Good communication is a skill that you need to learn

Oracy at St Michael's Catholic School

St Michael’s Catholic School is an all through school based in Buckinghamshire. We have worked with St Michael’s since 2018 as they have developed their whole school approach to oracy.

“Being a good listener shows you care about other people’s opinions.” Year 9 student, St Michael’s

“Being a listener is just as important as being a speaker because it’s so important to be able to consider other people’s opinions and be able to like respond to it as well.” Year 9 student, St Michael’s 

Below, Richard Long, Lead Practitioner in Oracy and English and Garret Fay, Executive Headteacher, share their motivations behind the school’s focus on oracy and the impact that they have seen.  

Where did you start:  

Richard Long: “As an educator I’ve always valued talk and how it happens in learning, and as a lead practitioner in this school I thought it was important that we looked at talk and how it was happening across the school. So I was very keen to look at how talk was happening, not just in lessons, but in the school more generally, in interactions between the students and teachers, in staff meetings and assemblies.”

Garret Fay: “For us implementing oracy was not just about children’s communication skills, it was also about developing their thinking skills. We see that as a really reliable way to get students to think about what they’re learning, and then to be able to discuss what they’re learning with each other.”

What impact have you seen: 

Richard Long: “We’ve noticed students have become more reflective about their learning and how they learn. Those reflection skills, of course, are very important in how they then respond in class to the activities and stimulus that’s been put in front of them. We’ve noticed that students in particular are valuing listening skills more. So, students are listening to each other more carefully, they’re aware of how to listen to each other more effectively. By listening to each other more carefully they’re hearing more of the content of the lesson, which is then supporting them to move their learning forward.”

What does this look like in your classroom: 

Richard Long: “I’ve been using socratic seminar structures in my lessons to develop and hone students’ listening skills, as well as their talk skills. It’s particularly useful, I think, for modelling talk with students. By taking some of your more confident speakers and using them in the central talk area, then setting up the rest of the class to listen and pick out information. It’s important that they recognise how important both roles are. I actually think that the students around the edge of the room often have a more complex role than those speaking. As listeners they’re doing a number of things: they’re listening to that talk, they’re considering their own ideas at the same time, what they think about the text, and then they’re being asked to feedback what they have heard and what they think is significant. It’s great for whole groups to be involved in that structure because you can really develop talk and listening skills in that way.”

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