What to Teach with Oral Language

Oral language skills are best taught when combined with instruction in the following four reading components. As you are helping students develop their oral language skills, also provide instruction in these components.

Phonemic Awareness: The oral language phonological sub-skill overlaps with the skills students learn during phonemic awareness instruction. As such, you can help students improve their phonological skills while improving their phonemic awareness, and vice-versa.

Vocabulary: The reading component of vocabulary comprises learning the meaning of words, the interpretation of words, and the process for learning new words. The vocabulary reading component contributes to oral language skills by expanding students’ word knowledge, while the oral language skills assist with interpretation of the words. Together, they lead to increased overall comprehension.

Fluency: The emphasis on accurate decoding in fluency contributes to students’ phonological and morphological sub-skills. Furthermore, the fluency emphasis on pacing and expression contribute to a better understanding of how an author or character is using language to convey information. When we teach students to vary their pacing and expression for fluency, we are also helping students understand how to modify language use or oral language skills.

Comprehension: As students improve their comprehension skills, they learn to create a defensible interpretation of the text. Part of this process is understanding how the author or characters use language, gauging the effectiveness of language use for a purpose, and analyzing the appropriateness of the language. The skills students develop in comprehension and the skills they learn in oral language development depend on each other: they cannot be used and, therefore, cannot be taught in isolation.