Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Developing Oral Language in Kindergarten: taught by Mrs. Huff

The pretty, green Christmas tree sparkles at night time.

The sparkly, green Christmas tree sparkles at the night time when I am home.

The shiny, big Christmas tree sparkles next to the cute, white snowman.

The fat, enormous Christmas tree sparkles in the sunlight.

The trees waiting to be read by parents at our Christmas party this week!
Here are some examples of a special writing project my class participated in that I know has definitely had an impact on the way they are learning how to talk.

For as long as I have been teaching, I have been interested in the concept of developing the oral language of the little people I spend my days with. In my earlier days of teaching, I found myself so excited that students would respond to what I planned to teach them about. I am still excited when I see that they want to engage with the concepts in each lesson. However, I soon realized that even though students were engaged and students responded, they did not often respond with "much". Answers were usually given in short and fragmented thoughts. Almost never did a student respond to a question or give a comment in a complete sentence. Even if they did, there was generally just a list given of what the student knew.

Over time, I began to study and evaluate my students for how they respond to me. I listened to how they speak to each other. I wondered if they were developmentally ready to learn how to expand the way they talk. I wondered if the development of oral language in a young child was simply the coincidental by-product of the classroom environment. If I spent most of my time accepting simple short answers in an attempt to quickly move through my curriculum and get to the next subject, I soon realized that I was actually training my students to respond like autobots with little attention given to critical analysis of thought and attention to descriptive detail.

I began to experiment with expectations and realized that a student can rise to the level you teach them at. When I do not model how to expand with description what I am saying, I get a regurgitation of lists of facts from my students. When I express myself with more expansive description and prod my students to do the same, they are able to do so. I do realize that while a student will rise to the level you teach them at, not all students can rise to the same level. As a result, I alternate how I ask my questions with some students. For some students, I may request their answer in a complete sentence and ask them what else they would like to tell me about their answer. Another student may be given a cloze sentence to complete in which they add their own descriptions, but I place key concepts into the verbal sentence for them.

Imagine my excitement this year when a writing teacher placed her child in my classroom and expressed an interest in helping to teach my students in kindergarten how to become better writers. Mrs. Huff  has spent hours each month bringing a writing theme into my classroom. She has taught my students in-depth about what adjectives are and how they can be used to make your writing more interesting to read. She has taught them how to love to create a picture and choose exact adjectives that accurately describe their picture and then learn how to write those words onto their paper. She has brought in beautiful literature that matches our theme and is full of adjectives as a model of expressive and interesting writing. This month, for Christmas, she brought in a Christmas tree picture and had them decorate it the way they wanted to with crayon, sequence shapes, glitter, and glue. She had an open sentence printed in a cute star font that said, "The___________, _____________ Christmas tree sparkled________________.They then brain stormed words that would describe their tree. These were written on the board for them to use in their writing. They were then asked to choose two words to describe their tree and wrote those on their paper themselves. They then dictated the rest of the sentence to Mrs. Huff or me and we wrote what they said on the last line. Some of them really got into the descriptive part of it and said, "The beautiful, tall Christmas tree sparkled in the dark forest while I was asleep." Truthfully, some of their comments were basic, but when asked for more description, they really loved getting creative to add more detail.

A very special Thank You to Mrs. Huff for your constant attention to my growing writers who are becoming more interesting speakers! Please visit her blogspot for some more wonderful Writer's Workshop ideas! You can see her work at http://www.mrshuffsstuff.blogspot.com


  1. Absolutely my pleasure! I love the time spent in your classroom. Now it's on to snowflakes in January! :o)

  2. I can't wait! It will be fun for the parents to receive all of these at the end of the year to see how much their writers have grown!


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