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March 22, 2017

Making Oral Language Work in Your Classroom

In a previous post on Tenspire, we looked at the benefits of and reasons for supporting oral language development in the classroom. We know we need to get the students using larger and more nuanced vocabulary words, but when do we squeeze such instruction into the day? Here are a few ideas for making it work:

Practice Makes Perfect

At a recent national literacy conference, my suspicions were confirmed by numerous experts on vocabulary: there is no magic number for the amount of times a student has to be exposed to a word to truly commit it to memory. There are many factors that may come into play during word learning. The number of exposures needed could depend on the student’s background knowledge and even his or her working memory. I always committed to about 15-20 exposures to the target oral vocabulary words per week. This meant getting my students using the words in conversations to each other, reading the words aloud in multiple texts, telling their parents what words we were working on, and even encouraging the words’ use in shared writing opportunities. Meaningful exposures to the words have the most impact!

Write ‘em Down

Wait? Aren’t we talking about oral language development? Yes! I tended to be a bit absentminded about the focus words for the week unless I had them recorded somewhere visible and frequently noticeable. You won’t use the words that you forget about- so I made a small poster in the corner of my whiteboard for WOW words and it definitely helped. The students always reminded me, too!

Word of the Day Celebration

Think Pee Wee’s Playhouse word of the day celebrations. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80’s… you’re welcome! Pick one word to focus on per day- but be sure to go back and review your words from time to time. Learning new words can be such a great experience for all of your students and places a huge investment into your students’ comprehension “savings accounts.” Remember that teaching a word opens up a world of knowledge!

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