The Power of Words – Building Vocabulary Age 3 to Grade 3


Oral Language AND Literacy: Not either/or

Oral Language AND Literacy: Not either/or

A short excerpt from an article published in Reading Rockets ….

“Recently, Chris Lonigan and I (Timothy Shanahan) wrote a short article for Language Magazine. It’s focus is on “The Role of Early Oral Language in Literacy Development.” I think both Chris and I have bona fides in the “phonics/decoding/foundational skills” community and have the scars to show it. But we are both also advocates of the so-called “simple view” of reading — students need to know how to decode from print to language and they need to know how to understand language. This is a both, not an either/or.

Here is a link to the article. Hope you enjoy it.”

And here is a short excerpt from that article:

“Response to intervention in preschool holds promise for successful early language development but several key issues must be considered. For one, preschools often serve disproportionate numbers of children who need Tier 2 or Tier 3 services, which causes staffing concerns. Also, more research is needed on the effect of interventions for children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English language learners, and children from underrepresented ethnic groups.
The NELP report, along with other studies of children’s early language development, suggests that early oral language has a growing contribution to later reading comprehension — a contribution that is separate from the important role played by the alphabetic code. As such, improving young children’s oral language development should be a central goal during the preschool and kindergarten years.”

Zwiers and Crawford: Chapter 3 on Lesson Activities for Developing Core Conversation Skills

Quote from 5th Grade Language Arts Student: “The book was only so-so, but our conversations about it were awesome.”

As a reminder from the last post: the five core conversational skills were:

Elaborate and clarify

Support ideas with examples

Build on and/or challenge a partner’s idea


Synthesize conversation points

The introduction to this chapter cautions that these are not separate skills taught in isolation.  Rather they are to be integrated into the content being taught, as well as being integrated with the other skills.

As noted earlier, this text offers lots of good suggestions for HOW to teach these skills.  First an example of a technique for Synthesizing Conversation Points.

Parking/Promoting/Pruning Ideas.  Students start by “writing down ideas (or parking them) for later use.  Then they Promote ideas they may be reluctant to share after you give examples of ideas that originally seen as “crazy” – airplanes, cell phones, moon shots…  And then student “prune” the ideas—both their own and others—by being conscious of which ideas further the conversation and which ideas do not. (p. 55)

The authors also suggest mini lessons on conversations that allow to students to practice:

Analyzing good conversations via a fishbowl technique.

Student modeling of good conversational skills, perhaps using posters or checklists.

Scaffolding by modeling think-alouds, conversations with students and analysis of written conversations.



The Power of Picture Books

Picture Books: Poetry in Motion

Here’s a brief excerpt from Reading Rockets:

July 6, 2015

“I’ve been thinking a lot about picture books and why some work and are memorable while others just land with a thud when read. I continue to ask myself what is it about those picture books that resonate with readers and particularly those that can be shared many times between adults and children, delighting both….” ders+%28Reading+Rockets%3A+Struggling+Reader+Resources%29

More Than a Gap in Words

Published in Print: April 22, 2015, as Research on Quality of Conversation Holds Deeper Clues Into Word Gap

Key to Vocabulary Gap Is Quality of Conversation, Not Dearth of Words

By Sarah D. Sparks


“The “30 million-word” gap is arguably the most famous but least significant part of a landmark study, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children, by the late University of Kansas child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. As the work turns 20 this year, new research and more advanced measuring techniques have cast new light on long-overshadowed, and more nuanced, findings about exactly how adult interactions with infants and young children shape their early language development.”


Parent-Child Conversations

“This is the challenge of translating science to policy, and when one study captures the imagination of the public, and policy is made based on one study,” Mr. Barnett said. A study “has to be viewed in the context of the much larger body of knowledge about language and family and experience.”


“Conversational turns are vastly more important than the number of words a child is exposed to,” Ms. Gilkerson said.





Another Preschool Literacy Resource I Missed

Sometimes I’m amazed by how many good sites/links I miss.  Here’s another one:

A New-To-Me Resource on Preschool Language and Literacy

Articles from the Hanen Centre, Canada based.

This is a Canadian based web site for parents, preschool educators, and speech-language-pathologists focused on language and literacy development . They have a valuable variety of books/booklets, some of which are moderately expensive. But BEST OF ALL they offer a series of wonderful short articles on language and literacy, many of which I’ve printed for my own library of resources. I’ve listed a few below. Their web site is well worth checking out.


Talking to Young Children Makes a Big Difference!.aspx

Promoting Language with Books

Getting Ready to Read

Teaching Children to Think–Meeting-the-demands-of.aspx

More Than ABC’s—Building-the-Critical-Thinking-Sk.aspx

What Makes Your Child Tick….Communication

Not For Profit Charity

“The Hanen Centre is a not-for-profit charitable organization with a difference. We are a social entrepreneur, operating our business for a clear social purpose – to enable young children to develop the best possible language and literacy skills. Founded in 1975 by Ayala Hanen Manolson, a speech-language pathologist who saw the potential of involving parents in their child’s early language intervention, The Hanen Centre is  dedicated to addressing a pressing social problem – delays in language development in young children, including children with developmental delays and autism.”


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