Foundation - Oral LAnguage

Brief Explanation

  • Life Experience: Combining information from the text with personal knowledge and experiences to construct meaning while reading.
  • Oral Language Vocabulary: The knowledge of words and their meanings used in speaking and listening. Readers connect words that they encounter in print to oral vocabulary throughout the grade levels and in all subject areas (Cain, 2010).
  • Listening Comprehension: Students need to have receptive language developed to the degree that they can follow texts read aloud to them. Listening comprehension is the ability to understand what is being said based on the cognitive ability to make personal meaning of vocabulary and background knowledge. 


  • What students already know about the content (their background knowledge) is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content.  There is a relationship between background knowledge and achievement (Nagy, Anderson, & Herman, 1987; Tobias, 1994).
  • Relating new vocabulary and reading to previous experiences frequently leads to increased reading comprehension (Carr and Wixson, 1986).
  • By accessing their background knowledge, or schema, students can create a frame of reference for what they are about to read (Anderson & Pearson, 1984).
  • Schema can be described as the abstract mental framework that organize knowledge into memory.  As students learn new information, they connect new ideas with their prior knowledge.  In addition, they may reorganize their schema to incorporate new information into the framework.  If students have prior knowledge about a specific topic, that information will allow them to approach the topic with confidence, make inferences as they read, and focus on the big ideas in the text rather than getting lost in the details (Brozo & Simpson, 1995).

    Clearly Identified Key Outcomes

    Balanced Assessment Practices

    • Life experience should never be assessed as a summative assessment – rather, it is just about providing the teacher with information to inform instruction and design learning.
    • Prior to the instruction of a content area, assess students’ background knowledge and life experience related to the content (examples could include mind maps, journaling, KWL charts, pictures, conversations, etc.) – if knowledge and experience are lacking, be strategic about creating experiences within the classroom to provide background knowledge and life experience in an engaging way (field trips, experiments, centres, movies, role plays, stories, guest speakers, YouTube, web content, etc.).

    Purposeful Instructional Strategies


    • Build background knowledge and life experience by exposing students to a wide variety of literature within the classroom – also, create life experiences in the classroom using demonstrations, field trips, virtual field trips, videos, guest speakers, etc.
    • Explicit vocabulary instruction
    • Word-web, brainstorming to activate prior knowledge
    • Anticipation guides
    • Semantic mapping
    • Conversations with classmates, peers, teachers, etc – to build vocabulary, share experiences and expand knowledge
    • Prediction – what students think they will learn from a passage before they read it
    • Predicting and confirming charts (Reithaug)
    • FLASH strategy (Ellis, 1993)
      • Focus on the topic
      • Look for familiar information in titles, pictures or the text
      • Ask questions you may have about the topic
      • See what is connected.  Think about what you already know about the topic
      • Hypothesize what might happen in the text
    • Relate new reading to what students already know
    • Prereading plan
    • Text previewing


      • Pause to check predictions – reconnect with life experience
      • Journal entries while reading – key questions that connect reading to life experience
      • What does this remind you of?
      • Interviewing others – connecting with other peoples’ life experiences and comparing them to your own


      • Check accuracy of predictions
      • Check for understanding
      • Encourage students to connect reading to their life experience after the fact – reflection questions in journals, reading response tasks, extrapolation and analysis of text, purposeful literate conversation
      • Correct misconceptions or previous assumptions about a topic – compare content of the text to student’s life experience and background knowledge – L part of a KWL chart, for example – How has your thinking changed?  Or has it changed?


      • Teacher needs to have knowledge of students’ life experience and background knowledge and understand every student comes with different experiences or knowledge and we must respect and honour this. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create those experiences for students.

      Personalization of Learning

      • As soon as it is identified that a student is struggling with identifying sounds, intervention is required.  This gap is often easily identifiable during the Kindergarten year, and intervention at that point can be very effective.
      • When teaching students letter sounds, one should aim for automaticity with letter and sound recognition
      • Instructional strategies should be chosen to match the learning needs of each student.
      • Contact your learning support team for support with students who have more specialized needs, gaps in their learning, or are requiring more challenge.
      • Use the results of norm-referenced Level A assessments to inform teaching practice and to meet students’ needs