Sunday, 1 July 2018


What am I doing to help strengthen, build, and support the development of oral language with my students?  I realised that while they can generally answer simple questions posed to them, they don't know how to have a general conversation - asking questions, making comments, gathering information about what's going on around them. 

One way I had thought of to get children asking questions was to let them play ‘Guess Who, but I was put off that idea because they would not have been able to read the names of the people in the game.  One day I had this brilliant idea that I could have made it easy by simply removing the names and putting letters in their place.  So that’s what I did.   I printed off a picture of the people in the game, twinked out the names and wrote letters.  As I was laminating three sets of the game I thought ‘Why aren’t I just making the game available on their iPads?’  So…I did.  I made it into an EE slide and they all downloaded it to their own iPads.  We still needed actual hold-in-the-hand people cards so we would know who our ‘Guess Who’ person was.   

Only one or two children in the class had ever played ‘Guess Who’ before, so I needed to teach them the game.  Initially they found it challenging to ask questions that would help them work out the answer.  They started out asking ‘Is your person B?’  Actually – they started out by just saying ‘B’, and I’d teach them how to ask.  ‘Does your person have….?’  This whole question and answer game has been great.  They’re learning to not just think about their person, but to listen to their partner’s answers and make decisions on who to cross out (it’s how you do it on an iPad).  Now that they’re getting the hand of this person-orientated game, I’m thinking of shifting it up a notch and creating a game that has food, animals, people, and other random items on it so they’ll have to get more creative with their questions.

In Term One I had asked children to identify features of two puppets that were the same.  They were unable to.  So I created an EE called ‘What’s the Same?’ so that kids could choose things that were the same and record themselves explaining what was the same about their choices (sometimes there was more than one way of choosing things that were ‘the same’).  The EE started off fairly easy and got more difficult as the slides progressed.  Some children found it quite challenging, and I think I should re-visit the EE and give them the opportunity to have another ‘go’ at it.

We have also begun making very short stories on the iPads.  I simply call it Tell a Story.  The students choose a background from some I’ve selected, then they choose two characters from a selection, and the create dialogue between the two characters.  Along with the actual story, there are a lot of skills that they’re consolidating – copying and pasting, unlocking/locking, sizing, recording, and moving. They all really enjoy being creative – though there are a few children who copy my stories.  But at least they’re speaking and having fun while doing that. 

The question is, with all the fun and learning that we’re doing in Room 17, along with the repetition of how to ask things like ‘Can I get a drink of water, please Miss Hockly? or ‘Are we having milk today?’ – Is language acquisition on the incline?  The answer is ‘Yes’.  And, of course, it’s at different rates.  But all students are becoming clearer and more confident in their speaking.  

The goal for Term Three (along with consolidating what we've begun) will be around asking for clarification if they don’t understand something.  This will not just be focused during Maths, where we’re working on word problems and sharing ideas, but also when I might say something, and they don’t understand, or may want further information.  I had tried this earlier in Term Two when I said
‘I’m really happy today’. 
Everyone just sat. 
I asked
‘Is there anything you’d like to ask me about that?’ 
‘Does anyone want to know why I’m happy?’
And everyone did.  So we talked about how they could ask questions to find out more information.  I’ll do more of this in term three – perhaps with small groups, so I can gauge growth in general conversation.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts about my blog, or your experiences of teaching young ones.