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Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation

Content: Oral Language



How to Build Language and Literacy Through Powerful Conversations

Oral Language

Oral Language

Oral language is the foundation to read and write and is critical for developing children’s early literacy skills. If children are living and learning in language rich environments they can learn at least 2.500 words per year. Knowing all that vocabulary can help them later as they learn to read and use that vocabulary to determine words on a page. Beyond the words, children will learn three rules of language: semantics (word meaning), syntax (grammar and the word order we use to make sure the words make sense) and phonology (sound system or phonemes of language). Many people also consider non-verbal elements of communication or pragmatics to be another component. Pragmatics are the social rules that govern how people use oral language. These include tone and body language, but also the ways that speech accomplishes particular purposes and changes under different circumstances. The development or oral language that’s necessary for learning to read—comes early in our lives.

Written Language

By watching adults read to them, many children develop what’s known as print awareness. Print awareness involves familiarity with written symbols and the combination of written symbols in texts. As students learn to read, the newly developing skills for reading join together with those for processing oral language. Reading, after all, involves hearing someone (the author) speak in your head. Learning to read involves five sets of skills:
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Alphabetic Principle (Phonics)
  • Fluency with Text
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
As children improve at decoding, more and more words become sight words. This means that children recognize those words without having to sound them out. The more sight words that a child incorporates, the closer to fluency he or she becomes. But fluency with reading individual words is not the end of the process. Children must also learn to make sense of sentences, paragraphs, and eventually entire books! To do this, they must learn the rules for capitalization, punctuation, and other elements of writing. As with oral-language development, written-language development follows well-known steps. https://www.whps.org/uploaded/Offices/Curriculum_Instruction_and_Assessment/Families_-_Academics/Stages_of_Writing_Development.pdf Some children follow a slower timeline, and some follow a faster one. Educators shouldn’t worry though if it takes a student a bit longer.

The Sequence of Language Development

The Sequence of Language Development: Understanding Oral Language | Speaking | Reading | Writing [/su_spoiler]

Strengthening Oral Language in Preparation for Reading

By now, it’s clear that oral language development provides an essential foundation for learning to read. A whole body of research demonstrates that stronger language skills lead to better literacy achievement! One way to help students read is to strengthen their oral language skills. This is important for all students. But for students with language delays, it’s especially important! Students with language delays typically don’t speak very much in class, and it’s our job to help them feel comfortable participating. Three approaches to facilitating discussions are really useful for helping students improve their oral language:
  1. Seeking communication (or making sure everyone gets to talk).
  2. Acknowledging communication (or showing that you are really listening).
  3. Augmenting communication (or giving focused support to help students communicate).

Module: Helping Students Read (Clone)

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