Second-Fifth Grades

Students need to be able to use language appropriately for a broad range of functions and perceive the functions for which others use language.

The purpose of the Oral Language Development Continuum for second-fifth grades is to provide information for parents, teachers, and other significant adults as they work with young students. It is a useful tool for assessing students' development along a continuum of oral language growth as well as providing information about the competencies that students are expected to learn in second-fifth grades. On the continuum, descriptors list specific behaviors that detail students' development at particular ages or grades. The competencies list specific behaviors that students are expected to learn in second through fifth grade according to the 1999 North Carolina Standard Course of Study for English Language Arts.

Second-Fifth Grades
Oral language is the foundation skill that students bring to school. Although students come to school with different levels of competence in their speaking and listening abilities, they bring their oral language and experiences as strengths to future literacy learning. Oral language is the foundation on which reading is built. Students' oral language abilities are interwoven with learning to read and write. The oral language students acquire as young students helps them connect words and sounds with print. Throughout the school years, oral language is both a means whereby students learn about reading and is a goal of literacy instruction. Any competence that students develop in oral language pays dividends in their reading and writing development. Encouraging oral language in the classroom and at home is a continuing process. It is not something that can be accomplished in a month or even a year; it requires time and patience to reap the harvest. Parents, teachers, and the entire school community must work together to support students in the process.


Second Grade:7-6 Years
Third Grade: 8-9 Years
  • Explain and use new concepts and information in own words.
  • Increase oral and written vocabulary by listening, discussing, and composing text when responding to literature that is read and heard.
  • Begin to use formal language and/or literary language patterns, in place of oral language patterns, as appropriate.
  • Use oral communication to identify, organize, and analyze information.
  • Read aloud with fluency and comprehension any text appropriate for early independent readers.
  • Respond appropriately when participating in group discourse by adapting language and communication behaviors to the situation to accomplish a specific purpose.
  • Use expanded vocabulary to generate synonyms for commonly over-used words to increase clarity of oral and written communication.

Listen actively by:

  • facing the speaker.
  • making eye contact.
  • asking questions to clarify the message.
  • asking questions to gain additional information and ideas.


Read aloud grade-appropriate text with fluency, comprehension, and expression.

Participate in creative responses to texts such as discussions, dramatizations, oral presentations, and plays.

Use oral language to:

  • present information in a sequenced, logical manner.
  • discuss.
  • sustain conversation on a topic.
  • share information and ideas.
  • recount or narrate.
  • answer open-ended questions.
  • Report information on a topic.
  • explain own learning.

Share oral products in a variety of ways (e.g., discussions, presentations, etc.).

Draw conclusions, make generalizations, and gather support by referencing the text.

Summarize main idea(s) from written or spoken text in succinct language.


Fourth Grade:9-10 Years
Fifth Grade:10-11 Years
  • Listen actively by:
    • asking questions.
    • araphrasing what was said.
    • interpreting speaker's verbal and non-verbal messages.
    • interpreting speaker's purposes and/or intent.
  • Read aloud grade-appropriate text with fluency, comprehension, and expression demonstrating an awareness of volume and pace.
  • Use oral and written language to:
    • present information and ideas in a clear, concise manner.
    • discuss.
    • interview.
    • solve problems.
    • make decisions.
  • Make oral and written presentations using visual aids with an awareness of purpose and audience.
  • Share self-selected texts from a variety of genres (e.g., poetry, letters, narratives, essays, presentations).
  • Demonstrate understanding in speaking and writing by appropriate usage of:
    • pronouns.
    • subject/verb agreement.
    • verb tense consistency.
    • subject consistency.
  • Elaborate information and ideas in writing and speaking in using:
    • simple and compound sentences.
    • regular and irregular verbs.
    • adverbs.
    • prepositions.
    • coordinating conjunctions.
  • Listen actively and critically by:
    • asking questions.
    • delving deeper into the topic.
    • elaborating on the information and ideas presented.
    • evaluating information and ideas.
    • making inferences and drawing
    • conclusions.
    • making judgments.
  • Identify strategies used by a speaker or writer to inform, entertain, or influence an audience.
  • Read aloud grade-appropriate text with fluency, comprehension, expression, and personal style demonstrating an awareness of volume, pace, audience, and purpose.
  • Use oral and written language to:
    • formulate hypotheses.
    • evaluate information and ideas.
    • present and support arguments.
    • influence the thinking of others.
  • Make oral and written presentations to inform or persuade selecting vocabulary for impact.
  • Demonstrate understanding in speaking and writing by using:
    • troublesome verbs.
    • nominative, objective, and possessive pronouns.
  • Elaborate information and ideas in speaking and writing by using:
    • prepositional phrases.
    • transitions.
    • coordinating and/or subordinating conjunctions.
  • Determine the impact of word choice on written and spoken language.






  • Language to get what we want
  • Asserting personal rights/needs
  • Asserting positive/ negative expressions
  • Requesting an opinion
  • Incidental expressions
  • Language to represent the world to others
  • Language to impart what one knows
  • Labeling, noting details
  • Noting incidents, sequences
  • Making generalizations
  • Comparing
  • Language to develop and maintain one's own unique identity


  • I want some milk.
  • I'm first because I'm the oldest.
  • I need a pencil.
  • It tastes good to me.
  • Do you like my new shirt?
  • My goodness!
  • You're too loud.
  • That's a Lexus.
  • It's green and blue.
  • My cookie is bigger than yours.
  • My sister is in the hospital.
  • I have twenty dollars.
  • I'm taller than anyone else my age.
  • My name is Anne Catherine.
  • I'm good at music.
  • I like Siamese cats.
  • I'm the only child in my family.
  • I want to be a teacher when I grow up.
  • I'm smart at language.

Ways to Promote Oral Language

  • Encourage children to state their requests clearly.
  • Help children become aware of how people use language to get what they want.
  • Encourage children to provide assistance to and seek assistance from peers.
  • Engage children in experiences which require them to observe, record, summarize, and draw conclusions.
  • Use open-ended questions.
  • Collect data over time. Interpret and draw conclusions from records.
  • Have children revise reports and presentations (their own and others').
  • Encourage children to share what they know in a variety of formats and settings.
  • Provide opportunities for children to share personal opinions, interpretations, and experiences.
  • Listen to and talk with the students personally.
  • Create opportunities for students to listen to and talk with others.








  • Language to speculate and predict what will happen
  • Noting cause/effect relationships
  • Noting an event
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Requesting a reason
  • Problem solving
  • Language to control others and the world around us
  • Requesting directions
  • Requesting others' attention
  • Controlling self
  • Language to establish and maintain relationships with others.
  • Language for its own sake, to express imagination, to entertain


  • The airplane crashed because the landing gear didn't work.
  • The rock is too heavy to float.
  • It might rain tomorrow.
  • We better not run away from home.
  • Why can't I go?
  • Why does this happen?
  • Do it this way (to self).
  • Give me the biggest one.
  • Give me your paper and I'll give it to the teacher.
  • Give me a blue crayon.
  • Show me how to do it.
  • Where shall I put it?
  • Watch this.
  • Look at me.
  • Let's be friends.
  • Tell me about...
  • I like you because...
  • Will you play with me?
  • Would you like for me to help you?
  • Let me tell you a story.
  • Let's pretend.
  • Let's sing a song.
  • Let's play house.
  • Once upon a time...
  • Peter Piper picked...

Ways to Promote Oral Language

  • Engage children in problem solving.
  • Create an environment that encourages inquiry, promotes investigations, and generates new questions.
  • Invite predictions when reading fiction or non-fiction and in content area studies.
  • Talk about why, where, and when people use regulatory language.
  • Let children give directions and explain class rules.
  • Encourage children to use more appropriate regulatory language as teachers use less.
  • Let children be in charge of large and small groups.
  • Schedule opportunities for students to share their strengths with others.
  • Provide opportunities for students to work in collaborative groups. Provide opportunities for students to read and write together.


  • Provide opportunities for students to use their imaginations through drama, poetry, role playing, puppetry, music, dance, mime, and discussion.
  • Schedule storytelling, read alouds, and performances.
  • Schedule reading and writing workshops as a part of the instructional routine.


Allen, Leanne. West Australia Department of Education. (1994). First Steps: Oral Language Resource Book: Melbourne, Australia: Addison Wesley Longman Australia Pty Limited.

Children's Choices. (October, yearly). Primary Level Books. The Reading Teacher. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

Gambrell, Linda B. and Almasi, Janice F. (Eds.). (1996). Lively Discussions! Fostering Engaged Reading. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

Heibert, E.H., Pearson, P.D., Taylor, B.M., Richardson, V., and Paris, S.G. (1998). Every Child a Reader. Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Instruction.

North Carolina English Language Arts Standard Course of Study. (December, 1999). Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Snow, C.E., Burns, M.S., and Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Academic Press.

Staab, Claire. (1992). Oral Language for Today's Classroom. Pippin Publishing Limited.

Teachers' Choices. (November, yearly).


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