One area students tend to struggle with across the board is comprehension. When you consider that comprehending what you read or listen to is a huge part of learning, this can be problematic. Listening comprehension is essential to develop readers with strong comprehension skills. In this post, I will share with you 6 easy ideas to help improve student oral language in your classroom today!
Who Benefits from Improving Oral Language?
All students can benefit from learning better oral language skills. However, if you have any struggling readers, no matter their age, stay with me as I share my favorite strategies to ensure comprehension success by building oral language. You can watch the video about listening comprehension below.
Why Listening Comprehension?
I think you’ll agree when I say you are spending a lot of time addressing the need for students to develop their ability to decode words. You may even be spending time teaching students comprehension strategies. While this is important, there is another way to help develop readers' comprehension.
Reading comprehension results from a student's ability to decode and their listening comprehension. This is why developing students' oral language is so critical. Because of the combination of skills needed, comprehension strategies alone won't help students who struggle to understand what they read. Therefore, various opportunities must be provided for them to use and improve oral language and gain knowledge.
Student Oral Language is Essential
This work is essential to prevent efficient word recognition from being undermined by language comprehension limitations later.
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In what ways does improving oral language affect you when working with your readers? It simply takes a bit of time, practice, and some strategy. Regardless, it’s time to focus on stretching the limits of listening comprehension through oral language development and knowledge building in the early years when children learn to read.
This work can be done in the following ways:
1: Interactive Read-Alouds
I’m sure you’ve heard how essential reading aloud to students is to develop strong readers. However, it’s more than reading a book to kids. An interactive read-aloud occurs in a whole-class instructional context where you read a selected text aloud, occasionally pausing to encourage class discussion.
The benefit for students is that readers and listeners actively process language, ideas, and meaning.
2: Storytelling Enhances Language Development
The love of stories is innate in children because stories create imagination and wonder. Plus, we learn from stories about life, ourselves, and others.
Most people associate storytelling with younger students, but it is an excellent activity for kids of all ages. It is a unique way for students to gain an understanding, respect, and appreciation of their world.
Some great ways to incorporate storytelling in your classroom include storytelling apps like:
- Puppet Master
- Puppet Pals
The app Puppet Master is pretty cool. In this app, kids can create their art, upload it to the app, and then animate it using motion capture from their devices. I did this with my daughter's nieces (ages 5-9), who loved it! You can also create your backgrounds or use the ones from their library to create your own stories. Here is an example of animation:
This app allows students to create characters, scenes, and events to animate with coding blocks. Click here for more information about how Scratch, Jr. works.
3: Building Vocabulary Improves Reading Comprehension
Many times, vocabulary instruction consists only of copying definitions from dictionaries. There are, however, several instructional approaches that are more effective than copying definitions.
A great approach to teaching vocabulary is getting kids to explain a word in several ways. Some examples include:
- Dictionary definition
- Synonyms for the word
- Part of speech
- Real-life examples
- Graphic version (drawings, pictures, representations)
- Acting it out
Students are more likely to remember words if they have a variety of explanations or images to accompany them.
4: Experiential Learning
Learning becomes exceptionally personal when it pertains to a student's personal experience, which makes learning more rapid and more effective.
Experiential learning is defined as “the process of learning through experience.” Experiential learning opportunities benefit students to become self-regulated and reflective through hands-on activities.
5: Content Area Instruction
The difficulty of reading content area material becomes more apparent as students grow older. This occurs for many reasons, and one is students need to be exposed to the language and vocabulary of the content areas needed in younger grades.
Students also benefit from explicit instruction in how nonfiction texts are structured. Knowing how to read nonfiction texts is vital to gain meaning.
Students can use their oral language during content area instruction in a variety of ways, including:
6: Meaningful Conversations Increase Student Oral Language
Support and respect and increase students' chances of success academically and personally. Plus, it helps with student oral language, and a great way to help students feel heard and understood is to create time for meaningful conversations. Here are a few of my favorite ways to allow students time for meaningful conversations:
- Morning Meetings
- During Interactive Read-Aloud Time
- Collaborative Group Work
- Fun Fridays
I hope today’s post showed you actionable ideas to help improve your students’ oral language.
Now I want to turn it over to you:
- Which of the 6 ideas from today’s post will you try first?
- Are you going to try interactive read-aloud?
- Or may you want to try the Language Experience Approach?
Let me know by leaving a comment below right now!