For me, oral language has always seemed like the bedrock of my ELL students’ language development. Often it develops before literacy and when students have strong speaking and listening skills you can use them to develop literacy skills.
This school year, oral language has become a focus for my whole elementary school because the Common Core devotes a whole strand of English Language Arts standards to “Speaking and Listening.” These standards build on each other so that all students will have effective academic conversation and presentation skills by the time they leave high school.
This new focus on oral language for all students will benefit ELLs because it gives classroom teachers a way to look at teaching oral language, something that may at times seem confusing or imposing to mainstream teachers. Many teachers are very comfortable teaching content that they know well, but the idea of teaching the language of that content seems foreign to them.