Using Daily Language Practice to Improve Your Students' Writing
The goal of any Language Arts curriculum is to teach students how to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas with others. For years, teachers have been using Daily Oral Language (DOL) programs as a part of their lesson plan for teaching English and Language Arts with that goal in mind. In recent years, however, DOL has gotten a bad rap. Critics claim that Daily Oral Language programs are not effective because - as pre-packaged programs - they have little to no scope or sequence, are not diagnostic, and isolate writing instruction from actual student writing. However, when used as just one part of a comprehensive Writing and Language Arts curriculum, daily language practice activities can be an effective tool for working to improve your students' skills.
Daily Oral Language as a method was devised to allow students the opportunity to practice their punctuation, capitalization, word usage, spelling and writing skills while developing their proofreading skills at the same time. Typically delivered as part of the lesson plans for teaching English, DOL follows a set sequence of presentation completed in 5-10 minute mini-lessons. The teacher displays a sentence containing various grammatical errors on the chalkboard, white board, Smartboard or in the form of a worksheet. Collectively or individually, the students work to identify these errors and then re-write the sentence in its correct form. Here is an example:
will him bring the childs' toy to the lost and fownd!
Students would identify the following mistakes:
- There is no capitalization at the beginning of the sentence.
- The word "him" is used incorrectly. Instead, the word should instead be "he".
- The apostrophe is in the wrong position on the word "Childs'." It should be moved to a position before the "s," to demonstrate possession.
- The word "found" is spelled incorrectly. A "u" should replace the "w."
- The punctuation at the end of the sentence is incorrect. This sentence is asking a question. Therefore, a question mark should replace the exclamation point.
Once all of the errors have been successfully identified, students are typically required to either write the sentence in its corrected form on their own, or a volunteer is asked to come forward and write the corrected sentence in front of the entire group.
Activities in the Classroom
One way to address the complaints of DOL critics is to use the students' own writing as a springboard for these mini-lessons - instead of utilizing pre-packaged curriculum offered commercially. By addressing common and real mistakes made by the students in your class, you can easily develop your own "scope and sequence" for the year. One benefit is that the goals and objectives of this specifically designed scope and sequence are flexible. It can be paired with other diagnostic tools to address real problems that your students are facing now in their personal writing. Furthermore, this curriculum guide can easily be changed as questions naturally arise and new skills are acquired.
By using the students' own writing for your Daily Oral Language lessons, you are also differentiating your instruction. Students who commonly commit the same errors are learning from their peers in a natural environment. At the same time, students who have already mastered the concept(s) being addressed have the opportunity to improve their proofreading skills. This instruction can be delivered in either a large group, small group, or one-on-one setting - again allowing for flexibility and differentiated instruction.
A balanced approach, however, should do more than just identify errors in writing mechanics or sentence structure. It should also model exemplary uses. While this can be accomplished by the traditional method of "re-writing" the sentence in its correct form, a more relevant experience would be to analyze sentences from literary selections the students are studying or from their own peer writing.
As with any method of curriculum delivery, teachers must understand that not all children learn writing mechanics in the same manner. While some children readily acquire these skills through indirect methods of instruction, others thrive using activities which are explicit and direct. The important thing to remember when incorporating daily language practice activities into your lesson plans for teaching English is that they should not be your only source of writing instruction to address grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling. A balanced program would incorporate a variety of methods and activities - to be certain all learning styles are challenged.