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Using Photographs for Oral Language Development

Oral language development is the basis for all other literacy development. Children must first develop their oral language skills (listening and speaking), and then they will be able to participate in reading and writing. Here is one of the first activities I do with my early childhood students in our literacy class to emphasize oral language development. It’s easy to do and produces new words and sentences quickly and in a very interactive way.

This activity can be done with preschoolers and up. The older the children are, the more they can do in the activity. Read on and see what I mean…

First choose a photograph – I suggest choosing an interesting picture involving an animal. This always seems to get children’s attention. Google Images is always the first place I look. The picture above of the bird on the lily pad is an example of one that I have used. Print it out large enough for the children to see when they are sitting down in front of it in a large group setting. This will happen later.

Hang it up where the children can see it easily before you meet as a large group. You can display it on an easel or on the wall/chalkboard.Chances are they will notice it and start talking about it. Even little ones will go up and touch it and babble a bit about what they see. After you have given the children some time to do this on their own, gather them as a group in front of the picture. Then do the following:

– Ask the children to look at the picture and tell you what they see. As they call out words, write them in list form on an easel or piece of chart paper. Make sure to use nice and neat teacher handwriting so the children can read and recognize the letters and words! Here is short list as an example:

– When you feel they have exhausted their ideas, read the list back with them. Point to each word as you read.

– Next ask the children to tell you some sentences about the picture. You can prompt them by asking them guiding questions (What do you think is happening in the picture?), but try to let the children provide the sentences. As they offer sentences, write them in list form. If the children are old enough, you can have them write at this point. Just make sure they are comfortable doing this in front of the class and they can do it in a reasonable amount of time. If not, you write in your nice teacher handwriting and model writing for them. Here is another short example:

– After this is exhausted, read each sentence back as a group. Don’t forget to point to each word as you read.

At the end of the activity, hang the words and sentences next to the picture somewhere in your classroom where the children can see it and refer to it often. They may want to add to either list or make one of their own.

So what does this do for Oral Language Development??

This type of activity allows children to look at a realistic photograph and generate their own ideas about it. As they orally share their ideas, they are also able to hear each other’s words and sentences, thereby learning new words and phrases. They learn new describing words and action words, all while practicing putting their ideas into clear verbal communications. Each child is given the opportunity to participate in an oral conversation about the picture, and leaves this activity with more words in their vocabulary. Try it and see what the children come up with!

A different twist on this activity:

Type (or write) one sentence next to the picture as if it is part of a story or as a way to describe what is happening. Read the sentence to the children and then ask the children to share their ideas based on what you read.

 

 

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