Teachers must develop techniques and strategies in order to cultivate the wide range of oral language skills present in a kindergarten classroom. Some children will enter kindergarten speaking clearly and possessing a large vocabulary, while others may have a more primitive speaking style. All kindergarten students will benefit from reinforcement and encouragement to improve their oral language skills.
Songs and Music
Incorporating music and songs into the kindergarten curriculum is an enjoyable way for students to improve their vocabulary, literacy and speaking skills. According to an article by Pam Schiller on the website Earlychildhood NEWS, using tunes that children are already familiar with is an effective way for teachers to create songs that will introduce new concepts or vocabulary (Reference 4).
Be an Active Listener
It's also important for teachers to encourage students to talk about their personal interests and to offer encouraging responses. Restrain from correcting any grammatical mistakes and simply encourage children to speak. Many of the late-developing speakers may be inspired to talk about a favorite book, television show or toy. Follow up with questions about something the child has told you, which will lead to further conversation. Incorporate a time into the day where all students have an opportunity to share something with the class orally.
Encourage Peer Discussions
Even though teachers may be tempted to keep talking to a minimum in a busy kindergarten classroom, conversations between students can help struggling speakers learn new ways to express themselves. Provide opportunities for children to discuss stories or concepts with each other. Pose questions to the class and then allow students to discuss the answer with a buddy.
Be a Good Model
Kindergarten teachers should serve as good models of oral language for their students. When speaking to children, do so clearly and carefully. Refrain from using slang or incorrect pronunciation, which may confuse the child (such as “shoulda” or “kinda”). Speak to students directly as much as possible and try to incorporate some one-on-one conversation with every child, every day.
Reading aloud to students is one of the best ways to increase their vocabulary and oral language fluency. Read new books and repeat favorites often. Repetition gives children an opportunity to memorize new words. Leave out well-known passages in a story and ask students to recite the missing part. Reciting provides a nice challenge for children, while helping them to improve their oral language skills.
Rhyming activities encourage children to practice verbalizing common letter sound patterns. Place several items in a box; then give each child a word and have them search for an item in the box that rhymes with their given word. For example, if a student is asked to find an object that rhymes with jar, he would pick up a toy car from the box.
Playing games that are popular among kindergarten students, such as “Duck, Duck, Goose” or “Red Rover,” encourage children to use words to communicate with their classmates and teachers in a playful atmosphere. Another idea is to hold a class tea party and encourage children to use good manners when speaking. Look for fun ways to incorporate oral communication into educational and playful activities.
- US Department of Education: Reading First: Oral Language and Vocabulary Development Kindergarten & First Grade
- Scholastic: Oral Language Development Checklist
- EarlyChildhoodNEWS: Music and Movement - Instrumental in Language Development
- EarlyChildhoodNEWS: Songs and Rhymes as a Springboard to Literacy
- Kinder IQ: Expanding Vocabulary with Rhyming Games
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images