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Building oral language and vocabulary through the use of literature.

Children are coming to classrooms across the United States with a need to develop their oral language. With the increased promotion of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, commercialized programs are being provided for teachers to use to build oral language in their students. Rather than purchasing these commercialized programs, we believe that schools and teachers can best enhance children's oral language and vocabulary development through the discriminating selection of great literature in the classroom. This teacher tip is intended to show teachers how to build oral language and needed vocabulary when attempting to read and understand text through the use of literature, rather than with commercialized programs. In the following lesson plan, Demi's The Empty Pot (1990) is used to support the "sea of talk" (Walmsley & Wing, 2004) needed to enhance comprehension through oral and written response.

NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts:

* Standards #1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 (

Instructional Goals:

* Introduce students to values depicted in traditional literature of one or more of the Asian cultures.

* Incorporate the comprehension strategy of sequencing ideas and story events.

* Develop word identification skills by using the context of a sentence or passage to build understanding.

Performance Goals:

* Students will infer from the reading the character trait of honesty.

* Students will complete a chart of story events in small groups.

* Students will complete an individual writing response to the text.

* Students will complete a selective word deletion cloze procedure.


Introduce the book by looking at the cover.

* Tell me what you see. Notice that Ping's pot is empty.

* Turn to the page in the book that shows Ping surrounded by pots filled with flowers. How do you think Ping is feeling?

* Let's read the story to learn why his pot is empty.

Teaching and Learning Activities:

* Read the book.

* Discuss the problem and solution. The students will list story events on chart paper with help from the teacher. If children need prompting, encourage them to use the pictures as they retell the story. Questions to help guide the children might be:

--What happens to Ping in the story?

--What happened first? Next? What happened at the end of the story?

--What could we learn from this story?

--What words do you think Ping would use to describe his feelings at the end of the story?

Record the children's responses on the chart, noting each event and Ping's feelings as the story progresses. Point out to the children the usefulness of the chart to help them analyze and understand the story.

* Children can respond to the text by selecting any of the following writing activities, or they can provide their own writing project based on the book.

--Write what you learned from the story in your literature response journal.

--Imagine that you and a friend are television news reporters interviewing Ping about what happened in the story. What questions will you ask? What details will Ping share with you? How will the tone of your voice change when you are "live and on the air"?

--Invite children to draw a picture of a pot filled with the flowers that Ping planted. Provide children with pictures of flowers. Have students write about their art.

Additional Activities:

* Cloze Procedure, using the provided Word Bank A long time ago in China, there was a boy named Ping who loved flowers. Anything he planted burst into --. Up came flowers, bushes, and even big fruit trees, as if by --. Everyone in the -- loved flowers too. They -- them everywhere, and the air smelled like --. The Emperor loved birds and animals, but flowers most of all, and he tended his own garden every day. But the -- was very old. He needed to choose a--to the throne.

Word Bank: successor emperor bloom planted magic kingdom perfume

As a follow-up to this activity, compare/contrast the vocabulary used in this book that gives the reader clues about the setting of the story. (Example: emperor, kingdom, successor to the throne, proclamation)

* Music: Chinese art forms (like music) are rooted in ancient traditions. Introduce the students to classical Chinese music by having them listen to recordings such as "The Hugo Masters: An Anthology of Chinese Classical Music" (1992). Discuss the art of the music. What emotions do you feel as you listen to each piece?

* Art: Show the painting The New Moon Shines on the Nine Provinces, by Li Keran. Discuss the work of art. What emotions did you feel as you viewed the painting? What story does the painting tell? Compare and contrast the Keran painting with Demi's illustrations in The Empty Pot. What character in the painting or the book do you identify with? What story does this painting tell?

* Social Studies & Technology: The Empty Pot is set in the distant past. Invite students to investigate through the World Wide Web how the modern Chinese family lives. Have small groups research such topics as: housing, food, education, clothing, jobs, recreation, etc.

* Readers' Theater: Have the children select a portion of the text, or the entire text if time allows, to use in a Readers' Theater format.

* Genre Study: How does The Empty Pot fit into the genre of folktales? List possible criteria for the genre of folktales, such as:

--Heroes and heroines overcoming adversity through the use of a virtue

--Stories told from generation to generation

--Problem and solution is clear

--Good vs. evil in the story is obvious, with justice prevailing in the end

--Language used in the story reflects the setting of the story and is culturally sound (Galda & Cullinan, 2006).


* Review the book.

* Have the children share their work with the class.

* Perform the Readers' Theater if time permits.


* The Empty Pot

* Li Keran's The New Moon Shines on the Nine Provinces

* "The Hugo Masters: An Anthology of Chinese Classical Music" [CD] or other examples of Chinese classical music

* Chart paper

* Writing materials

Accommodations for ELL/Special Needs:

Multiple forms of representation will accommodate diverse learners. Assessment:

* Informal:

--Observation in writing activity

--Participation in discussion

--Sharing of extension to the story

* Formal:

--Published piece of writing

--Personal works of art

--Cloze Procedure


Demi. (1990). The empty pot. New York: Henry Holt.

Galda, L., & Cullinan, B. E. (2006). Literature and the child (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning.

Hugo Masters. (1992). An anthology of Chinese classical music [CD]. Tucson, AZ: Celestial Harmonies.

Walmsley, B., & Wing, D. (2004). Welcome to kindergarten: A month-by-month guide to teaching and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

This Idea-Sparker was submitted by Gwenyth J. McCorquodale, Birmingham Southern College, and Lynn Kirkland, University of Alabama at Birmingham.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Association for Childhood Education International
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Author:Kirkland, Lynn
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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