Oral language is our earliest form of communication and it is essential as we use it daily to communicate our needs. Language to crucial to learning as it gives a child entry to a world of knowledge, unlocking the world of the imagination, reading, providing skills to write and helping us grow as individuals. However, without language, a word gap ensues.
The ’30 million-word gap’ refers to research conducted by psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley. Their research brought to light that by the time they begin school, children from lower-income families hear a staggering 30 million fewer words than those from higher-income families. This early language gap sets children up to be at the risk of falling behind. They continue in life to ‘lag behind’ their peers, having less vocabulary and lower expressive language skills. This, in turn, affects their reading and writing capabilities. It is imperative to close this gap, but as teachers, how can we help prevent this early catastrophe? We can help by expanding children’s vocabulary.
“We can share with our children a wealth of words…by closing the vocabulary gaps for children in our classrooms with their peers, we can offer them the vital academic tools for school success, alongside the capability to communicate with confidence in the world beyond the school gates.” (Quigley, 2018)
Oral language, incorporating rich vocabulary development, is crucial to learning and gives a child entry to a world of knowledge. However, how we teach this vocabulary is also important. When words are taught in isolation, children tend to forget them just as quickly as they learn them. Children need to learn new vocabulary in meaningful clusters to understand their new words and get the opportunity to practice these new words and use them. The Oxford Language Report on ‘Why Closing the Word Gap Matters’ suggest three practical takeaways for helping to close the word gap:
“Bringing vocabulary practice into mainstream class teaching; Focusing on key vocabulary, and learning language in the context of use; The importance of conversations and reading in the classroom and at home.”
Language for Living: Tip of the Tongue is a resource that will help teachers achieve these points above and aid in the narrowing of the ‘word gap’, improve oral language skills and thus literacy and writing. Language for Living: Tip of the Tongue provides hundreds of theme-based words-of -the-day, followed by various activities, tips and games and writing opportunities to enable pupils to practice their new words.
With Language for Living: Tip of the Tongue, have fun and success with oral language and vocabulary building and close the ‘Word Gap.’
“In the years I’ve devoted to literacy, I have learnt what I should always have known- that nothing matters more than words. Words lie at the heart of our quest to narrow gaps between the advantages and disadvantages, to address social mobility…knowing about vocabulary is the responsibility of every teacher. It is also the entitlement of every child. (Barton, 2018)