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Tool 02

Oral Language


In this tool, teachers will learn to

  • Identify students whose language skills are weak and increase language learning opportunities

  • Plan targeted language opportunities for all students.

  • Apply teaching methods to increase student engagement through listening and spoken language

  • Understand and include appropriate instruction for students whose language skills are strong, but for whom reading is a challenge

  • Seek advice from support personnel for students whose language skills are not developing as expected

  • Understand more deeply and appreciate the role of language in reading skill development.

  • Learn ways to create a language rich classroom, one in which students frequently use language to engage with content and one in which models of language use are provided.

Part 1: Introduction - Oral Language: A Foundation for Literacy

This Part takes the learner into the world of language comprehension, language itself.

Topic 1: Setting the Stage for Language Study

  • Teachers learn the elements of language to deepen their appreciation for language development, to help them informally assess students’ language skills, and to purposefully teach language.

Topic 2: What Language Skills Are We Talking About?

  • Many features of language are defined to help teachers be more effective reading teachers.

  • Language Components

  • Phonological working memory

  • Executive functioning

Part 2: The Research

The research on language development is rich with findings about the young child’s early experiences with language, the relationship between language and reading, the English Language Learner, and word knowledge.

Topic 1: Language – In the Beginning

  • Research on the importance of early language experiences are explored through Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children (Hart and Risley, 1995), 30 Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain (Suskind, 2015), and 30 Million Word Initiative.

Topic 2: Language and Literacy – The Relationship

  • This section reveals the importance of language to the development of literacy skills to stress the importance of a language focus in our classrooms.

  • Research done in Spanish speaking homes is included.

  • An article that teachers will read, is Talking to Children Matters: Early Language Experience Strengthens Processing and Builds Vocabulary

  • Scarborough’s Reading Rope is used to highlight the importance of language comprehension, the strands that make up language comprehension and how language skills develop over time.

Topic 3: The English Language Learner

  • Several resources are discussed including Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) which offers processes for making content comprehensible for English language learners.

  • Teachers will explore The Word Knowledge Gap, (Nonie Lesaux, 2015), the present state of language cultivation in English Learners.

Part 3: Practice - An Oral Language Focus in the Classroom

Part 3 provides access to classroom videos in which teachers observe lessons being taught. The lessons demonstrate the knowledge and processes that were presented in Parts 1 and 2.

Topic 1: The Teacher’s Verbal Behavior

  • This section discusses the importance of the language teachers use in classrooms.

Topic 2: Challenge Yourselves

  • Teachers are challenged to enrich the language they use in their daily interactions with students. Classroom videos demonstrate how this can be done.

Topic 3: Positive Reflections

  • One way to enhance language in classrooms is to teach students how to share positive reflections with each other. Classroom videos show students giving appreciation messages to their peers.

  • Studies on behavior challenged students, find that many of these students have low language skills preventing them from expressing themselves. Efforts to improve the language skills of all students can have payback beyond improved reading and writing skills.

Topic 4: Everyday Routines

  • Several routines that target improving language skills are discussed and included in classroom videos.

Part 4: Planning - Focus on Language

Teachers reflect on the Tool content and are guided to plan how they will target language skills in their classrooms.

Topic 1: The Language Rich Classroom

  • Improving oral language in our classrooms will not happen without conscious effort, specific goals, and knowledge about what needs to happen in order to improve language skills. This section will guide your thinking to help you plan for increased oral language participation and improved language comprehension in your classrooms

Part 5: Wrap Up

Topic 1: Summary: Language – A Foundation for Literacy

  • The Tool content is summarized. Simply asking our students to talk is not going to help improve their language skills. Teachers are reminded to model the use of language and provide guided and monitored language opportunities in their classrooms.

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