Kindergarten is the pivotal year for oral language development. Incoming students have a varied level of language ability. Some kids can already speak with complete sentences, and others still give one-word answers or speak in phrases. Teachers have the responsibility of facilitating language skills in the classroom, but parents are responsible for creating an environment at home conducive to oral language development.
Oral language skills are important for an obvious reason -- communication. Children need to be able to take part in a conversation where they answer questions, share personal stories and retell stories they have heard using details. Although some children are not as communicative as others, by the end of the year most kindergarten students should have mastered these skills.
There is a major focus placed on oral language in kindergarten because it improves phonemic awareness -- the knowledge that each letter has a corresponding sound and that words are made by blending these individual sounds. Children with developed oral language ability are able to recognize and produce rhyming words and identify beginning sounds in words, two crucial skills for learning to read.
Oral language development is critical to vocabulary acquisition. When children are encouraged to talk about their experiences in a conversation with others, they will add words to their vocabulary. This helps them later when they begin reading independently. Oral language development in kindergarten will enable your child to build the background knowledge he needs to determine the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Kindergarten students who have well developed oral language skills will have an easier time comprehending what they read or what is read to them. These students have learned to listen and know how to remember important facts about a story. If you communicate frequently with your child at home by asking questions or playing games, you will help him become a successful reader. Scholastic cites research that claims oral language development in kindergarten is an indicator of future reading success.
Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.