These are simple yet effective changes you can make to benefit all students.
1. Training - For staff and students
2. Culture the environment
3. Structure Talk
5. It takes Time!
Want to find out more?
Here's a few helpful links to additional research, videos and content on Oracy.
Interested in the research?
The Reading Framework (2022) DfE: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1102800/Reading_framework_teaching_the_foundations_of_literacy_-_Sept_22.pdf
Oracy Cambridge (2023):
The Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF): Oral Language Interventions (2021) https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/education-evidence/teaching-learning-toolkit/oral-language-interventions
Oracy Providers: Voice 21
Prefer to watch?
Sheba George, Deputy Headteacher at Challney High School for Girls, shares their Oracy journey with Voice 21, available here:
Teacher Talk: Oracy
Welcome to our educational blog. Here we explore all things pertinent to education, discuss current topics and provide tips, from research and educational experts, to aid practice.
Oracy might literally be one of the most talked about topics in education right now - is it just another phase or does it make a difference? Here we discuss the research and impact Oracy can have upon your students, classroom and school. As Neil Mercer (Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge and Director, Oracy Cambridge) said, “You are the only second chance for some children to have a rich language experience. If these children are not getting it at school, they are not getting it.”
Back in 2022, the DfE noted the importance of Oracy and ‘Language Comprehension’ in their paper, ‘The Reading Framework’ (2022). Here, researchers found that the number of words a child has heard and can say by the age of three is an indicator of later language development. As a result. a language rich environment, where students engage in talk is crucial, particularly, within education. There’s a famous quotation by renowned philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein
Where he states: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” and research shows this to be true within education.
As a result, Spoken language within the curriculum is crucial. Notably, there have been reforms to the Early Years Framework aiming to reduce a language gap through a range of methods, such as: thinking out loud, modelling new language for children; rephrasing and extending what the children say (see Section 2, Language Comprehension for the full list).
Interestingly, they also state that the explicit teaching of ‘Spoken Language’ needs to include teaching students how to listen to each other and then how to listen, respond and give feedback to peers/adults. Students with SLCN should have even more time to explicitly communicate. Reading aloud and being read to should be explicit within the curriculum and careful consideration of what stories and non-fiction texts should be considered e.g poems and utilising rhythm and rhyme.
So what is Oracy and does it really make a difference?
Oracy was defined in the 2021 report, Speak for Change as: 'our ability to communicate effectively using spoken language. It is the ability to speak eloquently, articulate ideas and thoughts, influence through talking, listen to others and have the confidence to express your views.’
Importantly, Oracy in education refers to our students having the opportunity to learn through talk and learn how to talk through effective strategies that they can utilise in their everyday life.James Britton, 1970 noted how: ‘Talk is the sea upon which all else floats’ highlighting the importance of Oracy upon all other subjects.
Research from Voice 21 (2021) and The University of Cambridge, Education faculty, (2021) shows Oracy to benefit a student’s: Confidence through their ability to articulate and express themselves effectively, which in turn fosters their wellbeing. It equips students for later life , has been shown to improve academic performance, narrowing the gap between students and therefore promotes social equity.
Most research classifies Oracy within 4 key strands (Voice 21): Physical, Linguistic, Cognitive and Social and Emotional.
According to the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Oral Language interventions ‘have a high impact on pupil outcomes’ at 7 months for early years, 6 months for Primary and 5 months for Secondary. Furthermore, this comes from low cost and a large range of studies, increasing the strength of the research (EEF: July 2021).
We spoke to Tom Berrill, Oracy lead for Chiltern Learning Trust about his strategies for embedding Oracy effectively into your curriculum and school:
1. Invest time in teacher training. Improving the oracy skills of students requires many teachers to change the way they teach and they need training to help them do this.
2. Create the right environment in the classroom. This allows students to feel safe to use their voices and to try something which is new to many of them. Using talk rules provides teachers and students with clear guidelines on how talk should be conducted. These rules are even more powerful if teachers co-construct them with their students.
3. Structure verbal interactions. Many students (and adults!) don’t know how to have a profitable discussion. Confident students often end up dominating discussions, which hinders the ability of other students to develop their skills. Use talk roles to give students the structure to engage in talk effectively. These roles are somewhat clunky to begin with but over time, they become second nature and allow students to identify the different tools available to them to move a discussion forward in a useful way.
4. Use modelling to identify what good speech looks like. In the same way that you would model what good writing looks like, use modelling to demonstrate effective oracy skills. This can be done by the teacher or through highlighting examples from students.
5. Be patient. Developing effective oracy practice in the classroom takes time. Teachers and students have to get used to new ways of behaving in the classroom, so it can be difficult to do. As a classroom practitioner, it’s important to take things one step at a time, new oracy approaches should be trialled with classes that can be trusted. Over time, confidence can be gained and teachers can begin to embed oracy strategies in all of their lessons.
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