Parks Primary School, Leicester

Our Oracy Pioneer’s Posts share insights from our Participants on our Oracy Pioneer’s Programmes.

Below, Laura Bisiker, Oracy Lead at Parks Primary School Leicester shares her insights on how they’ve begun introducing oracy across their school. 

What motivated you to introduce oracy into your classroom/school?

Our school has had a keen interest in oracy from the time it was known as Speaking and Listening. We have been working on embedding oracy into the classroom and school life for over ten years now. 

How you have embedded oracy into your teaching practice and across your school? 

Throughout our journey we have focused on different elements with the idea to build up the skills of teachers and pupils, eventually leading to oracy rich classrooms and school. We have encouraged use of varied grouping strategies, discussion guidelines and listening ladders. This immersed children in an oracy environment which they began becoming familiar with. We have done a lot of work on discussion in classes from year 1 to 6 and the children’s abilities in this have flourished. By using sentence stems and talk protocols children understand how to conduct and be effectively involved in a discussion. Over the four years we have worked on this the discussions the children have now need to be seen to be believed. 

Since being part of Voice 21 the most valuable technique we have begun using has been seeing oracy as not just a standalone activity you do before a write or as a quick lesson, but to truly embed and allow children greater understanding to use it as a sequence. We get children to carry out a series of activities: for example, a barrier game, a labelling activity in partners, a discussion over a concept cartoon in trios, leading to potentially a presentation to other pupils in small groups. After exploring learning in this way the children’s writing is always amazing (even in year 1)!

What impact has this had on your students?

We have seen a positive impact in all areas of the curriculum as we expect children to talk about all of their learning. This is picked up on quickly by teachers but also peer discussion helps children understand, children are really supportive of each other and all help each other along their learning journey. They are able to do this effectively because they have seen it modelled by staff. Children question, probe and build upon each other’s ideas. They are also learning to invite quieter children into discussions as they know to value everyone’s ideas and opinions. 

Our discussion assemblies have had a huge impact. We conduct these in year groups involving around 120 children. Children are sat in various groupings and given talking points to discuss. This has had such a positive impact on the children that when I conducted pupil interviews one child said

I love being able to talk about my opinions, I don’t know why we still do the other assemblies, I learn a lot more in Discussion assemblies.”

A concern for all teachers when carrying out oracy based activities is the quieter children and how much they get out of it or are involved. This is something we have considered carefully. We have encouraged these children to be talk detectives in the classroom or silent summarisers in discussions. Hearing other children’s ideas has allowed them to hear what the expectation is, build up their confidence and feedback what their peers have been saying. Using sentence stems has also allowed these children to build confidence as it gives them a starting point. We have seen a great impact on these children and they are now more confident in the classroom, coupled with this we have seen they are more confident in themselves and in the playground with friends.

What has been your experience of working with Voice 21? 

Since being part of Voice 21 our expectations of children have risen and with this the children’s expectations of themselves and their peers have risen. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Voice 21 and found our journey very exciting. As a school we are extremely passionate about oracy and the impact it can have, it has been excellent finding another organisation that has that same passion. There has been great support offered and during focus days there is always time to discuss with the day’s lead or other teachers what is happening in school. I believe being part of Voice 21 has carried the drive for oracy on in schools and given our children an even bigger voice and opened up further opportunities for our children.

What advice would you give to other schools who are prioritising oracy for the first time? 

Create a manageable action plan and include quick wins. Build up expertise of staff in different phases of the school which can then be shared. If possible create an oracy team within school and have a member from each phase in your team, this will help drive oracy forward throughout the school and also give you a clear picture of what is happening in each year group. Be passionate about what you are trying to achieve, ensure everyone understands why you are prioritising this and be brave in trying new things! Training children to become effective speakers and listeners is not immediate and will never be a finished objective, ensure staff have consistent high expectations and the children will respond to this and begin to have these expectations of themselves and their peers.

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