Oracy Leader: Charlotte Gleeson

Charlotte is a History teacher at Manchester Enterprise Academy & and a participant on our Oracy Leaders Programme 2018-19. Below she shares how she’s begun embedding oracy into her classroom.

Why is oracy a focus at MEA?

I first heard about Voice 21 through school training last year delivered by our Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning. Alex Quigley’s work on the vocabulary gap between students from poor socio-economic background and their wealthier peers had first piqued my interest in oracy. This was especially so as the school that I work in serves one of the most economically deprived communities in the country. I was really excited about what School 21 was doing in a similar context to us.

I applied to do the Oracy Leaders Programme as I wanted to take the work I had been doing with Debate Mate (a charity who run extra curriculum clubs teaching and nurturing debate skills) further and have a broader influence in school. I saw what Voice 21 had been achieving with students from a similar context to ours and I desperately wanted the same confidence and eloquence for my own students. The chance to be part of a national movement focusing and promoting oracy was incredibly exciting. I wanted the opportunity to share good practice with my peers, be trained by experts and be a voice for change in the educational community.

“The challenges we face as a school are closely linked to the challenges that

many of our children face in austerity Britain”

Manchester Enterprise Academy (MEA) is one of two schools in the Altius Trust in Manchester, MEA is rated “good” by OFSTED and has won several awards for the work that it does including the MEN “Secondary School of the Year Award” in 2015.

The challenges we face as a school are closely linked to the challenges that many of our children face in austerity Britain. Wythenshawe, the community, we serve is in the top 1% of social deprivation across the country and our Pupil Premium figures average around 70%.

For 2018-19, an academy priority is to narrow students’ ‘vocabulary gap’ and develop students’ responses in lessons; this at, times can prove challenging as some of our learners demonstrate low confidence and do not fully engage with discussion and debate in class. Academy Teaching and Learning information evidences that students’ often don’t give full answers to questions and can be indistinct in their responses with teachers.

How have you introduce oracy at MEA?

In our school we have begun to implement change by looking at teaching vocabulary explicitly and at how we can improve students’ responses to questioning in class. In my classroom I have tried multiple strategies including “probing/ stretch it” questioning, getting students to repeat their answers in full sentences and teaching key words through Alex Quigley’s SEEC model where the teacher:

  1. Selects key vocabulary carefully

  2. Explains this in class- involving students by getting them to chant the word and its definition back to the teacher

  3. Explores the word through questioning

  4. Consolidates the key word later.

In addition to this I have also started experimenting with having discussion in class supported by the Voice 21 “speaking role cards”. These encourage students to be “builders”, “instigators”, “challengers” etc. in conversation. They guide students through discussion by giving them sentence starters. Additionally, by agreeing ‘guidelines for talk’ with students before discussion e.g.: what good conversation looks like, we prevent off task or unproductive discussion.

What have been your key learning points this year? What would you change or continue into the next half term?

Firstly, a key learning point has been not to overload students with too many strategies and ideas at once but to focus on two or three ideas which can be implemented easily. I have been mainly focusing on trialing in my own classroom this term but as I do more whole school staff training I will also be mindful about not overloading staff. We will focus on just one strategy per half term, perfecting one before moving on to another.

What has been the impact on you and your students so far? Have you faced any obstacles?

Students’ responses have been better after using the oracy strategies and this has been commented on in several learning walks. However, there have been times when students have been overwhelmed by the new expectations surrounding talk.

As more teachers start to employ the Voice 21 strategies across the school and these become the norm I am hopeful that this will change. The biggest job for us as a school is creating a culture of oracy so that students who are worried about discussion, or who might shy away from it, start to see it as an everyday part of school life.

What are your next steps?

We have a busy schedule for the rest of the year which include some of the following ideas:

  • Student Oracy Leaders- a group of students who will meet with me and the Vice Principal to discuss what good oracy teaching and learning has been happening in lessons, speak at events and welcome and tour visitors.

  • Oracy teaching and learning group with other Oracy Leaders in local schools.

  • Whole school training surrounding oracy focusing on guidelines for talk, strategies for promoting talk, strategies for promoting active listening.

  • NQT training half termly on oracy and oracy strategies.

  • PIXL “Up for Debate” extra curriculum club

  • Harkness revision groups with Y10 students.

  • Trialing student led parents evening with Y10 students.

  • Staff involvement with the Voice 21 Oracy Pioneers Programme which develops expertise in oracy teaching and learning.

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For updates on our Oracy Leaders follow #OracyLeaders on Twitter.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our programmes and how to become an Oracy Leader, click here.

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Recent impact

Research

Chartered College’s summary of the importance of oracy

An article in the Chartered College of Teaching’s journal ‘Impact’ demonstrates how oracy is linked to cognitive, personal and social gains for young people, as well as greater civic engagement and empowerment. Read the evidence here.

Research

EEF on oral language interventions

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) shows that oral language interventions have a ‘positive impact’ on learning at a very low cost. Find out more about the evidence here.

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