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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02417

An online tool to assess sentence comprehension in teenagers at risk for school exclusion: Evidence from L2 Italian students

  • 1University of Milano Bicocca, Italy
  • 2Northeastern University, United States
  • 3Eugenio Medea (IRCCS), Italy
  • 4Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy
  • 5Carlo Besta Neurological Institute (IRCCS), Italy
  • 6Association for Research in Clinical Psychology, Italy


This study presents a web-based sentence comprehension test aimed at identifying high school students who are at risk for a language delay. By assessing linguistic skills on a sample of high school students with Italian as an L2 and their monolingual peers, attending a vocational school, we were able to identify a subgroup of L2 students with consistent difficulties in sentence comprehension, though their reading skills were within the average range. The same subgroup revealed to experience a lack of support within the school context, suggesting that poor L2 skills might be a critical variable to consider in order to identify students at risk for school exclusion. Regarding the test, accuracy to the on-line sentence comprehension task was significantly predicted by reading abilities and vocabulary skills, thus indicating that this test might represent a rapid but efficient way to assess linguistic abilities at school. We recommend that establishing a valid and practical procedure for the evaluation of linguistic skills in bilingual students who struggle with their L2 is the first step towards promoting social inclusion in the multilingual classroom, in order to increase their ability to actively participate in school and social activities.

Keywords: sentence comprehension, L2 speakers, adolescents, school exclusion, Online tool

Received: 30 Jun 2019; Accepted: 10 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Vernice, Matta, Tironi, Caccia, Lombardi, Guasti, Sarti and Lang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Mirta Vernice, University of Milano Bicocca, Milan, Italy, mirta.vernice@unimib.it