Oral Language Development

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to our blog.

By Alyssa Trevino                                                                                               

 Language development and acquisition is crucial to children’s academic success. All educators should foster and promote oral and written languages. Language development is supported by many theoretical perspectives

 Language is based on five aspects of knowledge; phonology, semantic, syntactic, morphology, and pragmatic knowledge. These aspects of knowledge are crucial to develop in order to communicate effectively.

  • Phonology – The sounds and patterns that are associated with language.
  • Semantic- The words of a language and the meanings connected with those words.
  • Syntactic- The structure of words used to create phrases and sentences. (grammatical rules) 
  • Morphology- Morphemes are the smallest units that form meaning language. (prefixes and suffixes)
  • Pragmatic- Language is adjusted based on the audience being spoken to. 

The five aspects of knowledge are all interrelated. A single aspect of knowledge can not exist without an interrelation with the other four aspects of language. In order for children to become effective communicators they need to acquire oral and written competencies.

Oral language provides the basis on which knowledge of written language is acquired. As children interact with one another and amongst various environments, children begin to develop vocabulary for a means of communication. Children begin to form receptive and expressive modes of competencies.  These competencies serve as a strong foundation for reading and writing skills.

 The process of language development has intrigued many educators and researchers. There are major theorists and practices that have impacted today’s educational field. Theorists such as Chomsky and Piaget focus on language as an instinctive process. Language is seen as something that is innate or an inborn human capability. Oral language does not have to be taught but rather acquired subconsciously.     

Theorists such as Skinner and Vygotsky believe that language is a nurturing process. To these two theorists language is seen as something that is needed to be reinforced and taught. Oral language development must be intentionally implemented and explicitly introduced.

There is not one theory that solely contributes toward language development. These theories are practiced consistently throughout head start programs. Many programs provide an oral language development block. While other head start programs believe that oral language development is embedded   throughout their entire curriculum.

Language development and acquisition start at a very early age. Infants and toddlers need positive reinforcement when developing language. It is important to be aware of the significance of adult and child interactions. Infants and toddlers use adult interaction patterns, gestures, facial expressions and conversations to develop language and its aspects.

It is important to provide students with opportunities to communicate orally and through writing. Oral language development builds a foundation for student’s academic success.

Character Suitcases!

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Crystal Ramos

Imagine your favorite character going on a trip. What would they pack? Is there anything in particular they would take?

This is an activity that I have used in my classroom that my students and I really enjoy.  I discovered it through the book Awesome Hands-on Activities for Teaching Literary Elements (Grades 4-8) by Susan Van Zile.  The book is filled with activities to get your students engaged.   Character Suitcases is the one activity my students really take pleasure in when it comes to analyzing characters. 

I have used this activity with the novels Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  There are a wide variety of characters in each novel, all ranging in character personalities.  In Because of Winn-Dixie, you have the lonely Opal, mysterious Otis, mischievous Dewberry brothers, and many others. Although my students’ personal favorites are the infamous Golden ticket winners to Wonka’s factory from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Charlie, Veruca, Mike, Augustus, Violet, and even Mr. Wonka.

Charlie_Chocolate_Factory because-of-winn-dixie

After completing a novel, in groups the students will choose a character to analyze.  This activity can be done individually as well.  They must create the character’s suitcase and the contents they (the character) will take on a trip.  The amount of items in the suitcase depends on the character.  The least my students have created have been 5, and the most being 10.  Before they can begin creating the items, they need to gather information based on what they learned about the character through their words, thoughts, and actions.  Once they have gathered all the information they can began to discuss the contents they will create.

Materials needed:

Small cardboard boxes for suitcases (empty Crayola crayon boxed used for suitcase above)
construction paper
markers, crayons, colored pencils
stickers, clip art, etc.

Making the character suitcases allows the students to be creative.  This also allows them to place themselves in the characters shoes, and discuss with their group members the different traits of their chosen character.

Here is an example of one character suitcase:

miketeaveesuitcaseexample-Mike Teavee’s suitcase and contents: GameBoy, a remote control, and a pair of cowboy boots.
Mike Teavee is a boy who has his eyes glued to the television. His favorite shows are those of cowboys.  While watching TV he likes to emulate the cowboys’ actions.  Therefore, he is never seen with his toy guns, or his gun holster.

Once they have finished their suitcases, the students will write a brief explanation why the character would pack each item they created.  They may write it in the character’s point of view, or write giving justification with the character’s thoughts, words, and actions.  You may also have your students present their character suitcases to the class.

Getting High School Students to Enjoy Reading

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Ann Velarde (Slusher)

As everyone knows, getting students to read is a very difficult task. Since I teach high school students, I have stopped and asked myself whether it is too late to get my students to find reading enjoyable. The challenge that I gave myself after the STAAR test was over was to get my students to read. It has been two weeks since I have started introducing new approaches to literacy and I have had many challenges, but also some successes.

 baseballThe first approach that I implemented is read alouds. There are several things that I want to accomplish through these read a louds. First, I am introducing various cultures through the stories that I read. I started with a chapter in Gary Soto’s book Baseball in April.  I read about a third of the story and realized that it wasn’t going very well. I honestly don’t think that my students knew how to react to me reading to them, so I simply stopped and told them that we would continue the story tomorrow.  I knew I had to regroup. The next day I had copies of the story for each student to follow along. This worked so much better. After I finished reading, we discussed the story and many students made connections to the characters. 

grandfatherThe second story that I read to them was a picture book called Grandfather’s Journey, which is about an Asian man who comes to America, but still missed his homeland. My students loved it! Even though the characters were Asian, many could relate to the feeling that they had regarding America and their birth place. I also read a short story by Anne Estevis from her book Down Garrapata Road titled “The Prisoner.” The conversations that my students had were so rich that they were still talking about it as they were walking out of my classroom. Needless to say, that put a smile on my face all day!

voicesToday, I let my students choose someone to work with and gave them a poem and story from Voices form the Fields. This is a collection of interviews and photographs of children of migrant farm workers by S. Beth Atkins.  The partners read each of them and tomorrow will “respond” to the texts. I know this is going to be difficult for them because they are use to being told exactly how to answer something.  I told them that had to put something on paper to prove to me that they found a connection to the two pieces of texts.  I was accused of making them think, which they don’t like to do.


keepingNext week, I am going to read The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Pollacco . This story is about a Jewish family from Russia who came to the United States, but decided to make a quilt from all of the important things from their homeland and it is then passed down to each generation to remind them of where they came from.

Another approach that I am trying in my classroom is what I am calling Free Read Fridays.  I told my students that every Friday they are going to read for thirty minutes. They can read anything that they want: magazines, newspapers, novels of any type, and they can also use their I-pads to find something to read. My school library had several magazines that they were willing to donate to my classroom, and my school gets the paper three times a week, and so I have those available for my students as well. I was pretty surprised how many students brought something to read last Friday. Most read magazines or something on their I-pads. I did have to make sure they were actually reading on the I-pads and not playing games, but once that rule was established things went rather smoothly.

Introducing my students to new approaches to literacy this late in the year is harder than it would be if I had done this from the beginning. However, I realize that I can take what I am learning now and adapt and change it for the start of the upcoming school year.


This semester in READ 6310, students were asked to contribute one post to our blog.

by I. Martinez

 Magazines remind me of picture books, because like picture books, magazines arouse my curiosity and creativity with their bold, unabashed display of colors and images. And well, magazines are that seemingly noncommittal form of literature that only require that I sit back, relax and soak in the view. It’s sort of like window shopping; I get to survey all of my points of interest before zeroing in on a topic that I want to read about, and maybe later I’ll pursue it at greater depth. Magazines are those beautiful works of art that you find strewn across coffee tables at doctor’s offices that quickly become worn and torn from so much reading and from having some of their pages donated.  And by “donated”, I mean that some of its pages were torn out by a patron who just couldn’t do without a recipe, or a “how-to” solution. Aw, c’mon, ‘fess-up! Haven’t you ever looked guiltily from side to side before quietly tearing out a magazine page and quickly tucking it away in your purse? Yep, most of us have because we can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to that page(s). Well, good news, you can now create your own magazines and keep them too! And you can even share them without losing pages!

Flipboard, which is an iPad app, and an Android app on Google Play, is my latest rave, and I think it will be yours too, especially if you work with high school students. With this wonderful app, hesitant high school readers can see a whole other side to reading by actively creating their own magazine which they can then share with their classmates through email, or share with the world at large by permitting public viewing, and by the way, if the student becomes a master of magazine production, then other account holders may wish to “subscribe” to his published creations on Flipboard.

Flipboard is a free “build-a-magazine” app with free membership that contains free social media news for its readers. Once you are given an account, you can pick out a few topics that are of interest to you and then simply select articles from within those topics and add them to your magazine, and voila!, you have your own tailored magazine.

Let’s say for example that I decided to create a magazine about books. Well, I could entitle my magazine “A Book Worm’s Corner” then go to the topic “Books” and begin adding individual stand alone articles to my own magazine, or I could also subscribe to one of the magazines listed within “Books”, and pick articles from within those magazines to “cut out” and also add to my own magazine. In my case, I subscribe to “book writers & coffee tea corner” by Danielle Szynkarski, and from it, I can pull out articles, poems, graphics and arrange them into my own magazine. Then I can proceed to search the rest of the literature included within the “Books” topic and add in some reviews of current adult books, and perhaps add in a section about movies based on books, like the LIFE of PI. After that, I can move on to my next interest and create another magazine. I also have the freedom to decide if I want to share my magazines or keep them private.

Currently, the available topics within Flipboard are: News, Business, Tech & Science, Sports, Photos & Design, Arts & Culture, Living, Food & Dining, Travel, Style, Music, Books, and City Guides, plus of course all the created magazines by account members. Of course, teachers should preview all of these topic sections for appropriateness, and may want to exclude one or more sections of the available topics. But, overall, this app is very reader friendly and I think teenagers will spend hours reading the articles as they leaf through and pick out items to include in their tailor-made magazines.

In the classroom, this magazine creation activity could function as an ice breaker at the beginning of the school year, because each magazine would be an original that would reveal the interests of it’s creator. Or, it could also be an assignment of the teacher’s choosing to focus on differing topics, like science or sports, or it could be an ongoing class project whereby the class produces a magazine for the entire school to view each week. That would definitely bring out the “journalist” in many of students, because they would undoubtedly take pride in their contributions to the school’s website. The wonderful thing about Flipboard is that its news and contributions are always new, as are the cover stories.

I also believe that elementary and middle school teachers could make use of this app by creating a monthly magazine for parents and children. It would just take a few quick clicks to create it and send it out by email or by posting it on the teacher’s (school’s) website for easy viewing. Many parents won’t be able to resist leafing through the magazines and discussing the subject matter with their children. Unfortunately, at present, Flipboard does not offer any news or magazines in Spanish, although the company says that they are considering this possibility. If enough people request it, it just might happen. You may also wish to visit their website at: flipboard.com


By Readingintheborderlands

I just ran across a fairly new blog, Latinas4LatinoLiterature. The authors of this blog  say:

Our goal is to rally the cry of Latinos everywhere who want to fill their bookshelves with books representative of their diverse culture and experience. The four of us are Latina bloggers passionate about the power of literature to enrich lives. The vision of L4LL is to see more widespread access to Latino literature and an increase in the publishing of Latino authors and illustrators.

They have organized a blog hop for April 10-April 29, with twenty different Latino authors sharing their views on writing, children’s books, and Latino literature. Check it out!

Keys to Unlock Children’s Love of Reading

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By V. Saladini

One daunting question in my head every new school year is how am I going to instill in my young students the passion and love of reading.  I love to read, using Rosenblattl definitions, I have learned to distinguish between aesthetic and efferent reading and I can find pleasure on both.

I read when I’m happy or when I’m sad, I read to learn or to enjoy, I read to relax or to accomplish a goal, I’ve learned to transact with a book so that the second or third time around I can find something new and special in it that I didn’t notice before.  So the challenge for me is, how to get the high tech, overstimulated, busy children of today’s society to turn to books and love reading as much as I do. 

I have discovered that one of the keys that opens the door of a lifelong love of reading is to teach by example.  When my students realize that literature is part of my life and who I am inside and outside the classroom, their view and feelings about books slowly begins to change because they see how it influences just about every activity we do and we have fun doing them.

Another key is to read aloud to my students.  The beauty of the read aloud is that age or reading ability have nothing to do with their capacity of enjoying a book.  They can immerse themselves in the story, get to know the characters, predict what would happen or how will it end.  They can be part of a story that is above their reading level or from a genre they would had never picked up on their own; and by default the richness of the interpretations and lessons learned will be as numerous as the children listening to the story.  

The last key I want to mention is something I am just beginning to discover but I am very excited about – Literature Circles.  In the beginning of the year the teacher may want to start implementing literature circles by reading aloud to the whole group, the teacher models how he/she thinks through the reading, how to respond to prompts, how to listen to what others have to say, how to agree or disagree with other people’s opinions, how to use the evidence from the book to back up a point, how to stay on topic, and how to end the discussion. 

As students become more familiar and comfortable with the routines of the book discussions they can be divided into small groups to discuss a book they have chosen from a list of available titles.  With time and practice the teacher role evolves from one of guidance and leadership to one of participant in the discussions and of a monitor of the activity, the students take ownership and responsibility for the richness of the book discussions they participate in.

Book discussions allow students to offer their opinions, ask questions, disagree or agree with someone, in a safe environment, the activities that accompany the book discussions such as a journal, sketching, golden lines, quotes, and others like them help expand the reading of the book into writing and artistic activities that enhance the reading, enriches and guides the discussion, and help develop other literacy skills.

Book discussions are a wonderful key to unlock the love of reading in children.  Age or reading ability should not be a hinder to book discussions, what is important is to teach our students that they can transact with text, express their feelings, share their own interpretation, connections, and develop a relationship with literature that will keep them coming back to books, will make them lifelong readers, and will ensure a rewarding school career.

Reading Beyond the STAAR

By readingintheborderlands

The UTPA College of Education is beginning a new professional development series! We’ll have three lectures a year over topics we hope will interest the local educational community. The first one will be by yours truly! I’ll be talking about how we can create and support readers who are capable of far more than just passing a standardized test.

Prof Dev Series Sign-April 27, 2013