Oral Language Skills: Definition & Assessment

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  • 0:04 Oral Language Skills
  • 0:45 Oral Language Components
  • 2:46 Assessing Oral Language
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

In this lesson, learn what oral language skills are and the components of oral language. We will also cover how you, as an educator, can assess oral language skills.

Oral Language Skills

We all communicate with each other in many different ways throughout our lifetime. One of the most common ways is through speaking to each other. Most people communicate with each other through speaking without any issues. That isn't a skill we're born with, though. We arrive knowing how to make sounds, but our oral language skills, or ability to communicate through speaking, developed over time.

As an educator, you had to learn how to communicate various lessons to your students. This required development of your oral language skills. Now that your skills are developed, it's time to help your students develop their oral language skills. You first have to know exactly what makes up oral language skills in order to know how to successfully teach them to students and assess them.

Oral Language Components

Probably the most obvious part of oral language skills is vocabulary, or the understanding of different words. There are a countless numbers of words and, if prompted, almost anyone could mimic the sounds of the words. That doesn't mean that you have a clue as to what you just said, though.

In order to effectively communicate, students must learn the meanings of different words. This component of oral language skills will aid in selecting the correct word for what's being communicated. While we just explained that anyone can make the sounds of a word, we should make sure we don't take away from the importance of the phonological skills. These are important in order to ensure the correct pronunciation of a word. Phonological skills include speaking words using the correct sounds and syllables.

Having a functional understanding of grammar rules and the order of words for the language is also crucial. We refer to this as syntax. Think for a minute about the last time that you started learning a foreign language. You learned many words used in the language, but it meant very little until you learned how to put the words together to form sentences that someone else speaking that language can understand.

The next component of oral language skills is understanding the word parts and forms, known as morphological skills. These skills deal with the three different parts of a word: the prefix, the root word, and the suffix. They also deal with knowing how to put these components together and take them apart to alter the meaning of a word. For instance, you know how to change the meaning of the word order by altering it using prefixes like ''re-'' and suffixes like ''ed-'' to get reorder and ordered.

The last component is pragmatics, which deals with understanding the social rules of communication. This mainly involves knowing when it's appropriate to speak and when it's not. Not interrupting others when they speak is a classic example of the pragmatics of oral language.

So those are the components of oral language skills. You likely already have some idea of how to teach and even demonstrate these skills. However, how can you effectively assess whether or not your students have these skills?

Assessing Oral Language

We are talking about oral language skills, so a written test on oral language wouldn't exactly be the best method; that option is right out the window. Since you're assessing oral language skills, it would definitely make sense to have students essentially use the skills as a means of assessment. Here are some possible ways to assess your students' oral language skills.

Using oral prompts when you ask an open-ended question to which students will orally respond. The oral prompt should be grade level appropriate, so you may ask elementary students to explain to you three things they did during their break from school or ask high school students to tell what they plan to do after graduating from high school.

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