Speaking & Listening: Fostering Oral Language Development

Teaching reading needs to be a carefully constructed experience, with it’s multiple components thoughtfully in place, in order for children to be successful. One crucial component of reading instruction is oral language development. The Common Core Standards call for increased interaction with critical language skills and expanded engagement in appropriate academic discourse. Consequently, developing oral language skills in young children must be specific and targeted. Unless a child knows the meaning of a word in oral discussion, reading the word is meaningless.

Research has proven that the success of an early learner is directly linked to their foundational oral language skills and these skills have a profound impact on their success in school. According to a study conducted by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, “vocabulary use at age 3 was equally predictive of measures of language skill at age 9-10.”

This ability to understand and use oral language is essential to the development of reading skills. If this foundational component is not properly strengthened during the kindergarten year, the gap in academic ability will continue to grow throughout the child’s school experience. These language deficiencies will result in limited decoding, fluency, and comprehension in reading and eventually adversely affect content studies. According to Gerry Shiel, Áine Cregan, Anne McGough and Peter Archer (2012), “If children come to reading with a strong oral language base, they can build further on that base, establishing a reciprocal relationship between oral language and reading.”

We need to be especially aware of oral language as the diversity and unique needs of our students increase. Many children will come to school without a rich oral language experience, so early and intensive focus must be placed on oral language skills. This piece of the foundation is imperative for all students who must eventually read at grade level in order to succeed in all other subject areas. If this great need for oral language development is not addressed, for those struggling students, the achievement gap will simply continue to grow. To help you begin a renewed focus on oral language development, try this game that also fulfills Common Core SL.K.1. Taking Turns.

Taking Turns 

Common Core ELA-Literacy. SL.K.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

Common Core ELA-Literacy. SL.K.1a Follow agreed upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).

Common Core ELA-Literacy. SL.K.1b Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.

Materials: Print out Talk Tokens and Discussion Cards. Laminate for durability if desired.


Place Discussion Cards upside down in the center of the playing area to make a deck. Place the Talk Tokens in an accessible pile.

Players turn over a Discussion Card. Player 1 says at least one (complete) sentence about the topic on the card.

Player 2 takes a turn saying at least 1 sentence about the same topic. It must be a new sentence. The player cannot repeat what Player 1 said.

Players continue taking turns talking about the topic until a player cannot think of something new to say. The last player who was able to think of a sentence takes 1 Talk Token.

Players continue turning over Discussion Cards and talking about the topics on the cards. The last player to think of something to say about the topic on the card always takes a Talk Token. The player with the most Talk Tokens at the end of the game is the winner.

Our guest blogger & Friend of ESGI is Kathy Crane. She has shared all of her best-selling Preschool
and Kindergarten CCSS Tests, aligned to the National Common Core Standards with ESGI. Kathy has been teaching Kindergarten for 23 years, and has taught both Preschool and Reading courses at the college level. She has published 13 books on reading, writing and math, and has worked as a freelance author for two other online education publishing companies. Kathy earned her B.A. in Early Childhood Education, and her M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction.

To find out more about Kathy and to see her brilliant classroom ideas, visit her website: kindergartenkiosk.blogspot.com