Oral language development plays a crucial role in a child’s overall academic success. Kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers have the unique opportunity to foster and nurture language development. That can be done through oral language activities, laying a strong foundation for future learning.
But why should teachers want to promote oral language skills? And how do you even do that in an already busy classroom schedule? Today we’re diving into oral language, what it is, and why it’s important. I’ll also share some oral language activities that you can try in your classroom!
What is oral language?
Oral language is simply what it sounds like – it’s spoken language. Oral language is our verbal communication or the way we speak and how we listen to others. It’s how we can express our thoughts and knowledge, feelings, and ideas.
Why is it important?
With The Simple View of Reading (Gough and Tunmer, 1986), we know that reading comprehension is the product of decoding and language comprehension. So strong readers with solid reading comprehension need both decoding skills and language skills, including oral language skills.
Our young students use their oral language skills to ask questions, process new information, and interact with others. Then, students can take these oral language skills and begin to apply them in reading. Proficiency in oral language is closely linked to reading comprehension. Students with a robust vocabulary, strong grammar skills, and solid language comprehension skills are better equipped to understand written texts.
Oral language development also fosters critical thinking skills by encouraging students to articulate their thoughts, reason, analyze information, and participate in collaborative discussions. These skills are fundamental for problem-solving and decision-making in all areas of life, not just in our classrooms.
Oral Language Activities for Teachers
Try not to feel overwhelmed with working in one more thing to your busy day! You can easily do oral language activities without spending a ton of time planning and implementing them. It’s possible you’re already doing some! Here are a few of my favorite oral language activities for kindergarten, first, and second grades.
- Interactive Read Alouds | Interactive read alouds are an easy way to promote both oral language skills and check for understanding. Before, during, and after reading, pause to ask students various questions to see if they understand your teaching points, can apply the reading skills they are working on, and speak out loud. You can read more about interactive read alouds HERE!
- Think-Pair-Share | During any lesson throughout the day, stop to ask a question and have students think about their answer. Then, have them pair up and share their thoughts with each other. Finally, have several students share their answers or share what their partner said.
- Show and Tell | Organize periodic “Show and Tell” sessions where students can bring in an object, photo, or special item to discuss with their classmates. This activity promotes descriptive language, develops active listening, and builds confidence in public speaking.
- Star of the Week | Each week, choose one student to become the Star of the Week and create a poster to share some facts about them and their family. Then, students will present their posters to their classmates.
- Book Talks | After reading a book in reading groups or independently, have students take turns giving their classmates (or a small group) a book talk about their book. I liked to let 2-3 students give a book talk on Fridays on a book they read that week that they thought their friends would also like. This also got students excited to read their library books!
- Classroom Centers | If allowed, have classroom centers that promote oral language like a kitchen or store center. I also had a “school” center I would rotate in so students could play school.
- Monday/Friday News Reporting | On Mondays and Fridays, have students report what they did over the weekend or something they are going to do over the weekend.
- Play 21 Questions | Think of an object. Students get to ask up to 21 questions to try to guess the item you are thinking of.
- Weather Reporter | During calendar time, have one student per day go check a window and report back on the weather and what they saw outside. I made this a classroom job that rotated each week!
- Question of the Day | Post a “Question of the Day” each day and have students use a sentence stem to answer it. I love to do this during morning meetings. We would go around and every student would quickly answer the question.
Oral Language Activities Done For You
If you want to include oral language activities in your classroom but are tight on time, I have you covered! The Science of Reading Oral Language Activities set has whole group activities ready to go. It includes:
- Read Aloud Questions and Discussion Cards
- Vocabulary Discussion Cards
- Social Scenario Cards
- Emotion Conversation Cards
- Teacher-Led Games
It’s designed to be as flexible as you need it! You can do one activity per day or one per week. You can use these activities in a whole group setting or even in a small group setting. Each activity is designed to foster meaningful conversations that help build strong literacy skills while also tackling other important topics.
Just print, fold, laminate, and go! Get your Science of Reading Oral Language Activities today HERE!
Oral language development is so important for our K-2 learners. By implementing these strategies in the kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms, we can create an environment that promotes active communication, critical thinking, and social interaction.
Teachers have the power to equip students with the necessary oral language skills to succeed both academically and socially. Try to see if you can implement a few of these oral language activities to ultimately boost readers!