If you are considering using Daily Oral Language or Daily Language Review, you probably have a few questions:

  1. Do Daily Oral Language and Daily Language Review really work?
  2. What is the most effective way to implement Daily Oral Language and Daily Language Review?
  3. What does the research say about Daily Oral Language and Daily Language Review?
  4. What are the benefits of Daily Oral Language and Daily Language Review?
  5. What are the problems with Daily Oral Language and Daily Language Review?

Here is a list of benefits and problems and other ideas that will help you get the most out of your Daily Oral Language. Please note, Daily Oral Language is also called DOL, D.O.L., Daily Language Review, DLR, and D.L.R.

Daily Oral Language was very popular for many years; however, the most recent research on its effectiveness has not been favorable. Still, many teachers continue to love it. Early in my teaching career, I really liked it. Why? Because it was fun! Read on to find out how to make it more than just fun. Read on to find out how to get the most out of your Daily Oral Language.

If you are serious about developing effective writers, be sure to check out the Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay writing program on the homepage.

Why Daily Oral Language is Fun – Have you ever noticed someone who was beautifully dressed, but all you could focus on was a tiny stain on his or her shirt? Psychologically, we are all wired to enjoy discovering what is wrong. It’s fun for us. Although it is fun now, back on the savannah, this ability to notice what was wrong served a real purpose. It was life and death. If a person couldn’t figure out what was wrong in a situation, that person did not last long.

While many people think DOL is fun, some people think that DOL is boring. For higher grades, it might be. Surprising as it may be, Daily Oral Language programs go up through Grade 12.  Day after day, year after year, DOL must surely lose its fun appeal.

We have talked about the fun factor; now let’s take a look at what the research shows, both the Pro side and the Con side.

The Research Shows: Pro Daily Oral Language – Regular skills practice improves skill retention and communicates to students that the skills that they are developing are important. Continuous review has proven to be an effective way to maintain skills and develop an understanding of critical concepts. Content delivered incrementally promotes continuous learning and understanding, thus building and maintaining knowledge. (Baratta-Lorton, 1994).

The Research Shows: Con Daily Oral Language – Teaching conventions in isolation is ineffective at best. Students need opportunities to apply their knowledge of conventions to their writing. Daily Oral Language activities are a waste of time for students who lack procedural knowledge of how and when to use conventions in writing. Consequently, the most effective way to teach conventions is to integrate instruction directly into the writing process. (Kathleen Cali, Learn NC)

Can we agree with both?

The Mathematics of Time – The effectiveness of a teaching strategy is always a mathematical equation that involves time. If you spend an hour on Daily Oral Language, it’s probably not a good use of time. However, if students complete the work quickly, followed by a quick discussion, you may be getting a lot of bang for your buck. Be sure your DOL implementation system becomes a science of efficiency. Daily Oral Language is intended to be a quick daily review… 5, 10, 15… 20 minutes max.

Problem: The Perfectionist Time Trap – Perfectionists will to want to give direct instruction on every concept covered. If you give a large amount of direct instruction on all of the concepts covered, it’s going to take a lot of time. This is the wrong way to use Daily Oral Language. There are other, better, direct instruction formats for teaching grammar skills. Avoid this perfectionist time trap! If you are falling into this perfectionist time trap keep reading because I offer plenty of solutions.

Is D.O.L. Grammar Instruction or Just Proofreading Practice?– A common criticism of Daily Oral Language is that it only teaches proofreading. If that’s the only benefit your students get out of it, you are doing it wrong.

DOL’s larger purpose is to both review and teach grammar skills. Some teachers achieve this larger goal, while others don’t. Many teachers have been thrilled with the results they have achieved. Furthermore, it fits nicely into many teachers’ day and many teachers know how to get the most out of it. The more a teacher understands the rules of grammar rules, the more a teacher can get out of Daily Oral Language. Grammarians can find many teaching moments using DOL.

Problem: How Can You “Review Skills” that Students Have Not Learned?  – Another common criticism of Daily Oral Language is that the exercises contain too many skills that students have not yet learned. As such, teachers end up teaching the skills instead of reviewing the skills. This ends up taking up too much time. DOL is not meant to be a direct instruction program; it’s a review program. Here are three solutions for this problem:

Solution 1: You pre-teach weeks ahead. Know what coming up and make sure you have given direct instruction on important concepts. You probably won’t be able to pre-teach all of the skills, but you can increase the effectiveness and reduce frustration this way. (It would be nice if there were a daily oral language grammar direct instruction program that quickly pre-taught the daily oral language skills a few weeks ahead. Spiraling is an important factor in both learning and teaching!)

Solution 2: You pre-teach right before you do the Daily Oral Language. There is not much point in doing an exercise for which a large majority will fail, so why not pre-teach a rule or two? You can even bring some fun into it by making it a challenge. Ex. Here are two grammar rules. Only one of them is in today’s assignment. See if you can figure out which one it is.

Solution 3: You use a program from a lower grade. Many teachers do this. The key to Daily Oral Language is that it is a fast review. If you can’t do it fast, you shouldn’t be using Daily Oral Language. You will be better off using a direct instruction grammar program that spirals the learning.

Teachable Moments – There is a game aspect to Daily Oral Language, and that’s what makes it fun. “Find the mistake” is different from “memorize this rule.” However, teachers need to connect DOL to what is most important on their state’s standardized test—and to real writing. Much of DOL success comes from having the opportunity to find lots of teachable moments.

Busy Work or Real Benefit? – Teachers have a lot to do! As such, teachers often plan a task that needs to get done while students work on DOL. It’s a real complement to DOL that teachers know their students will be ENGAGED enough so that they can get something done.

Unfortunately, some teachers may come to use DOL as busy work. True, there are tasks that teachers need to get done while students are busy, for example, taking role. Teachers need a routine that has value and for which the kids will be engaged. DOL can meet that need.

However, DOL is like most things: you get out what you put in. Ask yourself these questions: Are you prepared for the day’s DOL lesson? Have you looked over the lesson and studied the learning errors? Will you be able to teach or expand on each and every rule—or at least one? Have you pre-taught any rules?

Even though the teacher is getting an important task done, the teacher can still be fully prepared beforehand in order to maximize the benefits of Daily Oral Language.

Daily Oral Language in Elementary School vs. Middle School – Middle school teachers seem to be more critical of DOL than elementary school teachers. That makes sense. When teachers have only an hour with students, it’s hard to justify spending 15 minutes on Daily Oral Language. A key difference between elementary school DOL and middle school DOL is that elementary school teachers are with the same students all day long. Elementary school teachers need to break up the day. And there is an art to breaking up the day.  For elementary school teachers, DOL can easily serve its purpose and with time to spare!

Another difference is this: middle school students may have done Daily Oral Language in elementary school. They may see it as doing the exact same thing they did in elementary school—and middle school students don’t like that.

Problem: It’s Too Easy for My Kids – There are two simple solutions for this problem: One, use a program from a higher grade level. Two, pick up the pace. DOL is meant to be a quick review, so see how quick of a review you can make it.

Have you checked out Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay yet?

DOL as Classroom Management? – It’s no secret that DOL is a good classroom management strategy. Teachers have students come in and get started on something that will settle them down and engage them. This reason alone has likely played a part in DOL’s popularity. In some student populations, it’s a great success to quickly get the kids focused on learning. DOL has the power to achieve this.

Problem: The Answers Vary – This may be more common with Daily Language Review (D.L.R.) than with DOL, and it may be more common at different grade levels. Here is the problem: You may have 30 students with 15 different correct answers and a few more incorrect answers. Unfortunately, everyone wants to know if their answer is correct; however, checking every single possible answer will take too much time. Remember, D.L.R. is supposed to be a fast review. Your 5-10 minute lesson shouldn’t turn into a 25-45 minutes lesson. Solution: Establish an understanding with your students that you will look at a few answers and then move on. They need to compare their answer with the correct answer(s) and use good judgment.

Benefit: State Testing Peace of Mind – When state testing time arrives, it’s quite frustrating to discover that there are areas that you neglected, skipped, or did not think were important. DOL is a good guard against this frustration. DOL does bring a certain amount of peace of mind.

Benefit: Built in Spiraling for ESL Students – A great thing about Daily Oral Language is that very few skills fall through the cracks. Not only does it spiral the concepts, but it spirals them fast. Having personally learned a second language, I know how important it is to spiral, spiral, spiral the learning. It is the only thing that keeps a person sane. ESL and ELL teachers can harness the power of the built in spiraling found in DOL.

Daily Oral Language vs. Grammar Books vs. Grammar Supplements – The purpose and intent of each one of these methodologies is different. Don’t confuse these different purposes, and don’t try to make your DOL time more than it is supposed to be. You may need to supplement your DOL with a little direct instruction, but DOL is not a direct instruction program.

Problem: DOL is Not Connected to Real Writing – This is a big, big DOL negative. This is why you want to make sure you don’t invest too much time on DOL. If “Daily Oral Language does not work,” the reason why is that it is not connected to real writing. However, skilled teachers can bridge that gap, and most certainly, gaps will need to be bridged. Children will not transfer the DOL skills over to real writing without teachers helping bridge the gap.

Success Now vs. Incremental Success – DOL is an incremental progress strategy. You are not going to see the mastery of any one skill anytime soon. If you are looking for overnight success, it is not going to happen. You will need to have a little patience and faith.

Daily DOL vs. Occasional DOL – The theory behind Daily Oral Language is that reviewing skills consistently over time leads to success over time. However, even if you don’t use DOL daily, it can still be one more tool in the tool belt. Some teachers feel they get great benefit doing it just once a week. I know one teacher that uses a grammar program four times a week and on Friday she does a whole week’s worth of Daily Oral Language.  She calls it “DOL Day.”

The Daily Review of Skills Theory – DOL is based on a theory, and like a lot of theories, people get too caught up in the theory. The “daily skills practice people” would have you practices a quick set of skills for every subject across the curriculum. However, the “workshop people” would have you doing a Writer’s Workshop type workshop for every subject across the curriculum. These theories seem great when they are easy on the teacher, but I can’t imagine that doing a “Daily Review of Skills” program for every single subject is a great use of time.

Three Different Ways to Implement Daily Oral Language:

1. The teacher writes the exercise on the front board. Students write it correctly on paper or in a journal. The class then corrects it and discusses it as students come up to the board one by one adding proofreading marks and correcting errors.

2. The teacher uses an overhead projector, projector from the computer, or an ELMO Projector. All three of these technologies allow the teacher to mark-up and correct the DOL so as students can see the correct answers. Warning: Don’t have students copy the exercise from the source the wrong way first and then correct it. Have them write it out the correct way only. Don’t have them practice writing wrong.

3. The teacher makes copies and passes them out. Have the copies waiting on the students’ desks when they return from recess or hand it to them as they walk in the door. Students add proofreading marks (mark it up) and write it out correctly.

Benefit: DOL is Good Recommendation for Parents Who Want to Help Their Children– From time to time parents ask teachers how they can help their child. DOL is an excellent recommendation. For a parent, it’s the right amount of work and it sends all the right messages. In a way, it’s neutral. Parents aren’t looking for their child’s mistakes. Instead, together, they can correct someone else’s mistakes. Parents like it.

Problem: Practicing Errors – Some educators say DOL doesn’t work because it puts the focus on errors. However, that same theory would instruct people not to proofread because when people find the mistakes they will be focusing on errors.  On the other hand, I believe one should focus on where one wants to go instead of what a person wants to avoid. “Billy, don’t step in that puddle.” What does Billy do? He steps in the puddle. In short, don’t have students write the exercise out the wrong way. That is practicing writing wrong, and practice makes perfect!

Benefits: Builds Community – Here’s another psychological reason for DOL’s success. It’s called the “common enemy” or the “us against them” mentality.  With DOL, teachers and students alike are united together against “that silly mistake maker.” “Oh… can you believe THEY did that? WE would never do that! We’re better than that! We will fix it!”

Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) vs. Daily Language Review (D.L.R.) – There is a difference between these two programs. You will likely prefer one over the other. DOL seems to come out with more new programs and new versions, so be sure to check out samples from all the programs before you decide on one.

Authentic Daily Oral Language: Real Writing

When we attach authentic meaning to an activity, it has more value. Why would we want to spend time studying fake mistakes when we can instead develop a class of real writers? Students will learn more and will become better writers faster by examining their own writing.

This is the direction I have been headed for many, many years, and it is the direction that the research supports. Even still, I do like to have a Daily Oral Language or Daily Language Review program handy. Why? Because it is fun, it can break up the day, and it can create community by focusing on THEIR mistakes and not ours!

If you are serious about developing effective writers, be sure to check out the Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay writing program on the homepage.

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