Oral language is the way most children make sense of their world. It is inherent in everyday learning experiences with children. Daily routines and interactions with other children and adults provide vital opportunities for children to become confident and competent communicators.
Prior to starting school, it is important to support your child in opportunities to develop oral language. This can be done by:
Modelling: give examples of new vocabulary or new words. For example, “We could use the word ‘huge’ when we talk about something that is really big”.
Questioning: encourage children to ask questions about various items around the house. “What could we use to do ……”? or “Where would I need to go to get …..”?
Reflecting with children: have your child share their favourite part of the day or share something that was different and why it was different (a new friend they made or new learning).
Explaining or Demonstrating: have children share with you instructions of how to do or make something. For example, how to play a particular game.
Music is also a powerful tool in a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Consistently practicing songs and rhymes in the early years is helpful in the development of oral language.
Reading and sharing books about various topics lets your child hear words used in many different ways and allows opportunities for them to enhance their vocabulary.
Linking what is in a book to what is happening in your child’s life is a good way to get your child talking. For example, you could say “We went to the playground today, just like the little person in this book. What do you like to do at the playground?” You can also encourage talking by chatting about interesting pictures in the books you read with your child.
When you read aloud with your child, you can point to words as you say them. This shows your child the link between spoken and written words, and helps your child learn that words are distinct parts of language. These are important concepts for developing literacy.
Here are some other practical ideas for shared time at home with an oral language focus:
- Look together at photos or videos of when children were young.
- Look through a magazine/junk mail and talk about what they see or what they are interested in. You can also share what you find interesting or funny.
- Alert your child to an article or picture in the newspaper that may interest them.
- Read books to or with your child. It is important for both parents to do this too! Children are more likely to value reading if you show you do as well.
- Retell a favourite story or one from your childhood. You can also tell imaginative stories without hard copy books. Make it up and get the children to add what comes next.
- Visit the local library and choose books together both fiction and reference books.
- Make up a story from your own experiences or from when your children were little. For example, the day you lost your first tooth.
- Turn off the TV and take turns to tell some NEWS from the day. Be careful not to dwell too much on the negative aspects of your busy day. Perhaps offer a topic such as 2 good things that happened in my day.
- Play talking/memory games such as ‘I went to the zoo and I saw …’.
- Play cards or board games. Give the children opportunities to explain the rules and organise the games.