Miles On The Tongue: First Steps to Literacy

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” ~Ludwig Wittgenstein
When it comes to teaching there really are no truer words. 
Our classrooms are becoming more and more global, diverse and cosmopolitan.
As much as things change, some things still hold true. 
All learners must have multiple opportunities to speak: talking, singing, reading,
 saying, telling ---- all contributing means to “miles on the tongue” also known as fluency when speaking.
The ability to speak fluently cannot be underestimated in its pre-requisite value both before and as learning to become a fluent reader. It is estimated that children need exposure to approximately 30,000 words a day by the time they begin school to be fully ready to learn. (Both quantity and quality of words matter).

You can imagine how different households offer different opportunities for language, or not so much. A second language learner who has been exposed to rich language interactions at home, in his native tongue is much more prepared for school, and for learning a new language.

Fluency in the first language equals preparedness to learn a second language
successfully at school. We have all known every kind of learner in our classrooms, with every kind of background. It is staggering to think of the vast differences our students come equipped with. Language skills that have developed enriched vocabularies, critical thinking skills, and abilities to relate to others, or alternatively, depravation that cannot revel in any of these competencies.

All of that being said, good instruction for second language learners
is good instruction for all. Making sure that little learners have multiple opportunities
at school to become fluent with their oral language is just as, or possibly more
important than all other instruction. It is sometimes forgotten, sometimes assumed they already have it,  and sometimes just misunderstood, but it truly is the foundation to which all other learning can occur. It is imperative to deliberately plan for and provide opportunity, time and resources to help bridge the gap for many of our little ones.

I met with parents of my students last week at conferences. I needed the assistance of a translator with every single conference this time. I am always 
surprised at how they don't think they can help their child to learn language just because they can't speak English. I encourage them to read books in their native 
language and talk to their children as much as possible. All of the same things I 
encourage with my English speaking parents. They are surprised to hear how important a role they play. (I wish I could have talked to them 5 years ago!).

I have many little books that I have written in a very predictable way, to facilitate
oral language practice for my kids. I am slowly making them pretty enough to share
with you! I have two so far, but have many more in the works.
It is my sincere hope that your students can put many “miles on their tongues” with
my Oral Language Practice Predictable Readers. I wrote them with every little learner
in mind! 
In my nearly 30 years of teaching both English speaking and second
language learners, there is no greater joy I have found in the classroom than
observing students achieve more oral language proficiency than they started with. The comfort, the repetition, the oral language proficiency, and confidence that is gained
and then realized again at home when practicing their little books is truly priceless!
(Not to mention the valuable literacy skills!)

We use our little books all the time. I teach my kids to practice pointing to the words (and looking at the pictures for clues, wink, wink!) every time they read, so they are always practicing good reading behaviors. After reading at school several times,
(whole group, small group, partners, to self) they take their book home to share. I recommend to them that they put a little star (asterisk style) on the back every time they read it, and try to fill it up with dozens of little stars! I place extra copies of each predictable reader in our Browse Box for
students to pick up and read in the classroom when they are finished with work or at centers etc. They love it! 

                                Pumpkin, Pumpkin Oral Language Practice Reader

                                  Brown Bear, Brown Bear Oral Language Practice Reader

                                   Hello Farm! Oral Language Practice Reader

                                   Fish, Fish, In the Ocean Blue: Oral Language Practice Reader


If you are lucky enough to have students come and visit you when they are in third grade, you will be so glad you spent the time it took to intentionally plan oral language activities! There is no greater reward than hearing a hesitant kiddo become a proficient speaker!