I have been a believer in the magic of language since, at a very
early age, I discovered that some words got me into trouble and others
got me out.
--Katherine Dunn, author and poet
In the Language strand of the Australian Curriculum English,
students develop their knowledge of the English language and how it
works. Through the following sub-strands, children develop their
understanding and skills of:
* Language variation and change
* Language for interaction
* Text structure and organisation
* Expressing and developing ideas
* Sound and letter knowledge
The curriculum in the Foundation Years uses the range of
experiences and knowledge that children bring to school as a rich base
for further learning. It aims to extend these abilities and to provide
the foundation needed for continued learning.
In the early childhood years the focus of language development
moves from non verbal to verbal communication. Outcome 5 in Belonging,
Being and Becoming--The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia
ORAL LANGUAGE IN THE EARLY YEARS
Language development in young children is a vital indicator for
success in later life. Oral language in conjunction with phonological
processing and print awareness has a great influence on the ability to
learn to read in the early years of school. In fact, reading regularly
with young children is the single most important activity that a parent
or carer can undertake to develop a child's ability to read and
The Australian Curriculum English Strand 5.2.3 states
In Belonging, Being and Becoming--The Early Years Learning
Framework for Australia, it highlights the importance of children using
their home languages as well as Standard Australian English. In early
childhood settings and the early years of primary school the ability for
young children to experiment with oral language is most evident in play
Playing with rhymes and rhythms from an early age enables children
to build auditory competencies needed to master language. Nursery rhymes
help introduce phonological awareness in a fun and interactive way. Mem
Fox in Reading Magic (2005) cites research that claims that
'Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if
children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they're
four years old they're usually among the best readers by the time
they are eight.'
ENGAGING WITH LANGUAGE
Books, rhymes and conversations provide the perfect vehicle for
children to explore language. The Little Big Book Club's programs
support families and educators to make the most out of sharing a book.
Talking, singing and playing are all important ways that children learn.
Sharing a book with a child presents many teachable moments.
Janet Mclean, author of Let's Go Baby-o! states in the
introduction of this delightful children's book 'From the
beginning, babies enter into a world of people, animals, things, places
and events. As they grow, they watch and listen to what is happening
around them. And they respond--they squeal and shout, and learn to talk;
they jiggle, bounce and clap; they smile and laugh and cry. Then those
around them talk back. The exchange continues, and so as babies grow
they learn more and more about their world.'
This book in itself provides a rich language experience. Because of
its familiar themes and language it is a great springboard for exploring
language with young children. For example:
* Take the time to look out the window. Ask some of the following
--What can you see?
--Can you find...?
Look out another window, what do you see, is it the same or
Older children can record what they see through drawing or writing.
* Grow some seedlings so you can regularly talk about the changes
that are taking place as they grow.
* Young children enjoy exploring their world through touch.
--Take their shoes or socks off so they can feel the soft grass
under their feet.
--Find a small corner of the garden where they can experience
digging in the dirt.
* To extend the story even further print the Let's Go Baby-o!
Activity Time from our website.
Lets Go Baby-O
Janet and Andrew McLean
Publisher: Allen & Unwin: ISBN: 9781742375649
ORAL LANGUAGE IN THE CLASSROOM
It is important that teachers conscientiously allow oral language
to thrive by encouraging children to engage in conversation with each
other and to create a classroom climate where students feel comfortable
asking questions or seeking clarification whenever necessary. Teachers
may not realise they do most of the talking, from 65% to 95% in most
classrooms (Peregoy & Boyle, 1997).
As children transition to school the focus begins to shift from
oral to written language. But it is important that oral language
continues to play a key role in the early years. The classroom should be
a place where 'talk is valued as a learning tool' (Peregoy
& Boyle, 1997, p. 100).
Some ideas to maximise oral language use in the classroom include:
* Aim to read a variety of high-quality fiction and non fiction
books every day.
* Include books that positively reflect children's identity,
home, language and culture.
* While reading to children, give them opportunities to discuss and
relate stories to their everyday lives.
* Use open-ended questions to foster conversations with children.
* Set up dramatic areas for children where they can experiment with
oral language and create their own scripts.
The primary role of language is communication. Language enables
children to express their feelings, share ideas, tell stories and engage
with the world. Language in combination with literature and literacy
provides children with a pathway for future successes
Peregoy, S.F., & Boyle, O.F. (1997). Reading, writing, &
learning in ESL. New York: Longman.
For further information, ideas and activities please visit our
Leanne Williams is the Early Childhood Advisor for The Little Big
Book Club. The Early Childhood Advisor is responsible for the
implementation of the Monthly Selections program and the ongoing
development and promotion of LBBC's range of resources.
Sarah Lawson is part of The Little Big Book Club's Early
Childhood Team. Sarah has worked in child care centres, kindergartens,
preschools and in junior primary classrooms.
Children are effective communicators with the first
indicator being that children interact verbally and
non-verbally with others for a range of purposes.
the development of oral language proficiency is important in its
own right. It is also important when learning to read and write.
The teaching of listening and speaking is essential in the early
years, and continues to be important throughout the years of