Oral Language: - Appalachian State University

Oral Language:
The Neglected Language Arts
From Maxwell, R.J., & Meiser, M.J. (2001). Teaching English in
Middle and Secondary Schools (3rd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill
Prentice Hall.
Schools are language saturated institutions.
They are places where books are thumbed,
summarized, and “revised”; notes are dictated,
made, kept, and learned; essays are prepared;
examination questions are composted and the
attendant judgments are made. Teachers
explain, lecture, question, exhort, reprimand.
Pupils listen, reply, make observations, call out,
mutter, whisper and make jokes. Small knots
gather over books, lathes, easels, or do nothing
in classrooms, laboratories, workshops, craft
rooms, corridors and toilets to chatter, discuss
argue, plan, plot, and teach one another.
--Douglas Barnes
Oral Language Principles
• Not all student share the same level of
competency in oral language.
• The acquisition of oral language is
• Students need varied and purposeful
experience in oral communication.
Oral Language Principles (con’t.)
• We should not break speaking into
subskills, nor should we isolate
speaking from the other language arts.
• Since speaking is not totally oral,
students need to learn about body
language, eye contact, gesture, and so
The most obvious characteristic
of classroom talk is that there is
so much of it.
--A.D. Furlong and V.J. Edwards
Listening: An Essential for Group
• Attributes of Good Listening Behavior
– Maintaining natural eye contact
– Nodding head in agreement
– Leaning forward
– Adopting a pleasant facial expression
– Facing the speaker
– Keeping arms open (not folded)
– Taking position at the same elevation as
the speaker
(Active listening requires conscious effort.)
Strategies for Improving Students’
Group Work/Listening
• Be prepared. Have pens, paper, materials at
hand; have assignments read in advance.
• Set goals. Plan how group information will be used
when students are working on their own. Set
purpose for listening.
• Use time well. Humans think 3-4 times faster than
they speak so we process messages quickly –
faster than a speaker sends the words. In the
gap, we may take notes, write questions, etc.
• Minimize distractions. Help students understand
the power of “high blood pressure” words to get
them off track. Teach them how to develop
productive counterarguments during a discussion.
Strategies for Improving Students’
Group Work/Listening (con’t.)
• Avoid evaluation. Although there is a
place for evaluative response, such as
when someone makes a claim without
sufficient support, evaluative listening
should be the last part of a process, not
the first.
• Use feedback. Verbal or nonverbal
feedback is how a speaker knows group
members listened and got the message.
Speaking: More Than Just Talk
• Major Curricular Goals:
– Expressive (express or respond to feelings
and attitudes)
– Ritualistic or formulaic (culturally determined,
responsive to patterns of social interaction)
– Imaginative (storytelling, dramatizing,
speculating, theorizing)
– Informative (stating, questioning, explaining)
– Persuasive (convincing, arguing, justifying,