Oral language interventions emphasise the importance of spoken language and verbal interaction in the classroom. They are based on the idea that comprehension and reading skills benefit from explicit discussion of either the content or processes of learning, or both. Oral language approaches include:
Oral language interventions aim to support learners’ articulation of ideas and spoken expression. Oral language interventions therefore have some similarity to approaches based on Metacognition which make talk about learning explicit in classrooms (such as Philosophy for Children), and to Collaborative learning approaches which promote learners’ talk and interaction in groups (such as Thinking Together).
Overall, studies of oral language interventions consistently show positive impact on learning, including on oral language skills and reading comprehension. On average, learners who participate in oral language interventions make approximately five months' additional progress over the course of a year.
All learners appear to benefit from oral language interventions, but some studies show slightly larger effects for younger children and learners from disadvantaged backgrounds (up to six months' additional progress).
Some types of oral language interventions appear to be more effective than others, on average. Interventions which are directly related to text comprehension or problem-solving appear to have greater impact. There is also consistent evidence supporting reading to young children and encouraging them to answer questions and to talk about the story with a trained adult. A number of studies show the benefits of trained teaching assistants effectively supporting both oral language skills and reading outcomes.
In contrast, more general ‘whole language’ approaches, which focus on meaning and personal understanding, do not appear to be as successful as those involving more interactive and dialogic activities.
For all oral language interventions, certain factors are associated with higher learning gains, suggesting that careful implementation is important. For example, approaches which explicitly aim to develop spoken vocabulary work best when they are related to current content being studied in school, and when they involve active and meaningful use of any new vocabulary. Similarly, approaches that use technology are most effective when the technology is used as a medium to encourage collaborative work and interaction between learners, rather than in a direct teaching or tutoring role. Most studies comment on the importance of training and teacher development or support with implementation.
Overall, studies of oral language interventions consistently show positive impact on learning
There is an extensive evidence base on the impact of oral language interventions, including a substantial number of meta-analyses and systematic reviews. The evidence is relatively consistent, suggesting that oral language interventions can be successful in a variety of environments. Although the majority of the evidence relates to younger children, there is also clear evidence that older learners, and particularly disadvantaged learners, can benefit.
The evidence base includes a number of high quality studies in UK schools. Additional evidence about matching specific programmes or approaches to particular learners’ needs, either by age or by attainment, would also be useful.
Overall, the costs are estimated as very low: typically around £40 per learner. Direct financial costs are limited to additional resources, such as books for discussion, and professional development for teachers, which is likely to enhance the benefits for learning. For a number of recent UK evaluations, the median per learner cost per year was £40.
How can you help learners to make their learning explicit through verbal expression?
How will you match the oral language activities to learners’ current stage of development, so that it extends their learning and connects with the curriculum?
What training should the adults involved receive to ensure they model and develop learners’ oral language skills?
If you are using technology, how will you ensure that learners talk about their learning and interact with each other effectively?
Some sections, for example 'Additional Cost Information', may contain information from countries other than Scotland.
Talking, Listening and Questions (TLQ) is an intervention for improving the expressive language of children with vulnerable language skills in early learning and childcare settings, P1 or P2. The average overall gains of around two years in information (vocabulary) and grammar have been consistent throughout the first four years of the project. TLQ is one way that could help to raise attainment and close the poverty-related attainment gap, in line with National Improvement Framework (NIF) priorities.
This video demonstrates emerging literacy strategies, based upon identifying and addressing gaps in fundamental literacy skills in young children as they enter primary school, including oral language.
A collaborative project between a primary school and a secondary school.
Strategies and interventions which can support teachers and practitioners to develop a literacy-rich curriculum in P1-3.
This project highlights the positive impact that a naturalised outdoor environment can have on health and wellbeing and in boosting resilience.
Presentation to promote professional dialogue on listening and talking experiences and outcomes.
Help for P1 teachers as they identify and assess children who are most at risk of developing later difficulties with reading and writing.
A literacy approach aims to raise attainment in children’s literacy.
A toolkit for assessing young people’s oracy that was developed during the "Improving Talking and Listening" project funded by the EEF.
Professor Robin Alexander’s submission to the National Curriculum Expert Panel, reviewing the evidence around oracy and high quality classroom talk
A 2012 report on communications interventions from the Department for Education.