The acquisition of language and the ability to understand and utilize that language in its printed and written forms is a hierarchical process. Students first must comprehend and produce language in oral forms before they can successfully acquire and use language in its written forms. Therefore, Oral Expression is a critical part of the White Oak School curriculum. For the language learning disabled student, word retrieval, auditory discrimination, language processing and the semantic organization needed to produce coherent oral language all are issues which frequently pose difficulty. At the most basic levels of the Oral Expression curriculum, issues of auditory discrimination, syllabication, vocabulary development, sequencing, and comprehension of auditorily presented materials are addressed. In this first level students also begin to learn basic skills for oral presentation, producing simple PowerPoint presentations to introduce them to the use of this technology, a tool that is used with expanding complexity at each level of the Oral Expression curriculum.
The second level of the curriculum continues to work in the above-mentioned areas at an increasingly complex level, but also addresses areas of notetaking from auditorily presented materials and comprehension and expression of directions. It is at this second level as well that the curriculum begins to address the use of language in the social context, an area of oral language usage that can sometimes be challenging for language learning disabled students. Social language usage continues to be an important part of the curriculum from the second level onward, as the focus of the curriculum exercises begins to shift toward a greater emphasis on classroom and work-place scenarios for which the student needs rehearsed strategies which will afford him/her the confidence necessary to survive in the world beyond White Oak. Thus, the third level of Oral Expression addresses speech preparation and delivery skills, social introduction and conversation skills, and the comprehension of proxemics and the use of contextual clues in various conversational settings.
In the final level of the curriculum, conversational skills, proxemics, and abstract language usage are all addressed using the context of a video production class. In this class students are expected to arrange interviews focused on selected topics, conduct and film these interviews, and use computer technology to edit the finished work. Additionally, and most critically, students are expected to learn to define and describe their learning differences and the impact those differences have upon their lives so that they may be viable self-advocates in the academic community, the work place, or within social contexts in their adult lives. Facing the world of adulthood with a previously outlined and rehearsed scripts to follow for “what to say” in certain predictable situations (i.e. job interviews, requests for modifications from college professors or supervisors in the work place, meeting strangers in social settings) can afford students the confidence to express themselves in a manner that will allow them to display their true levels of competence and intellect and thus succeed in a society which might otherwise judge them to be “lazy, and disorganized”.
“I am happy you guys have those OE classes. They helped me get a job and work with people out in the real world.” – Kayla, 2014
“Public speaking at Friday student meetings was actually useful. I developed skills that I need in my major. I use those skills all the time!” – Dan, 2011
“Reading at Friday meetings is the best dose of medicine you could receive. That and my time in OETV helped me prepare for college presentations, present my final thesis, and speak publicly at my art openings.” – Erin, 2012