Oral Language underpins the development of other language activities, such as reading and writing.
By focusing on the development of oral language skills children will learn to manipulate and control their world to suit their purposes.
Barrier Games Barrier Games provide opportunities to develop skills for both speaking (composing) and listening (comprehension). A common barrier game that many of us will have played is Battleships, a hit or miss game using coordinates to knock out the opponent's ships that have been placed on a grid but out of sight.
Barrier games have been around for many years and require players to give and receive directions while being separated by some kind of barrier. A barrier game requires two players to be placed on either side of a table with some kind of barrier between them so that they cannot see each others materials. Almost anything can be used as a barrier such as: books, folders, or binders. Usually each player has the same set of materials in front of them. The players take turns giving the other player very specific instructions or descriptions on how to arrange or manipulate the materials in front of them, without using any visual cues. The goal of the game is to have both players’ materials look the same at the end of the activity. For example, one player could build a simple object such as a leggo boat and give instructions for the other player to construct an identical unseen object.
Another idea is to give the participants a map. One player is instructed to place a treasure somewhere on the map and then to give instructions to the other player so that he/she can follow the trail to the hidden treasure. The maps could be identical pirate maps. A variation of this activity is to photocopy street maps and ask the children to give directions in how to go from point A to point B. This activity requires a great deal of very specific language and the ability to listen carefully. It also requires the participants to visualise the instructions.
An idea to develop the ability to visualise (or to make an imagined picture) is to give one participant a simple picture e.g. a colouring in picture. The participant with the picture then describes the scene while the other participant attempts to draw the picture on a blank piece of paper by following the instructions. This is quite difficult and the children will usually require some hints as to how to give good instructions. For example, the use of words to indicate size, shape, position, direction, and perspective could be demonstrated before the beginning of the activity.
Barrier games not only develop language and the ability to imagine but they also develop the ability to link these two modes of thinking in working memory.