from other cultures and            uses of languages

Ways of behaving and communicating among cultures that can lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Augmentative, alternative, and assistive communication strategies.


Use strategies to support and enhance communication skills of individuals with exceptional learning needs.

Use communication strategies and resources to facilitate understanding of subject matter for students whose primary language is not the dominant language.

Nature of Course Delivery

Learning activities include the following:

Class lecture, discussion, and participation.

Videotape, audiotape and other relevant media presentations.

Study and independent library research.

Applications involving use and evaluation of relevant curriculum materials.

Class presentations.

Written research papers or strategy implementation projects.

Required Text

Polloway, E.A., & Smith, T. C. (1999). Language instruction for students with disabilities (2nd ed., revised). Denver: Love.





Week 1, 1/22 Introduction; Historical background of language training for individuals with disabilities  
Week 2, 1/29 Language Development

and Deviations; severe language disabilities; mild language disabilities; facilitated communication

Chapters 1-2

Week 3, 2/5 Cultural Diversity and

Language; deficit vs. difference positions; bilingual education; Principles of Assessment and Instruction; teacher effectiveness

Chapters 3-4

Week 4, 2/12 Initial Language Skills; verbal language skills; nonverbal language skills; behavioral language training for nonverbal individuals

Chapters 5-6

Week 5, 2/19 Oral Language Skills; training sequences; intervention activities; commercial language development programs; developing listening comprehension

Chapter 7

Week 6, 2/26

Midterm Exam

Reading Instruction; characteristics of problem readers; formal and informal assessment of reading difficulties

Midterm Exam

Chapter 8

Week 7, 3/5 Reading Instruction; Phonological awareness; commercial programs for developing phonological awareness

Chapter 8

Week 8, 3/12 no class; spring break


Week 9, 3/19 Reading Instruction; Phonics; exemplary phonics instruction; scope and sequence of phonics training; commercial phonics-based programs

Chapter 9

Week 10, 3/26 Reading Instruction; word recognition, fluency instruction; comprehension instruction and strategy training for reading comprehension

Chapter 9

Week 11, 4/2 Reading Instruction; Professor Scruggs will be at CEC, New York; instructor TBA

Chapter 9

Week 12, 4/9 Handwriting/Spelling Instruction; characteristics of handwriting and spelling difficulties; instructional methods; strategies for spelling instruction; self-monitoring strategies

Chapters 10-11

Week 13, 4/16 Written Expression; characteristics of writing difficulties; writing interventions; story starters; T-unit analysis; sentence combining; peer mediated processes; strategy and self-monitoring instruction in writing; school writing programs, curriculum materials, district scope and sequence, Virginia standards for writing

Chapter 12

Week 14, 4/23


Papers Due; Presentation Materials Due

Week 15 4/30


Finals Week 5/7


Final Exam

Final Exam


Class attendance and participation (10 points; excessive absences may receive additional penalties)

Mid-term exam (25 points)

Application/research paper (30 points)

Paper presentation (10 points)

Final exam (25 points)

Total points = 100

Points will be deducted for work submitted late.

It is recommended that students retain copies of all course products to document their progress through the GSE ED/LD program. Products from this class can become part of your individual professional portfolio that documents your satisfactory progress through the GSE program and the CEC performance based standards.

Grading criteria

95 -100 = A

90 - 94 = A-

80 - 89 = B

70 - 79 = C

60 - 69 = D

< 60 = F


Mid-Term Exam (25 points):

Exam will cover specific aspects of the nature, function, and rules of language, as well as development and deviations in these areas. Exam will also cover basic rules of phonics. I will provide a detailed study guide for this exam to help direct your studying.

Application/Research Paper (30 points):

Option 1: Choose a research article from a professional journal (e.g., Journal of Special Education) describing an intervention on some type of language (oral language, reading, handwriting, writing, spelling). (Some recommended articles are available on reserve; Also, I will be happy to help you find one). Describe this article, then implement this intervention in your own class and describe the results. Your paper should describe the participants (students), method (including materials and procedures), and results (e.g., results of pre-post testing and student opinion survey). You need not replicate exactly the conditions of the article. Paper should be 10-15 pages in length.

Option 2: Choose an area relevant to language functioning (oral language, reading, handwriting, writing, spelling), and write a paper describing interventions involving students with learning or behavioral disorders. The paper must include 10 references, 7 of which must provide original empirical data. (I will be happy to help you find articles, examples are available on reserve or electronic reserve). It should include Introduction, Description of Studies, Summary, Conclusions, Implications for Practice. Paper should be 10-15 pages in length.

For either option, inform me of your topic (or ask for suggestions) before you begin. Many relevant articles are listed under "References" on the webpage, and several are held in reserve in the Johnson Center Library. Either paper should employ APA format (see APA Publication Manual for title page, references, and subheadings. and are links to APA format and guidelines; for data searches. I recommend PSYCinfo or ERIC databases.

Presentation (10 points):

Present your paper/project succinctly in a 10-minute presentation. Turn in copies of overheads, handouts, and summaries. Evaluation will be based on content, organization, use of overheads and other media, and presentation style.

Final Exam (25 points)

This exam will focus on teaching applications for various areas of oral and written language. Emphasis will be on practical application of course material in addressing language-based problems in school functioning.



This syllabus is subject to change based on the needs of the class. If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability or need special circumstance please inform your instructors as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made.