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May Blog 2022

Children should be seen and not heard was often something I heard when growing up. We’re taught that silence is golden, which in some situations it truly is, however for some children, silence is becoming the norm. There is a growing sense that this pandemic has caused many social issues, and one of these is that children have regressed in terms of their discussions and ability to talk to adults or peers.  With the inability to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions with confidence, too many children are locked in semi-silence. We need to develop the teaching and learning of Oracy, so all students develop their confidence in their own voice.

What is Oracy?

Oracy describes the speaking and listening skills needed to be a good communicator, it intends to give spoken language the same importance as ‘literacy’ does to reading and writing. It’s about having the vocabulary to say what you want to say and the ability to structure your thoughts so that they make sense to others.

Why is Oracy so important?

To be able to communicate with each other is a life skill, and something that we believe our children need in their future careers. If this Oracy development is not supported in schools, this might affect children’s future life chances.

Evidence found that children who struggle with language or have poor vocabulary at age five are:

  • Six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11 than children who had good language skills at five.
  • Ten times less likely to achieve the expected level in Maths.
  • More than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34 as children with good vocabulary.
  • Twice as likely to have mental health difficulties, even after taking account of a range of other factors that might have played a part.

The impact of Oracy is clear. We know the gap between the disadvantaged students and those who come from advantage is widening, and if we must do a range of measures to narrow this gap.

A number of organisations have developed resources that explore curriculums for Oracy, including Voice 21, whose Oracy framework is depicted here:

What can we do to improve Oracy here at Crookhorn?

  1. Develop the effective use of ‘Think-Pair- Share’. The coaching team will work with you on how this is used in class. We will work with you on developing the think time, as this is often rushed and overlooked. Getting students to really think through what they want to say, and jot down some points is key. We also need to consider how to conduct the ‘pair’ stage. The share section does not need to be a whole class discussion but in groups. Teachers need to build adequate time in for this into some lessons and to enable meaningful learning from the talk.   
  2. Consider the use of Cold Call- and how this is used effectively, so it builds confidence and is not used as a tool for terror! Teachers to plan questions specifically, and plan for who will answer these questions. 
  3. Our student council are currently discussing some ground rules they would like implemented when having a group discussion. These will be distributed to all staff this half-term to be promoted in the classroom and for us to follow when students are discussing issues.
  4. Make time for Oracy: Time is needed above all else. Although timetables are already filled to the brim, think about where there might be chances to teach Oracy. You may be able to find time to teach Oracy explicitly as a standalone lesson, however even if you plan in opportunities for Oracy into other curriculum areas, this will make a difference.
  5. Give opportunities to practise Oracy: Children need as many opportunities to use their Oracy skills as possible. Think about the amount of time you give children for discussion and the structures you use – can you change your approach to encourage Oracy? When you talk with children, do you always question or do you comment and prompt? Do you build upon what children say? Think about how often children are given opportunities to report orally, both planned (e.g. presenting research) and unplanned (e.g. How did your group find that?)
  6. Have high expectations for Oracy from all: Being a good role model for Oracy is crucial. Just as using your thinking voice is an important tool for developing children’s metacognitive skills in Writing, so it is for Oracy. Verbalising making Oracy choices and thinking about the most effective way to phrase speech is key to supporting development. Feedback about Oracy is also helpful. If a child says something incorrectly, rather than focusing on their mistake, repeat what they said back to them using the correct phrasing. For example, if a child asks ‘Can I toilet?’ say ‘Please can I go to the toilet?’ back. Where possible, praise and give feedback on speech specifically, even when Oracy is not necessarily your objective or main focus. For example, ‘I think the way you explained that had a really clear sequence.’
  7.  Have fun with Oracy: Enjoy debates, performances, role play and games together, where Oracy takes centre stage. A whole range of ideas can be found on our webinar recording discussed below.
  8. We are going to release 10 key Tier 2 words every term, and will ask you to consider how these words are used in your subject and plan in when you can cover them in your lessons. We have worked with a selected group of subjects this term (RE/History/English/Science/Geo) about which Tier 2 words are used frequently and asked the staff to explain what these words mean to the students and how they can be used. This is to be planned as an Oracy task at some point during a lesson. We could teach these words in a variety of different ways, and we have noted some ideas in a Power Point in the literacy folder in itslearning.