Develop Language Skills in First Grade

Language is so basic and organic that sometimes I think we forget about how important it really is…

Anybody remember that there are actually 5 language standards with 23 sub points in our Common Core Standards.  Yep…it’s not just reading and writing, people.  Oh yeah, and there’s a whole ‘nother strand on speaking too. {How ’bout that Arkansaseese for ya?}  So, yeah…language is *kinda* important!

So let’s get back to the basics with a few of my most tried and true language tools.

I’m linking up with my friend, #TeacherMom, again for some Back-To-School language tools!

From a teacher who taught for 9 years in a high poverty, high ELL school {and still teaches in a diverse school this year}, here are my tried and true language tools for building good language with our ELL babies! And {*psssst!*}….it works for everyone else too!

1. Ranch Hands
Since my room is western themed and all, it’s only fitting that my star student/weekly helper/whatever you wanna call it kid is called our “Ranch Hand.”  You may be thinking, what does a class helper have to do with language?

Wait for it.  Just wait.

Each year I handle ranch hands differently…some years I’ve done too much and felt stretched too thin, and other years I’ve not done enough and felt too guilty.  But so far, this year…it’s feeling just right.  It is of course, just two weeks into school, so we’ll see how I feel in May.

Anyhoo…. I’m a big believer it making kids feel wanted and important.  I think kids gain confidence when they feel this way.  And confident kids become confident speakers. #language 

Also, when students are asked to be leaders and share with us about their family, who they are, what they like, and answer questions, they feel loved, appreciated, and included.  AND, they have to practice language skills.  #language

Here’s a look at how I’m handling my ranch hands each week….

I never really had a good spot for my ranch hands to sit in my old classroom, so I was super excited that I was able to find a spot this year in my new room…. {it helps that I left my big ole’ easel in my old room too!}  

This red desk has been with me since my first year.  My dad found it on the side of the road for free and I painted it red and glazed it.  In my old classroom, it sat out in the hallway, but this year I had a spot to bring it inside and use it for my ranch hand’s desk!  My ranch hand gets to move in here for their special week….and, of course, wear the cowboy hat!

I stole the banners from one of my teammates from last year.  I loved how she personalized the alliteration for each kiddo so I decided to carry that on this year!  The chalkboard banners are from amazon and I laminated each pennant so I could reuse them each week.

Each day, we do something special to introduce our ranch hand.  I send parents a note on Monday telling them their child is the ranch hand this week.  It gives them a list of things to bring each day and what our schedule looks like for the week.

Monday: Meet the ranch hand….we introduce our new ranch hand and interview them with these questions to fill out their wanted poster.  Pretty much covering Common Core Speaking & Listening {SL} 1, 2, 3, and 6 right here. #language

Then, we hang the wanted ad for everyone to see {names marked out for privacy!}  At the end of the week, I add my own special note at the bottom to our ranch hand and send it home with them.

On Tuesdays, our ranch hand brings in 3 photos to share with us about their family.  They must say at least one complete sentence about each picture…building language skills again right here and covering those same ol’ S&L standards!  Plus, you should see the grins on their faces when they get to share pictures.  They love it!!  The pictures get taped and added to our wall as well…and sent home on Friday.

Wednesdays we make a wordle describing our ranch hand.  Each student must think of one adjective to describe our friend.  And they must speak in a complete sentence.  We use sentence frames to help them….”Whitney is _____.” or “Whitney has _______.” etc.  I type it in to and make the wordle right there with the kiddos, print it out and hang it on the wall too!  I’ve done this one other year, but I quit for a few years in between because I was trying to print them in color and it was just too much.  So this year I decided to bring back the wordles with black and white only!  And I still think they look great!  All kinds of language skills wrapped up with this activity.  We get to talk about adjectives once a week so it’s always on their brain, they have to speak in complete sentences {and later in the year, they have to write their sentence on a sticky note for our ranch hand…it just takes way too long at the beginning of the year}, and our ranch hand just beams the whole time.  I can’t think of a happier way to practice basic language skills than building each other up.

Thursdays: Show & Tell.  The ranch hand tells about ONE thing they bring to share and must answer 3 questions from the audience about their item.

Friday: On the last Friday of each month, I eat lunch with all of my ranch hands from that month for some good ol’ friendly conversations.

So, yeah, it’s an oldie, but a goodie…featuring kids and letting them talk in front of the class about what they want to talk about and making them ask and answer questions is just the most old fashioned, but most organic way, to develop language!

2. Verb Tenses
Here’s another language tool from my store…

Year after year, I use this chart and sort from my TPT store.  Yeah, it’s a little bit a lot-a-bit old and needs to be updated {like from my pre-cute-cover days}, but it’s got some good meat inside of it!
I blogged about this one in detail back in the spring.  Check it out here!

3. Productive Group Work
When kids work by themselves, they don’t have to talk.   When kids work in groups, they are supposed to talk.  When kids work in productive groups and have to “share the pen,” they HAVE to talk. #language

Here are just a few blog posts are productive group work in literacy and math…
>>>Main Idea {FREEBIE}

>>>Non-Fiction Feature Scavenger Hunt

>>>Math Fact Fluency Partner Work

It seems so basic, but language is just that…basic.

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  1. Such an informative post! I love the idea of a 'Ranch Hand'! Thank you for your ideas!

    Learning with Sunflower Smiles

  2. Cute ranch hand corner!
    I love the verbs poster. I think the arrows are probably a good reminder for the kids about past, present, and future. Good idea!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Sarah 🙂

  3. I also love the Ranch Hand idea! It seems like the child is actually the foreman/lady of the entire ranch for the week. 🙂 Great ideas, especially the wordle.