If you were to visit my classroom, you would see that technology is a large part of how I deliver curriculum to my students. I think technology has changed the way we think about teaching and has improved our ability to keep students engaged in the learning process. The use of technology does have its drawbacks however, and I will be the first to admit to my colleagues that it’s presence in the classroom can sometimes have a negative impact as well. The greatest impact in my opinion, is on the development of oral language skills. Students are spending more and more time using technology at home and school and less time talking as a result. Yes, they can ‘talk’ over text messaging or through Snap Chat and Instagram, but they don’t have the opportunity to develop those necessary skills they gain when they talk and interact with others in person.
Being an advocate of technology in the classroom, I felt that it was my responsibility as a teacher, to acknowledge and address this oral language concern with my students. I began to implement a few things into my schedule every week to address the greater need for oral language development. Below are some things that I found to be effective in helping students develop good oral language skills.
1. Set aside time in your daily schedule for oral language development. It could be 10 minutes of students asking one another about their weekend or doing a think-pair-share activity for math (think about a math problem, pair with a partner to talk about it and share what your thinking with the class). Giving students opportunities to talk to each other every day will increase their ability to develop these necessary skills.
2. Plan co-operative learning lessons for students. Group work allows students to plan and problem solve together and encourages students to develop new relationships. You can also assign roles to students when working in groups so that they can develop certain skill sets (leader, encourager, recorder and reporter). Having a recorder for example, allows students to communicate with one another orally and agree on what should be recorded about their learning. This forces students to engage in conversations with other group members and synthesize their learning before putting it down on paper.
3. Model proper oral language skills in the classroom. As teachers, we are always modeling proper oral language, however we can take it a step further and re-enforce or correct oral language when we see students attempting to engage with others. Some students need to be explicitly taught that they are to make eye contact when speaking with others or wait their turn to speak during a conversation.
4. Make oral presentations a priority in the classroom. Have students present what they have learned to their classmates. For example, instead of having students do a book report, have them present what they have learned using a book talk instead. Check out some examples of the book talks and creative projects I use in my classroom. My students love completing the creative activities and presenting them to their classmates in the form of a book talk! Giving students time to practice their presentations is also important. When practicing in partners, students have the opportunity to refine their oral language skills through giving and receiving feedback about oral presentation skills.
5. Allow students to play games. Whether it be charades, monopoly or snakes and ladders, games give students an opportunity to learn valuable oral communication skills. Waiting for a turn, communicating the rules of a game or learning to read body language or social cues, are all invaluable skills that game playing allows students to develop!
Implementing these 5 things in my classroom has made a significant impact on my students oral language skill development. I’ve noticed students engaging in more conversations with one another and their presentation skills have also improved immensely! The biggest and most valuable improvement I’ve seen however, is the increase in student confidence. Students are now confident in their ability to be an effective communicator and feel that their ideas are being heard!
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