Let’s Talk About: Oral Language Development

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Oral language development is a crucial part of the Science of Reading. The science tells us that while phonics, decoding, and sight recognition (the lower strands on Scarborough’s Reading Rope) are foundational, students will only become fluent readers with appropriate language development. Language skills help students to understand and discuss texts.

Weaving oral language development into everyday instructional activities can be done with a little strategy. For example, if you and your students plan to participate in this year’s African American Read-In, here are some ideas that allow your class to use it to focus on building your students’ oral language skills.


Middle School:

High School:

  • Ask students to explore the intersection of African American Poetry, history, and culture by creating a timeline of the works of an African American poet and social movements. Students could use Padlet (reviewed here) or Timeline JS (reviewed here) to create their timeline narrative. This activity will promote analyzing literature in its cultural and historical context. 
  • Organize a debate on an African American literary theme. Teachers can use Kialo Edu (reviewed here) to help students prepare their arguments for the discussion. Debating strengthens reasoning, research, and persuasive speaking abilities. 
  • Use Twitter to find #GridPals for your class. Use Flip topics to structure conversational exchanges about books by African American authors

The African American Read-In provides a valuable opportunity to promote literacy and highlight the voices of influential African American authors. By incorporating oral language activities, we can leverage the event further to build our students’ essential speaking and listening skills. As we celebrate African American literature this year, consider small but meaningful ways to engage your students in rich discussions and practice using language confidently.

About the author: Ruth Okoye

Dr. Ruth Okoye is the Director of K12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning. As a long-time technology coach, Ruth shares ideas and strategies for professional learning and thoughts on how to motivate yourself to “dig deeper” into educational technologies.

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