Elsy C. Scott


Oral language development can be challenging for students who don't speak English as their primary language. It has been proved that students acquire the second language faster when they are exposed to activities that integrate listening, speaking, reading and writing. The dynamic among these four concepts have a meaningful purpose, which is to develop oral and written language.

Purposeful Activities to Develop Oral an Written Language

Great teachers can integrate meaningful activities into their daily routines and lessons:

  • Morning routines
  • Role playing routines
  • Playing store or kitchen
  • Retelling a story
  • Using wordless books to write a story
  • Songs
  • Repeated Reading

These activities are better when they are done with a partner or in groups. It not only will develop oral and written language, but also students will have the opportunity to practice social skills.


English learners can be described as limited English proficiency. The majority of these English learners fall into two categories, beginning and intermediate.

Teachers are very conscious that before implementing any type of intervention, it is most important to provide social and emotional support, especially for those students who have just arrived to the country. Even more so for those who have being through traumatic situations in their home countries.

Beginning English learners need a lot of support from teachers, peers and the student himself/herself. At the beginning would be more important to use interventions that don't involve a lot of speech, but it's more important to work in collaboration with other students. A good idea would be drawing pictures in a group project.

As these interventions are implemented with a lot of exposure to the language in a low risk environment. Gradually the student will progress to a more advanced English language proficiency,

At the Intermediate level of proficiency, students are still developing their grammatical abilities, but they are still able to communicate without hesitation. They can speak and interact with peers with a few misunderstandings. To support students a this level, the same strategies can be also used as for the beginners, but more interventions need to be incorporated, some of them are: Drama readers, theater using language more formal, serve as a peers for newcomers. The use of charts, graphic organizers, concrete experiences that convey with verbal explanations.


Classrooms need to be organized in a way that can promote and encourage students to develop social interaction comprehensible input and comprehensible output.

Students need to be engaged in a variety of tasks and have the opportunity to participate in the process of writing, literature and theme studies providing verbal and visual adaptations for English learners. More activities are described on how to promote Oral Language Development.


To improve student's learning, teachers can use games that are aligned to the academic curriculum such as drama games, spelling and pronunciation games. They can also create and make their own games. Some resources for game ideas can be found at www.englishclub.com/esl-games/.
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Incorporate songs to have a high level of participation in the class. This can create unity among students. This is a great opportunity to use gestures, pantomime and meaning. Songs can be related to topics that are taught in the classroom.
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Show and Tell

Show and Tell is a great activity for English learners to promote Oral language development by speaking about an object that has value for them. By describing and telling a story in front of the class about the object they brought, students find verbal context to their description.
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One Looks, One Doesn't

This is a very powerful activity to improve communication, speech and the use of vocabulary words to describe objects. Students can work in pairs. One of them may look at a picture and describe it to his/her partner, who tries to draw it as the other students describe it.
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Wordless Book Stories

This activity is more productive when working with partners. This way English learners can engage in conversation, bring and express their own ideas and write them at the same time. They can also proudly show their final work to the class. Wordless books activities are great to scaffold comprehension.
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Choral Reading

In order to make this activity meaningful, teachers need to select appropriate reading for English learners, so they can engage and learn. This type of activity involves dramatization, acting out and reading repetition, which has been proven to have positive outcome in

English learners because the level of stress is very low and is enjoyable.

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Teachers need to have a way to document oral language progress for English learners. There are many formal assessments required by the districts to assess this students, but teachers need a constant progress measurement in the classroom. One instrument that can be used is called SOLOM (Student Oral Language Observation Matrix). What this matrix does, is to provide a checklist that can be used on a daily basis to monitor the student's progress. It does this by presenting a variety of observational behaviors and skills of the students oral language during regular classroom routines and activities. These observations can be included in the student's portfolio and shows a developmental picture of student's progress over time.
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Peregoy, Suzanne F., Owen Boyle, and Suzanne F. Peregoy. Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL: A Resource Book for K-12 Teachers. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2005.