An Introduction to Oracy in the Classroom

By Sharon Leftwich-Lloyd, Lead Practitioner (Other), The Polesworth School

Why Oracy?

The teacher is the ultimate ‘model’ of oracy in the classroom using carefully selected vocabulary and sentence structures, vocal tone and body language; students learn through talk every hour of their school day but how often are they explicitly taught to talk?

Every child needs a voice. Speaking enables active engagement improving knowledge retention. A recent study showed that anxiety was reduced when students were able to express themselves verbally and another found a direct correlation between oracy and overall academic achievement. Oracy builds confidence and self-esteem; improves civic engagement and enables personal safety.

What is Oracy?

“Oracy is the ability to articulate ideas, develop understanding and engage with others through spoken language. In school, oracy is a powerful tool for learning; by teaching students to become more effective speakers and listeners we empower them to better understand themselves, each other and the world around them.” (Oracy Benchmarks Report, Voice21)

The Oracy Framework (Voice21) has four strands which together define what is meant by the term ‘oracy’:

Oracy does not have to be formal, most important is a range of talk activities regularly included in classroom practice. Some ideas to start:

• Question tennis to generate interest and thought

• ‘Yes and …’ one student states an idea and it is built on by each subsequent contribution

• Silent summariser – A and B have a discussion; C silently listens and summarises.

• Trio questioner – A and B have a discussion; C is only allowed to ask questions

• Create a podcast / public service announcement / radio broadcast

Three Ideas to try in your Classroom

1. Introduce sentence stems to scaffold and model talk tasks, they can be used to build up confidence, made more challenging and gradually removed. For example:

I agree and I disagree because … Linking on to what you said … Do you mean …

I think … Linking to what X said … No, that’s not right, it’s

Yes, it is / No, it isn’t To challenge what you said … How about …

2. Provide specific vocabulary that you would like used. Allowing students to become familiar with words during an oracy activity increases understanding, retention and confidence. Some ideas:

  • ·Taboo (also reverse taboo highlighting words students must say)

  • Checklists of words which students tick off (you could have a ‘listener’ for talk based tasks who checks that words have been used).

  • Points assigned to lists of words with the most important words carrying the highest tariff.

3) This proforma (adapted from Karen Knight @KKNTeachLearn) enables students to choose one side of an argument and then explain why.

Have a go with a colleague. How could you use this in your classroom? Some possible ideas:

  • ·Methods of working out a Mathematical answer or conducting an experiment

  • Interpretations of a story, poem, artwork, play or piece of music

  • ·Theories / lenses through which to read a text / case study / experiment

Three Resources to Learn More - research, training (often free and twilight), the latest news. useful publications, research and resources.

Twitter - #oracy – the latest conversations, resources and other teachers’ ideas.

Sharon Leftwich-Lloyd

Lead Practitioner

The Polesworth School


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