The Six Language Arts: Definitions & Skills

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  • 0:04 The Six Language Arts
  • 0:31 Reading & Writing
  • 1:38 Listening & Speaking
  • 3:32 Viewing & Visual…
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

Is language all about talking? Or is it something much more? This lesson focuses on the six language arts and how we use them to communicate with one another in a variety of ways.

The Six Language Arts

Tara is four years old and learning about the world around her every day. As she grows, she will use the six language arts. According to the International Reading Association and the National Council for Teachers of English, the language arts include reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and visual representation, all of which are highly related to one another. This lesson provides an overview of each of the language arts as Tara experiences them.

Reading & Writing

Tara has just started to interpret the symbols she sees on paper and electronic devices. In the past, these meant nothing to her, but as she starts to recognize the letters of the alphabet, she'll begin to sound out each combination of letters. She'll also interpret the meaning of the phrases and sentences she reads, including punctuation marks that help clarify the text.

As she grows up, reading will become more complex and will involve processing more information more quickly. Right now she may read simple phrases like 'The rabbit is brown,' but someday she'll be reading and understanding texts that go far beyond simple statements. Through reading, she will understand what others think and feel and will be able to learn information she could not gain from conversation alone.

Reading has many purposes, including solving problems and understanding a topic in a deeper way.
A man reading a book to a woman.

Tara will also start to write the letters of the alphabet and ultimately combine these letters together to form sentences and passages that mean something to others. Over time, the language art of writing will allow her to communicate her thoughts and ideas to others. From writing emails at work to creating short stories for pleasure, Tara will have a powerful tool to take the thoughts from her own mind and put them into a format that can be reviewed by others and even duplicated if needed.

Listening & Speaking

Tara has been using her sense of hearing since before she was born. However, the language art of listening goes beyond simply hearing what's happening around you. As Tara starts to make sense of the sounds around her, she will be listening to interpret the patterns and make associations with what's being said.

For example, Tara has heard her parents say many times that they need to take a load off. This means they need to sit down and relax, but she may not know that right away. Listening will help her discover meaning and understand the new phrases and ideas over time. As she hears words and watches what's going on around her, she will come to understand concepts that were mysterious in the past. Over time, she will also detect more subtle forms of meaning, such as humor and sarcasm, from the tone of a person's voice and the words they choose.

From simple sounds like the word 'hi' to hearing a lecture from a college professor, Tara will develop skills to understand the meaning of spoken language.

Tara has made noises since she was born, from crying to laughing and vocalizing sounds that mimic what her parents are saying. Early on, children make the connection that the sounds coming from their own mouth communicate something to others, from 'feed me!' to 'make that funny face again!'

Since she started talking as a toddler, Tara has been using English words to communicate her thoughts to others, using the language art of speaking.

Speaking involves the ability to manipulate our mouth, tongue, and voice to create sounds that are understood by others; yet speaking is more than just sound. As Tara's speech develops, she will piece together words and phrases into sentences, often doing so on the spot. From telling stories to expressing her opinions, Tara will practice putting her thoughts into a vocal form that other English-speakers will hear and understand.

Later in life, she may use this language art to give speeches, teach others, or achieve tasks that require good verbal communication skills. She will also continue to use speaking to express her needs and wants throughout her life.

Viewing & Visual Representation

Although Tara isn't allowed to watch television or play on a tablet endlessly, she is still exposed to visual media almost every day.

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