Oral Language for Pre-K

What is Oral Language?

Photo of a child and parent.

Oral Language is sometimes called spoken language. It includes speaking and listening and is the way people communicate with each other.

In pre-k, children engage in conversation with peers and adults by asking and answering questions. Conversations based on a child's interests increases engagement and the number of exchanges, or turns taken. Strive for five!

What Does it Look Like?

What can be asked to increase oral language?

Practice Activities

Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns (3Ts):  Tune In means to be in the moment by paying attention to what the child is focused on and talking about it. What children focus on is always changing, so stayed tuned in and change your words to match.  Once you Tune In, Talk More with the child.  Remember, every word you say fills their vocabulary bank and builds their brain.  When you Tune In and Talk More, you automatically Take Turns.  No matter a child’s age, you can Take Turns and have a conversation.  Learn more about the 3Ts. Watch the 3Ts.

Photo Talk:  Look at photos of the child's friends and family members.  Model telling a story about the photo or the people in the photo.  Have the child tell stories about photos of their choice as well.

At the Supermarket:  Increase the number of turns taken in a conversation by having the child guess what you spy as you describe an item (e.g., green, sweet, and succulent).  Repeat several times.  Watch At the Supermarket.

Expand on Observations:  Repeat the child's comments on something seen, heard, or experienced.  Add additional descriptions to teach new information and/or vocabulary.  When a child says a classmate was hurt at school and crying really loud, you may respond by saying, "I am sorry to hear he got hurt today.  It must have really hurt if he was wailing so loudly".

Why?:  Answer genuinely when the child asks, "Why?".   First ask if the child has an answer to their question by asking, "What do you think?".  Then suggest looking up the answer in a book, on a computer, or on a smart phone.  Discuss how the child's answer is similar and/or different from the answer found, increasing the number of turns taken in conversation.

How was your day?:  Ask more specific questions with additional follow-up questions to increase the amount of turns taken in a conversation.

  • Who did you play with today?  Tell me what you did with them.
  • Did the teacher read a book?  What/who was the book about?
  • Who sat next to you at lunch?  What did you talk about?

Practice Activities (with Printables)

If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.

Conversation Cards: Use conversation cards any time or place to increase a child’s use and understanding of oral language. Suggestions include at the dinner table, while waiting in a store or restaurant, and during bedtime routines. Use follow up questions to increase the number of turns taken in a conversation.  Conversation Cards

Play to Read: Use the NC Office of Early Learning Play to Read with a Caregiver resource to focus on oral language. Print 4 slides per page for cards on the go!  Play to Read

Online Activities

No Online Activities: The best way to support oral language development is engaging in conversation with the child. Increasing the number of turns taken expands the oral language the child hears and uses. Strive for Five!