Activities to Promote Language & Literacy Development

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While a majority of changes in a person's language skills happen naturally, teachers can help hone their students' oral and written language skills and increase their communicative abilities. There are many interesting and educational activities that teachers can use to accomplish this task and ensure that their students are prepared to communicate effectively upon leaving school.

1 Role Play

In elementary schools, students are working to build the basic oral language skills necessary to communicate effectively. Provide your students with the opportunity to practice their verbal communication by engaging them in role play activities. Each day, select a different common place event. You could, for example, decide one day to have students take on the roles of store clerk and customer, and on another the roles of postman and homeowner. At the beginning of each day, present the students with the selected scenario. Divide them into groups, and allow them to take on the roles. Because the activity is similar to the play they do outside of school, they will likely take to it well and dive right into the task. Circulate while students take on their roles, and discuss the ways that they communicate when playing the role of each individual.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Rewriting sentences

Teachers can build their late-elementary and early-middle school students' literacy through the study of synonyms and an exploration of how sentences can be rewritten using different, more complex vocabulary. To begin, ask several students to come up to the board and write a sentence. Once you have collected four or five student-created sentences, ask the pupils to copy them on notebook paper, leaving five lines between each.

Instruct students to look at the first sentence and consider how they could reword it, adding complexity and color through the selection of effective vocabulary. Tell the students that they can add adjectives or adverbs in moderation. This is to avoid having a student create an excessively cluttered sentence. Instruct them to instead put the bulk of their effort into selecting stronger synonyms to replace existing words as a means by which to enhance the sentence. Ask the students to write two variations of the original sentence, then move down the list, completing the same process with each.

To add a competitive aspect to the assignment, allow students to come and write their enhanced sentence below the original ones on the chalkboard, then ask the students to vote for the best rewritten sentence.

3 Language Development Cartoon

By the time students get to upper middle and high school, they are capable of thinking critically about the process of language development. By understanding the process necessary for language development, students can increase their ability to continue developing their language skills independently. To help students build their understanding, teachers can engage them in creating language development cartoons. To begin, discuss the process of language development, from birth to adulthood. Using multimedia or print resources, explore how children acquire language and build their vocabularies. Once you have built a strong base, ask your students to convey understanding of this process by creating a language development cartoon.

Provide your students with sheets containing three blank cartoon boxes. Ask the children to fill the first box with a cartoon illustrating how babies develop their language skills, the middle with an image showing how they build their language skills and the last with a picture depicting how adults continue to advance. Place these cartoons prominently in the classroom, so that all students can see that language development is not something that stops once you leave school; it is a lifelong process.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.