For so long, reading experts and educators everywhere were fixated on the "Fab 5": Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Now, it seems everyone is realizing that there is no way to condense reading into only five components. In fact, in some places, they are now calling it the "Sensational Six". The sixth component is absolutely critical to successful literacy development. It is also quite simple to implement: Oral Language.
Letting students talk with one another regularly is the best way to develop oral language. In fact, Reading Expert and Author Dr. Brenda Parkes once said in a workshop: "Teachers need to know when to zip the lip. You already know how to talk. Children develop syntax and an ear for the language when they practice talking. How else do you think the kids will learn it?"
Here are some thoughts on Oral Language Development in preK, K, and early 1st grade:
“The child’s everyday speech is linked to the fluency with which he will read.” Marie Clay, Becoming Literate
(5-10 minutes daily)
(5-10 minutes daily)
- Use fun language activities found in your teaching resources or come up with your own.
- Singing and talking support listening and speaking skills.
- Post a daily song/poem on your board, projector, a poster, or the white board and recite it together
- Use oral language and conversations as part of your morning routine
- Embed opportunities to increase oral language abilities and applications throughout the entire literacy block and the school day.
- Conversation, collaboration, and learning through others are integral to learning. A child's oral language ability is the basis for beginning literacy instruction. They learn from you as well as the other students in your classroom.
You might consider the approach used by teachers in Buffalo, NY called "Let's Talk"
(LET'S TALK: A Different Approach to Oral Language Development. Woodward, C., Haskins, G., Schaefer, G., & Smolen, L. Young Children, 2004, 59(4), 92-95.):
Implement "table talk" in the preschool and kindergarten classroom daily.
Identify children with low language skills, and pair them with classmates who have higher language skills for 10 - 15 minutes per day.
Provide boxes of carefully selected dramatic play toys and manipulatives. Tie these manipulatives (or talk items) to other teaching and learning that will be taking place throughout the day.
Wander around the room during the "Let's Talk" time and stimulate conversation, if needed.
BE CONSISTENT---a short amount of time every day will result in dramatic increases in vocabulary, language use and understanding.
Several factors seem to contribute to the success of the Let's Talk approach to oral language development:
* Children work together in designated pairs at the tables, with little intervention from adults.
* Manipulatives used for the table talks are rotated weekly to initiate new conversations.
* Teachers model literature and vocabulary related to the manipulatives each week.
* Opportunities for sharing with others are provided routinely in the classroom.
* Extensions related to the manipulatives are integrated throughout the curriculum.
Oral Language development happens all day long in the busy classroom. Look for ways to increase their talk with you and with one another. The paybacks are worth it!