Print Rich Environment
A great deal of research has been done in the field of oral language acquisition. As a means of attempting to negotiate their environment children actively construct language (Dyson, 1983; Halliday, 1994; Sulzby,1985). From a child's earliest experience with personal narrative development, oral language acquisition must be continually fostered. (IRA and NAEYC, 1998). This becomes the building block for establishing success in all areas of literacy.
Oral language begins to develop at a very young age as children and parents interact with one another in the natural surroundings of the home environment (Teale, 1978; Yaden, 1988). A child's home environment greatly impacts the rate, quality and ability to communicate with others (MacLean, Bryant and Bradley, 1987; Martinez, 1983; National Research Council 1999). Factors related to language growth in the home environment include parent interaction, books, being read to, modeling; home language and literacy routines all closely parallel those of the classroom and school.
The development of oral language is an ongoing natural learning process. Children observe oral communication in many contexts – home, preschool, prekindergarten, and begin to develop concepts about its purposes (Dyson, 1983; Halliday,1994;Martinez, 1983). Target skill areas such as sequencing, classification, and letter sounds oral language skills are all components of early childhood educational programs (Kelley and Zamar, 1994).
Meaning is a social and cultural phenomenon and all construction of meaning is a social process. Developmental stages of child language development: Phase I – Protolinguistic or “Protolanguage”, Phase II – Transition, Phase III – Language. The Protolanguage Stage (which is associated with the crawling stage) includes noises and intonation, physical movement, adult/infant interaction – this exchange of attention is the beginning of language. During the Transition Stage (which is associated with the developmental stage of walking) there is a transition from child tongue to mother tongue. During this stage the “pragmatic” mode develops; a demand for goods and services that seeks a response in the form of an action. In Phase III – Language Stage, the child moves from talking about shared experience to sharing information with a third person. The child realizes that reality is beyond their own experience; they invite confirmation, enjoy shared experience.
From the ontogenesis of conversation we are able to gain insight into human learning and human understanding. Meaning is created at the intersection of two contradictions – the experiential one, between the material and the conscious modes of experience, and the interpersonal one, between different personal histories of the interacting taking part (Halliday,1994). Properly developed oral language enables a child to effectively communicate their thoughts and viewpoints with others. It is also important for young children to have developed listening skills as they begin to experience the power of communication.
The environment influences ones desire to communicate as well as the frequency of communication. Oral language develops through authentic experiences (Harste, Burke and Woodward, 1994). Kindergarten classroom environments that are alive with social interaction are ideal environments for nourishing speaking and listening skills.
As children participate in communicative events, they slowly acquire an understanding of the relevance of these forms. Students need to be provided and encouraged to participate in environmental literacy activities, as those experiences are indispensable to language development (Brown and Briggs, 1987). Development of oral language skills must be addressed in Kindergarten as an integral part of the daily curriculum in order for students to be able to succeed throughout schooling and in today's society (Goodman, 1992; IRI and NAEYC,1998).
Kindergarten programs need to be structured but not formal. Classrooms that are carefully structured allow for maximum oral language acquisition through authentic literacy activities that take place in natural ways during a school day (Ellermeyer, 1988). Education is inquiry based, and as such the focus with education becomes learning, and the task of teaching becomes the inquiry process. The learner is central, in the process of the learning-inquiry cycle (Harste, Burke and Woodward,1994). Students need to be provided and encouraged to participate in environmental literacy activities, as these experiences are indispensable to language development.
Having conducted and observational study during scheduled Language Arts blocks in a Kindergarten class over a period of time Dyson (1987) concluded that within the “rich and noisy talk of the peer group it was obvious that the children not only helped each other extend and elaborate their worlds, they also critiqued those worlds”. It is necessary for teachers to be cognizant that oftentimes “chitter-chatter” is actually facilitating mutual language and literacy acquisition for students involved in such exchanges.
Dyson (1983) conducted a study of the role early language plays in early writing. Through observations of children at a Kindergarten writing center she concluded that oral language is an integral part of the early writing process. Talk provided both meaning and for some children the systematic means for getting that meaning on paper. The child as a language learner progresses along a developmental continuum. Language acquisition is fundamentally a social process in which language is used to make and share meaning of experience (Corter and Park, 1993).
Children require opportunities to interact with both peers and adults in a wide variety of settings as they learning and practice language and literacy knowledge, skills, and strategies (Brown and Briggs 1987; Coohn, 1981; Dyson, 1983; Ellermeyer, 1988). Children like to talk about themselves, their friends, their families, their pets, their hobbies, etc. Engaging young children in conversation about things with which they are familiar affords them a comfort level to experiment with ways to express themselves.
Literacy acquisition is dependent on oral language abilities and skills. Many opportunities for exploration and play promote emergent literacy (Morrow and Rand, 1991; Teale, 1978) occur naturally throughout the school day. A child uses and is exposed to oral language throughout each and every day. Oral language is not “taught” as a separate component of a literacy program, as it is an integral part of everyday life. As a speaker and a listener, in instruction or in play, a child learns language (Clay, 2000; Pelligrini, 1980).
Opportunities to increase oral language abilities and applications are embedded within the literacy program. Conversation, collaboration, and learning through others are integral to learning. A child's oral language ability is the basis for beginning literacy instruction, and as such initial informal assessments as well as ongoing assessment during the school year would provide key information regarding a child's oral language abilities.
Rog (2001), provides a list of child's oral language skills as a means of evaluating a child's oral language and vocabulary: