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Oral communication is a vital component of the English language arts curriculum and provides the base for growth in reading, writing, and listening abilities. Oracy consists of both verbal and nonverbal communication. It is important that teachers recognize that nonverbal communication is culture specific, and be aware of the differences that may exist across cultures when students express themselves nonverbally. As learning and applying the skills of oral English are so closely related, the classroom should be a place where the use of spoken language is sensitively supported and where active listening is developed and valued. Talk enables students to make connections between what they know and what they are learning, and listening helps them to acquire knowledge and explore ideas. Talk can be immediate and spontaneous, or planned and deliberate. Confidence and enthusiasm are critical factors in oral language development, and because much oral language is immediate, it involves taking risks. Student learning is most effective when there is a relationship of mutual trust, when students' oral language is accepted and a variety of communication styles are accommodated in the classroom, and when students have frequent opportunities to talk in formal and informal situations. Functions of Talk Talk serves two important functions in the classroom: the social and the intellectual. Students' oral language skills develop in conjunction with their expanding social awareness and their ability to reflect upon and reconstruct experience. As a social function, talk helps students adjust to ideas and ideas are reformulated to facilitate student understanding. Within this function, students share information and ideas with listeners by speaking informally and sharing through conversation. Talk is also used to form relationships through language. Intellectual Function Talk, as an intellectual function, shapes students' perceptions of the world and represents these perceptions as knowledge. Talking encourages students to reproduce and transform knowledge as they sift through observations, evaluate information, and compare views. Talk that transforms knowledge increases students' critical thinking abilities and retention. Both social and intellectual talk have a place in the classroom. Instruction must ensure a full range of talk and allow for crossover between social and

intellectual talk. Some classroom talk experiences are spontaneous and occur without teacher prompts or instruction, while other speaking activities require planning and structure. Growth in oral communication revolves around increasing fluency and effectiveness. Students need to be able to speak clearly, using appropriate volume. They need to be able to give directions, follow directions, negotiate, ask questions, suggest answers, and organize and present information. They need to adapt their speaking for different audiences, purposes, formats, and topics. As students become more proficient speakers, they develop their abilities to: Interact Socially

use language and ideas appropriate to the situation respond to listeners' verbal and nonverbal cues, restate ideas, and ask questions to clarify understandings use language to create images and to produce an emotional response acknowledge and be sensitive to others' viewpoints.

Develop Self-awareness

examine and explore personal points of view identify flaws in their own and others' reasoning determine what it is they need to know find effective ways of supporting their own opinions.


use key language patterns, proper sequencing, nonverbal cues, and appropriate intonation provide essential information determine the type of presentation necessary in order for the listeners to benefit and learn reflect to determine if their language is appropriate to their listeners.

Fluency and effectiveness in speaking develops gradually. The chart on the following page describes the developmental stages of speaking, from dependence to independence.
Developmental Stages of Speaking: From Dependence to Independence Stage 1 uses a limited vocabulary Novice Speaker encounters difficulties with pronunciation (not to be (unskilled, needs confused with accent or features of dialect)


lacks self-esteem and seems shy exhibits little interest in group interactions attempts to learn by listening to the conversations of others engages in brief conversations initiates conversation within a circle of trusted friends volunteers responses when certain that the contribution is acceptable participates in reading or speaking activities as part of a group asks questions when requiring information uses vocabulary adequate for informal communication avoids controversy and argument introduces topics and ideas for conversation and discussion enters into discussion about topics or ideas of personal interest participates comfortably in conversation and in other oral interactions extends vocabulary as required demonstrates a growing sense of audience when speaking initiates conversation and discussion encourages others to contribute their ideas possesses an extensive vocabulary and uses it appropriately requests more information, when needed, for clarification and interpretation differs tactfully with ideas or attitudes deemed personally unacceptable

Stage 2 Transitional Speaker (self-involved, becoming more confident)

Stage 3 Willing Speaker (peer-involved, achieving self-assurance)

Stage 4 Independent Speaker (autonomous speaker, assuming leadership roles)

Listening is an essential part of the communication process. Students spend the majority of each school day listening and much of what students know is acquired through listening. It is essential that students have opportunities to practise the behaviours of effective listeners. Listening is more than hearing; comprehending spoken language involves process-oriented thinking skills. Because listening involves the use of language and thought, the ability to listen effectively develops as students' language abilities develop and mature. Developing effective listening abilities cannot be left to chance. Active listening experiences should be structured into daily English language arts activities. Students learn to value listening when it is given a prominent role in the English language arts classroom and when it is meaningfully integrated with their speaking, writing, and reading experiences. Exposure to oral English is very important for ESL students, who need to hear the language spoken in meaningful contexts in order to acquire it. Their receptive (listening) language abilities precede their expressive (speaking) language abilities, so they need to spend a great deal of time listening before and as they develop their speaking abilities. Students become active listeners when they deliberately attend to the speaker's message with the intention of immediately applying or assessing the ideas or information. For example, students may take notes if they wish to refer to the information; they may offer words of agreement or ask questions if they are part of a conversation; they may formulate questions to ask the speaker; or they may evaluate the message, determining the speaker's motive and what is fact and what is opinion.
Characteristics of Effective Listeners

Effective listening requires the listener's participation. The effective listener wants to understand what is said and actively tries to assign meaning to the speaker's verbal and nonverbal language. The effective listener responds appropriately to what is said and fosters a productive exchange. The meaning generated depends upon the listener's desire and ability to engage in thinking and listening, as well as on prior knowledge of the speaker's language use and topic. Effective listeners are able to:

value listening as a means of learning and enjoyment determine their own purpose(s) for listening

recognize their responsibility to the speaker and listen without distracting the speaker concentrate and not become distracted send appropriate feedback to the speaker (e.g., restate directions and explanations, ask questions) prepare to react or respond to what the speaker says make connections between their prior knowledge and the information presented by the speaker evaluate the speaker's message and motive try to predict the speaker's purpose and determine the speaker's plan of organization identify transitional/signal words and phrases, and follow the sequence of ideas spoken observe and interpret the speaker's nonverbal cues (e.g., smiles, frowns, body movements) and use them to enhance their understanding of the speaker's message recognize the speaker's main point(s) or idea(s) and identify the supporting details and examples distinguish fact from opinion determine bias, stereotyping, and propaganda.

The listening process is recursive in nature. Students may hear sound from a stimulus, attend to it, evaluate it, and continue to listen. Students may attend to a speaker's message and respond to it without choosing to remember or evaluate it. The listening purpose and context, and the student's listening maturity will determine the level of listening. The chart on the following page outlines three levels of listening: literal, interpretive, and critical and describes the factors that influence listening abilities at each level. Developmental Levels of Listening
Levels of Listening Factors That Influence Listening Abilities

Literal Level

(hearing, receiving, attending)

refers to hearing or the actual physical awareness of sounds and language caused by stimuli (e.g., words, verbal and nonverbal cues) includes hearing, but involves the listener's ability to focus attention on the speaker or on the verbal and nonverbal language without becoming distracted; requires motivation,

physical factors (e.g., hearing loss, hyperactivity, limited attention span, inability to sit still, easily distracted) physical environment (e.g., comfort of listener, location of listener in relation to the speaker)

desire, and effort on the part of the listener

emotional and psychological factors (e.g., environment and conditions of trust that exist, listener's selfconcept) fluency in English insufficient language development: limited personal language that makes it difficult for listener to make sense of other's language impaired speech that limits reproduction of sounds and hence accurate listening ability

Interpretive Level

(remembering, responding, assigning meaning)

refers to the process that listeners engage in as they assign meaning to the stimuli; depends upon prior knowledge of the topic and the language of the speaker, and the context of the listening situation, as well as on the listener's schema as it relates to the speaker's schema refers to the selective storage of information in the listener's mind for retrieval at another time refers to the judgements made by the listener as a result of interpreting the speaker's ideas using critical thinking skills includes evaluating, but refers to the expression of judgements and interpretations, as well as to seeking clarity of understanding

Critical Level

(evaluating, judging, reacting, responding)

perception of the importance and value of the message pre-formed opinions and attitudes toward the speaker or the message inability to make connections between new ideas and prior knowledge inability to process oral language in a meaningful way