Last year I used my earliest assessments to identify children that I felt needed extra support in their oral language development. Then I reworked my classroom routines and curriculum plans to boost my demands on oral language output in as many ways and as often as possible. My goal was to increase the scores of these children by at least one point (on a three-point scale.) I focused on 5 children and was successful with all of them, noticing an increase in everyone’s vocabulary and fluency in English.
I used songs, chants, call and response, “reporting” activities, wands, toy microphones, puppets – all kinds of things to expose my students to words, words, words and to enable them to participate orally even if sometimes they had no idea what they were saying. The journal work we did together was also an amazing resource – the kids loved to retell my stories and it wasn’t hard to get them to repeat their own stories again and again. My goal was to develop their ear for language even if they weren’t saying anything out loud.
This year I have more ELL students than last year, two of them are practically non-verbal in the classroom. (They are talking at home so I’m not concerned.) I also have two students with identified communication delays and another that we are in the process of identifying supports for. My challenge to raise scores is definitely more significant so I’m looking for magic every day to figure out how to both expose the children to language and vocabulary as well as to get these kids talking to each other, to Maestra, to me, to the wall!
So I am really excited about “the box.” I got an FM system this year for the first time and I’ve been using the mic for morning greetings, circle times and when I need everyone’s attention. But lately I’ve been experimenting with doing what my colleagues do with their older students; I let the kids talk into the mic. We christened it “the box” because when I first started using the mic, the kids would look all around to figure out where my voice was coming from and I pointed to the mount, which pops down from the ceiling, and someone described it appropriately as being shaped like a box.
Now, when the students introduce themselves to our visiting Letter People puppet or step forward to describe the picture in our read-aloud, make a choice for our graphs or come to my lap to reread my picture story they pull the mic cord to their lips and speak into the foam tip. My non-verbal students aren’t charmed by the device and shake their heads when I offer it to them but it’s working miracles on others!