Dive into Chapter 6

The Literacy Beginnings book study blog party is in full swing and we’re back today with Chapter 6: The Critical Role of Language and Learning.

chapter 6
Disclosure: Amazon links included below

It’s so hot here I wish I could dive into the ocean, but I’m in Dallas so instead I’m diving into this book! Insert cliche about eggs and sidewalks here.

“Language plays an extremely important role in young children’s learning.” (Ch. 6 pg. 81)

There are many ways which we as early childhood educators can support the oral language development of our students.

three little pigs
One of the ways I support oral language development in my classroom is by acting out familiar stories. We study each fairy tale for one week, focusing on a different version each day. We also do this for each nursery rhyme. On the last day of each fairy tale or rhyme we act it out. Above you can see my students acting out The Three Little Pigs. The costumes were purchased so long ago I have forgotten where they came from but you can easily make simple headbands out of sentence strips.

The oral language benefits of acting out familiar stories {familiar is the key} are tremendous. Acting out stories is highly motivating for young children, who doesn’t want to be the wolf? Everybody wants a turn to wear the headbands or costumes and say the lines that have become so familiar to them. When we focus on one story or rhyme for a week it provides a scaffold for young children and they can then “retell” that particular story or rhyme with ease, it’s like a dear friend to them. They begin to make connections between new books and their favorites we have studied. When I hear statements like “That is just like the sheep Mary had!” or “Sri fell down outside just like Jack!” I realize the power and value of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Oh, and just in case you are wondering I do change the end of Little Red Riding Hood!

I work with ELL or Second Language Learners so I tweaked our plays to make sure they were able to fully participate. We act out the story several times to give everybody a chance to participate, the first time we act it out I am the narrator- this gives my ELLs a language model to follow. In the next re-enactment I give the job of narrator to a student. I also have the narrator talk into a plastic microphone from the dollar store to make the job more attractive. The children decide when they want to have a turn to act out the story; it’s important not to force your ELLs to speak. If I have a student who won’t speak I have the audience chime in with his or her lines, they love to help!

What types of activities do you use in your classroom to support oral language development?

shoe organizer

Another way to support oral language is through the use of props and puppets. I think one of the best things that ever happened to me as a teacher was when the Beanie Baby market collapsed! All of a sudden you could find all sorts of great props for a quarter or less at garage sales and thrift stores. If you cut a hole in the bottom and take out all the beans (they’re not really beans, but what are they?) you can turn them into puppets or put them on a stick to create pointers. If you start collecting too many {I can’t help it- it’s a disease!} you can store them in shoe pocket organizers for quick access. Above you can see my shoe organizer where I store many of my props, puppets, pointers, and Beanies.

I want to know what tips do you have for making puppets or props?

plastic microphone
Conventions of Language
While oral language is important, so are the rules of language. The authors provide a list of conversational rules both 3 and 4 year olds can begin to learn. To some this list may seem challenging but when you provide daily opportunities to practice skills like looking at the speaker, responding to the topic, and asking questions you will see great growth. These skills need not be taught in isolation, they occur naturally and can be easily woven into your existing schedule.

I think one of the most challenging skills on the list is asking questions, this is difficult for all young children and especially those who are learning English as a second language. One of the activities I use to support this skill is the “microphone game.” We take turns asking and answering simple questions using a plastic microphone {are you sensing a dollar store theme here?}, you can read more about this activity here.

How do you help your students understand the difference between making a statement and asking a question? If I had a nickel for every time a child said “I have a puppy” when the topic is not puppies I’d be rich! But those situations are what make teaching pre-k and kindergarten unique and fun.

What are your thoughts on Chapter 6? Leave a comment below! If you write a response on your blog, be sure to link up to the Linky party below.

Are you tuning in late? No worries! You can catch up on past chapters here:

Don’t forget to check out the fantastic responses to these chapters listed in the linky below.

Chapter 7: Developing Strong Oral Vocabularies will be hosted by Scott at Brick by Brick so stay tuned!

book study blog party

Want to let your friends know about the book study blog party? Click “Like” at the top of this page or choose from other social media options below.

About Vanessa Levin

Vanessa is the creator of Pre-K Pages and author of the book A Fabulous First Year and Beyond: A Practical Guide for Pre-K and Kindergarten Teachers. She has more than two decades of teaching experience and enjoys helping kids and teachers through her professional development sessions. Follow Vanessa on Facebook, Google +, Twitter and Pinterest.


  1. I am very interested in how you have the kids act the stories out. Do you you narrate while they act or do they make up some dialog?

    • V. Levin says:

      @ Eilis I narrate the first time we act out a story, then I let the kids narrate. Since I usually have 22 or more kids we have to act out each story several times to make sure everybody has a turn to participate. We read the same fairy tale for 5 days in a row- different versions each time but same basic tale so by Friday they usually have enough vocabulary and experience to act it out on their own.
      Vanessa @pre-kpages.com

  2. hyla boelman says:

    when I do nursery rhymes and we act them out I divide the group by the number of characters and form small groups and all do it at the same time as I narrate. We do them every morning during group time for one week and then when we do free choice kids form groups and choose whatever they want to do for all of us.

  3. Hi again Vanessa,
    I posted a link on my blog to a video I did with our Mr. Sea Dragon puppet last year. He caused a lot of mischief, and a lot of literacy related practice!

  4. V. Levin says:

    @ Hyla What a great idea, thanks for sharing!

    Vanessa @pre-kpages.com

  5. V. Levin says:

    @ Maggie Thanks for sharing, I will check it out!

    Vanessa @pre-kpages.com

  6. I teach Kindergarten (sorry not pre-K! anymore) and I have a time each month called K theater. The children dictate a play to me and then choose actors to help them act it out. I read the play to the class first and then the actors join in for their parts the second time around. It is a favorite time in our classroom and helps support their oral language development as well as teaches them how to fully develop a story. The pre-K teachers in my school have the children act out Bible stories- we are a religious school. They take pictures of each step of the play and then turn it into a book for the schildren to look through in the classroom and sometimes even a photostory for the parents to see at home.

    • V. Levin says:

      Excellent suggestions Charna! The photo of the students wearing the costumes above was taken as part of a book/video we created as a class. They LOVE reading the book and watching the movie… again, and again, and again :)

  7. Okay I am reading these great ideas and trying to figure out where I am going to fit it into our tight schedule. Well… I am just going to :)

  8. Kathron Griffin says:

    Vanessa, I’m curious about how you integrate the fairy tales and nursery rhymes in your curriculum. Do you do separate units on fairy tales and nursery rhymes, or do you work them into your other theme units? I’ve tried both ways, but I still struggle with which way works best. Thanks!

    • V. Levin says:

      @ Kathron I focus on one nursery rhyme per week throughout the whole year. The nursery rhymes are integrated into my already existing curriculum. You can find more info about how I use nursery rhymes here. I also discuss how it all works in my session titled Makin Time for Nursery Rhymes. The fairy tales are also integrated but we select one to do each month for one week. For example, we learn about bears and hibernation in January and one week during January we focus on Goldilocks. In the fall we do the 3 Little Pigs, in December we learn The Gingerbread Man. In the spring we fit in The Little Red Hen and Jack and the Beanstalk etc.

  9. Kathron Griffin says:

    Thanks for your help! I am loving this book study–can’t wait to begin trying some new ideas this fall!

  10. The students adore acting out rhymes and stories. Ellis, after reading a story or rhyme, children volunteer for a part and I reread it, pausing for them to say whatever that character says. Of course, we have to recast the story and do it again, until everyone has had a turn. This provides lots of entertainment and a chance to really talk about the language. How did he say that? Show me mad / surprised/ etc…

Printables for Pre-K and Kindergarten Teachers


  1. […] Chapter 6 @ Pre-K Pages […]

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email