Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

L'evaluation De la Langue Orale Des Jeunes Enfants : Des Recommandations Pour Les Pratiques Pedagogiques et Pour Les Politiques

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

L'evaluation De la Langue Orale Des Jeunes Enfants : Des Recommandations Pour Les Pratiques Pedagogiques et Pour Les Politiques

Article excerpt

Assessing Young Children's Oral Language: Recommendations for Classroom Practice and Policy


In this article we draw on the results of a systematic review of research evaluating young children's oral language assessment to identify principles and practices for classrooms and make recommendations for policy development. We begin with the research- based and curriculum-supported assumption that oral language is foundational to literacy and to all learning. Children's oral vocabulary, storytelling performance, and phonological awareness at school entry are predictors of later reading comprehension and decoding (Dickinson & Porche, 2010; Resnick & Snow, 2009). In addition to using oral language to express ideas and intentions in communication with others, children use language to organize and reflect on experience (Alexander, 2006; Barnes, 1992; Mercer & Littleton, 2007; Wells, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978). Putting words together to communicate with others helps children to clarify and deepen understanding. Oral language is foundational to social, as well as conceptual, learning. Children are socialized into the cultural practices of their communities through their everyday interactions with others (Cekaite, Blum-Kulka, Grover, & Teubal, 2014). Children's choice of words, sounds and structures, and the ways in which they use these features of language to achieve their own purposes, are some of the indicators of their social learning.

The importance of oral language to literacy and all learning is described in many language arts curricula in Canada (e.g., Alberta Education, 2000; Manitoba Education, 2011; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006; Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2010) and around the world (Department for Education, 2013; Ministere de l'education nationale, de l'enseignement superieur et de la recherche, 2016). In Ontario, for example, the Language curriculum document (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006) contains an assertion that "oral communication skills are fundamental to the development of literacy and essential for thinking and learning" (p. 9). As such, supporting children's oral language, in part through carrying out ongoing, observational formative assessments, should be an integral part of classroom practice (Fisher & Frey, 2007). Student learning is enhanced when teachers gather and analyze information about students' learning throughout the school year, using it to guide their teaching (Bennett, 2011; Black & Wiliam, 2009; Hondrich, Hertel, Adl-Amini, & Kleime, 2015).

Given the importance of oral language to literacy and all learning in school and beyond, there is a need for educators and educational researchers to devote time and resources to understanding effective ways of assessing and supporting children's oral language in classrooms. This is the premise underlying a six-year action research project aimed toward co-creating culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 1995) classroom oral language assessment and instructional tools and approaches with teachers of four-to eight-year-old children in northern rural and Indigenous Canadian communities. Participants are Indigenous and non-Indigenous kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers and their students in rural northern communities in four provinces. In an ongoing cycle of data collection, analysis, and implementation, teachers and researchers video-record children's play interactions. Based on collaborative analysis of the recordings, we plan together pedagogical and assessment approaches that teachers then implement to support children's language learning and development.

To inform the action research, we conducted a systematic review of research on oral language assessment published between 1980 and 2015. We identified research-supported characteristics of oral language assessment practices for developing assessment tools and practices appropriate for primary classrooms whose makeup differs from a European-heritage urban/suburban middle-class demographic. …

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