Children’s speaking and listening skills lead the way for their reading and writing skills, and together these language skills are the primary tools of the mind for all future learning.
Roskos, Tabors, & Lenhart, 2005
Oral language is a key component of all instruction. Oral language involves both receptive language (the ability to understand spoken language) and expressive language (the ability to use words to convey meaning).
In the classroom, teachers promote oral language through their use of content area vocabulary and through intentional exposure of high levels of conversation and questioning. Students are asked to respond to a wide variety of questions concerning common types of text that have been read aloud to students and/or that the students have read. Students are also given the opportunity to express themselves through drawing, dictating, and writing in response to what has been read aloud or what they have read. Students are encouraged to use new words in oral conversation and in their written work. Teachers are purposefully engaging in the ongoing use of new vocabulary as they interact with their students in numerous settings throughout the school day.
Teachers are also instrumental in helping parents understand how to increase oral interactions with their children. Example:
Joey runs fast. Joey runs quickly across the backyard or Joey runs fast around the house to catch his brother.
Guidance and support to increase oral language skills for all children and close the oral language gap of children from print-poor and conversation-poor backgrounds becomes a focus in every content area related to this type of instruction.