What is Oracy

Oracy/communication is to speaking what numeracy is to mathematics or literacy to reading and writing. In short, it’s nothing more than being able to express yourself well. 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.

The benefits of oracy skills go far beyond academic achievement and employability, they boost a whole range of social, emotional and interpersonal skills, including self-confidence, self-awareness, resilience and empathy. Having the skills and confidence to speak up and believe in yourself has also been shown to enhance our sense of happiness and well-being, preventing the isolation that comes from feeling side-lined.

Source: English Speaking Website

The Importance of Oracy

5 Reasons to Teach Oracy/Communiction Skills in Your Classroom

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Posted By Amanda Moorghen, 07 March 2018 - Updated: 08 April 2019

Source: NACE Website

Just like literacy and numeracy, at one level oracy is a basic skill that no one can go without – whether on the stage, in the boardroom or in everyday conversation, all of us need to express ourselves and listen to others. But, as with literacy and numeracy, oracy is also so much more than this basic skill: it’s the key to incredible intellectual and emotional experiences. No one should be locked out of opportunities in life for fear of speaking in public, or inability to rise to the challenge of an interview or presentation.

1. Oracy Supports Learning

Many great lessons include talk. In particular, challenging open-ended tasks often have a discussion element – exploring new ideas, questioning, analysing and synthesising. Explicit oracy instruction ensures all pupils have the tools they need to access talk-based learning, stopping these lessons from being dominated by a few more confident characters. Talk can also precede writing – stronger oracy skills can help develop the creativity and critical thinking pupils need for their written work.

2. Oracy is Vital for Social Mobility

Some children receive a lot more oracy practice and instruction than others. This impacts their learning at school, but also their ability to fulfil their potential later in life. For some, interviews, presentations or seminars present barriers to success. Explicit oracy instruction for all pupils narrows that gap, giving everyone the change to flourish. In later life, whether in higher education (lectures, seminars) or the workplace (interviews, meetings, presentations), oracy skills help people to make the best of the opportunities they have.

3. Oracy is Good for Social and Emotional Learning

Teaching oracy skills helps children who may be struggling to work or play well with others. For example, teaching rules and conventions around turn-taking in small-group discussions helps involve pupils who find free-flowing, “chaotic” discussions off-putting. Developing oracy skills can also boost children’s confidence and self-esteem. Some teachers worry that shy children will be left out of oracy activities, but at the ESU we find it is precisely explicit oracy instruction that helps them to overcome their nerves: clear expectations and guidelines help everyone to find their voice.

4. Oracy Opens Doors to Opportunity

Extracurricular activities such as debating, youth parliament and volunteering bring a wide variety of benefits. Oracy education helps students to access these opportunities: for some, a debate in class might help them to find a passion for politics, whilst for others, formal oracy instruction gives them the confidence they need to volunteer in the community.

5. Oracy is Empowering

Oracy instruction helps young people to develop the skills they need to speak out about what matters to them. At the ESU, we’ve worked with young people who are a voice for change, whether on the world stage, in their school or in their local community. The demands of democratic life require us all to speak up – teaching oracy means everyone is equipped to do so, not just those who began life with the loudest voice.

What Is Oracy

Run Time: 2:35 - Sep 6, 2019

Oracy: Group Discussion

Run Time: 1:55 - Sep 6, 2019

Oracy - Talking Points

Run Time: 1:45 - Sep 6, 2019

Strategies for Effective Talk

Run Time: 6:03 - Sep 20, 2016

The Oracy Skills Framework

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Source: Oracy Voice 21

The Oracy Skills Framework

The Oracy Skills Framework (OSF) specifies the various skills young people need to develop to deal with a range of different talk situations. The framework has been developed by drawing on available existing resources and research, and in consultation with a range of experts. The OSF is designed to help school leaders, teachers and pupils understand the physical, linguistic, cognitive and social/emotional skills that enable successful discussion, inspiring speech and effective communication. The OSF can be used to help teachers and pupils set specific oracy targets for pupils, and to provide them with formative feedback on their use of speaking and listening. The OSF not designed to be used as an assessment framework, and we recommend that schools do not use it for this purpose.

Source: Oracy Cambridge University

What Can We Do to Improve Oracy/Communicarion?

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There are a number of steps schools can take to improve Oracy:

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. Above all else, do not be afraid to make oracy a focus or objective for a lesson – it is part of the curriculum and needs to be taught.

Prioritise Oracy in Your Environment

  • Think about whether Oracy is celebrated in your environment. Are children’s verbal comments collected and displayed? How often do you read aloud to your class and tell stories? How many chances do children get to perform poetry and plays? Do you display unusual objects and encourage children to talk about them? Could you have a ‘box of wonder’ in your class to provoke discussion? Could you develop a ‘talking corner’ or invite guests in to talk with, rather than just to, your class? One of our wonderful Reading Award schools, St Matthew’s Catholic Primary School in Bradford, have worked hard over the last few years to develop Oracy. A key facet of their approach is the introduction of ‘talking corners’ into their EYFS classrooms. The idea is simple – each week a guest comes into the classroom and starts doing something they enjoy in the talking corner. Previous guests have brought sewing to complete, or their dancing attire. The objective is for children to be intrigued and spend time talking with the guest, building their oracy skills and confidence.

Teach Oracy Explicitly

  • Plan in an oracy focus each week for your class which can be interwoven into your teaching of other subjects. Make time to explicitly teach and model using that focus, giving children chance to try it out for themselves. An excellent place to start with this is by teaching a speaking frame or language structure each week. The wonderful Progression in Language Structures by the Tower Hamlets EMA team provides a clear progression of language structures divided by focus and year group.

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? For example, if a child says, ‘The sponge soaked up the water’ could you respond ‘Yes, the sponge absorbed it.’ 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?). Could you make time for children to report the day’s news, or show and tell? How can you prioritise conversations with and between pupils and visitors? Could you use roleplay? Or have a ‘conversation station’ with prompts to promote conversations between children?

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.’

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.

Source: One Education Website

Translating Student Voice into Student Action - Webinar

Click/Tap image to view webinarSource: ASCD Website
In this webinar Lauren Fullmer and Laura Bond discuss their book, "Students Taking Action Together". The premiss of the book is if students are to take action they have to rehearse democratic behaviors in the classroom and have good oracy skills.

Students Taking Action Together- Book

By: Lauren M. Fullmer, Laura F. Bond, Crystal N. Molyneaux, Samuel J. Nayman, Maurice J. Elias

Students Taking Action Together is about developing communication skills. It is based on a program of the same name developed at Rutgers University, clarifies that the way to prepare young people for life in a democracy is by intentionally rehearsing democratic behaviors in the classroom.

This field-tested program ("STAT" for short) is built on five research-backed teaching strategies that work with existing social studies, English language arts, and history curriculum in the upper-elementary, middle, and high school levels.

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Amazon.com: ISBN-13:‎978-1416630975 / ASCD (June 28, 2022) 235 pages

Incorporating these strategies into your lessons is a way to meet students' natural desire to be heard with skill-building that empowers them to

  • Adhere to norms of civil conversation, even when topics are controversial and emotions are high;

  • Speak confidently and listen actively;

  • Engage in respectful debate aimed at understanding issues rather than winning points;

  • Target communication to different audiences, needs, and contexts; and

  • Examine problems from many sides, considering potential solutions, drawing up action plans, and evaluating these plans' effectiveness against historical examples.

In addition to vignettes that show the five STAT strategies in action, you'll find practical teaching tips and sample STAT lesson plans. For school leaders, there is a road map for school-wide STAT implementation and guidance on communicating the program's value to stakeholders.

Are you ready to help students understand complex content, confront pressing social issues, and engage with the structures of power to advocate for change? This book is for you.

How to Integrate Oracy Strategies into Lessons

Run Time: 45:58 - Mar 25, 2021
This video presentation offers a practical step-by-step strategy to help teachers implement oracy skill-building into their English classes as part of regular speaking practice.

Strategies for Developing Confident Speakers

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Source: University of Cambridge Thinking Together Website

A Dialogue-Based Approach to the Development of Children's Thinking and Learning

Here are some resources for teachers to use to develop their own and their students' awareness of how talk is used in classrooms.

Hopes For Our Students as Talkers and Listeners

This podcast answers one juicy question: What are some of your greatest hopes for your students as talkers and listeners? And what kind of practical routines will you set up at the beginning of the year to help build that community?

It touches on: How do teachers co-construct communities through talk; How do social conversation and academic conversation build on each other; and How do we make spaces for talk so we all feel a sense of belong.

Source: Stenhouse

Teaching Students How to Have Meaningful Conversations

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Check out this PDF where you can find a set of guideposts to help you encourage and monitor students’ progress in each area, as well as a tool for students to self-monitor their own progress.

Primary School Oracy Activities & Resources

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The Noisy Classroom hosts a variety of oracy resources and activities that teachers can use to promote oracy.

5 Tips to Integrate Oracy at Your School

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Learn about:
  • What the Research Says About Oracy
  • How Oracy Develops Student Voice
  • Oracy Framework

Oracy Benchmarks

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Source: Oracy Voice 21
The Benchmarks show what teachers and school leaders must do: teaching oracy explicitly and nurturing it continually, weaving it into their curriculum and all aspects of school life to ensure its efficacy and status. These skills are crucial to children and young people’s success in school and in their life beyond. It is therefore vital that all schools believe that an education in oracy is the responsibility of every teacher and the entitlement of every child.

Oracy Resources

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Source: Talk the Talk Website
This booklet contains oracy resources for the classroom aimed at developing Visual, Vocal and Verbal modes of communication. It also includes activities to develop Group Discussion and Listening Skills. All of these resources take less than ten minutes – so are ideal to use at the start or end of a lesson – and will support the development of the oracy skills of your students and your whole-school oracy culture.

Progression in Oracy 1-5 Yr Olds

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Source: One Education Website

Progression in Oracy Grades 1-6

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Source: One Education Website

Oracy Articles

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Speaking Up: The Importance of Oracy in Teaching and Learning | Imapact: Journal of the Chartered Collage of Teaching | 2019 | How can teachers support oracy in their classrooms?; What is ‘oracy’?; What are the benefits of developing teachers’ and students’ oracy?; How do teachers use oracy?; What are the barriers to better oracy?; How can teachers and schools overcome these barriers?

6 Tips For Improving Oracy | @TeacherToolkit | Includes various strategies for teaching oracy.

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