Language can be defined as a means of communication through spoken sounds, written symbols, or hand and body gestures. Subject to this simple definition language is neither human nor animal exclusive, meaning that all living creatures use some form of language to communicate. Humans have created the most advanced system of language. Human language has advanced to include listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and visual representation. These components are known as the six language arts and while they are individual components they are as well interdependent. What you learn about one affects what and how you learn about the others. Listening is the foundation for speaking, reading and writing. Listening is how we interpret sounds that we hear and what those sounds mean. In the beginning listening is merely receptive. Our brain receives sounds and begins to catalog those sounds. Listening is both an auditory and a visual skill and begins at birth.
Children of normal hearing begin by creating mimicking sounds those sounds then become words. Visual listening is often most specifically noted in young children with a hearing impairment and is referred to as sign language. Sign language is not just for the hearing impaired. Parents/caregivers use hand gestures to increase the meaning of a word or to add value or impact to a word. An example of this is seen when a mother shakes her head or finger at a child as she says “no”. In the classroom children will generally begin a regular routine of listening. Students learn by example and repetition. Teachers explain what is needed, demonstrate the desired task or skill, and repeat. Students will gain good listening skills as they learn their class routine, listen to stories and instruction. Students gain an understanding of the task, and interpret what they have heard.
As an understanding has been obtained they evaluate for an appropriate response. Speaking or the act of making a meaningful word comes later than does listening. Speaking is commonly referred to as an expressive skill and must be learned. A child begins to form words somewhere between ten and eighteen months of age. The first word of a child is often momma or dada. The child repeats the sounds or utterances heard from the adults around him. Speech does not actually occur until the spoken word is deliberate and meant to communicate. By the time a child reaches kindergarten he has likely gained a 2000 – 3000 word vocabulary. While this number may seem excessive Dr. Mary E. Dahlgren states that a beginning kindergartener should have a 6000 word vocabulary for optimum grade and class performance (Dahlgren, 2008).
In the classroom a student’s vocabulary size was an effective predictor of reading comprehension. Children with a restricted or limited vocabulary also had declining comprehension scores in the third grade. The elementary teacher can promote speaking by allowing the student the opportunity to speak and by listening to the student completely. Discussing a recently read book, or open discussions are ways in which a teacher can aid a student’s speech development. Reading is the interpretation of written symbols and involves the visual perception of those symbols. Reading connects the meaning of symbols with the words that has been spoken or heard. Kindergarten students build reading skills as they progress from letter recognition to early phonics. They begin to learn the beginning and ending sounds of common or high frequency words.
As their vocabulary increases students begin to use words in context. In the classroom reading should be encouraged, should be intentional, and should be fun. Students who learn to read well achieve more and enjoy the learning process more fully. Active readers make for active listeners and intentional speakers and this is when comprehension of the text is experienced. During early reading development children learn by lessons designed around phonemic awareness. Usually this can be seen as student interaction with rhyming games, sing-a-longs, and listening games. As these games become familiar the teacher will integrate visual aids such as letter cards, word flash cards, independent reading time, and writing assignments. All of these early reading techniques aid in the development of early reading skills. Writing like speaking is expressive.
This is where the students begin to place their own thoughts into print. This is the most magical of all six language arts experiences. Writing incorporates prior knowledge of reading, speaking and listening. Children begin to exhibit early writing as they experiment with crayons, chalk, and markers. They make scribbles and later form letter-like forms as toddlers. As the child is building his early listening and reading skill they are as well building the early writing skills through pre-phonemic spelling and copying techniques. Some children utilize invented spelling and finally conventional spelling techniques. Writing as it evolves over time allows for communication on a broad level through time and space that may not have been possible otherwise. In the classroom writing is a means to relay a lesson, message, or concept.
Students should be encouraged to write or draw in the best way they know how to. Students should be comfortable making mistakes as this leads to new discoveries and personal satisfaction. Viewing is an important component of literacy and language development. Viewing is extremely broad and is not limited to children’s books. In fact viewing should be stated as any visual content including TV, print ads, multi-media, and even computer software. Students must learn how to comprehend and integrate visual knowledge in the same way that they must learn to comprehend written, spoken, heard and read information (Roe & Ross, 2013). As students begin to build on their foundation skills in reading and writing, they are also beginning to use critical thinking skills. This is where children begin to understand that people view things differently.
It is important that students learn how to gain important and relevant content from what they see. Students learn to comprehend the message, evaluate the message, and determine the validity of the message. This is an on-going process that follows from infancy through adulthood. Students in the classroom should be taught how to use specific comprehension strategies and to critically analyze the content in everything that they view. Visually Representing is a way of communicating through visual images. It was common practice for the art teacher to have us cut up a magazine and to create a collage of our favorite things.
We never thought of this as visual representation, it was just art class. In fact while not always part of the language arts standards it has been used and in practice for many years. In the classroom we make dioramas, models, graphs and maps all of which are visual representations of an idea or concept. Visual representation requires a unique set of strategies such as organization, data collection, and audience identification in order to convey a message. It appears to be impossible at this point to separate the six components of language arts thus far; as one builds on the other, knowledge or insight is gained, it is clear we must have each in order to process the other.
Dahlgren, D. M. (2008). Oral Language and vocabulary development Kindergarten
& First Grade. Nashville: Reading First National Conference. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/2008conferences/language.pdf Roe, B., & Ross, E. (2013). The Language Arts. Education.com.
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