Who is talking and how coherent is that talk?

Oracy at Torriano Primary School


Torriano Primary School, based in Camden, London, has worked with Voice 21 for the past three years as part of an area wide project, as a Partner School and participated in several of our individual programmes.

“I think it helps a lot in your life because it tells you that you can always build up confidence to speak in public. Also, just in general, speaking is your life, you have to do it every day and if we didn’t have oracy this world wouldn’t be the world. Speaking to people has to work or otherwise nothing really happens – or changes.” Torriano Primary School student

Below, Helen Bruckdorfer, Headteacher, shares some background on why they began working with Voice 21 and some of the impact that they have seen. 

Where did you start? 

“Our school is a primary school but we have a language resource base for children with developmental language delay and so we have a lot of specialised practice around supporting those children. What we realised was that some of that practice was universal across the school, all children could benefit from some of the very focussed oracy activities that were happening. Language development is really key and fundamental for all children and one of the best ways to develop that is through children talking and developing their oracy skills.

We decided to do a disciplined inquiry into the teaching of vocabulary. In order to do that there were a group of teachers, led by a senior leader, who started to connect with organisations such as Voice 21, looking at current research and working together as a team across the school to look where were the children who needed support with vocabulary, what needed to be done, and how could we make this a whole school focus.

That was a good starting point on really getting interested in talk and oracy in school with this focus on vocabulary. And then my Oracy Lead came back from working with Voice 21 and realised there was so much more that we could do. We talk about the children having a right to be heard, but who is talking? We can focus on vocabulary, but let’s think about talking in class. Who is talking and how coherent is that talk?”

What impact have you seen?

“In terms of impact on children, it has been amazing. In terms of their social and emotional skills, you can see the impact, their ability to articulate their feelings, their responses to things and their capacity to resolve problems is really strengthening. But also in terms of their vocabulary choice, their register, the appropriateness of the language that they are using, their ability to interrogate things and explain them. They aren’t just parroting, it is their ability to be responsive to a situation, to explain their learning, that is really strong.”

What does this look like in your classroom?

“Quite often before I let the students go off and have a discussion, we’ll have a talk about talk ‘What makes a good discussion?’ and then we’ll talk about all the tools that are available to us. We’ve got discussion guidelines up in the class and we’ve got a listening ladder so students can think, ‘Am I really doing the right thing with my listening?’ And all the tools like talk detectives and roles and chairperson, I get them to reflect on these and ask ‘which do you think is the most useful and why?” Alice Kennedy, Oracy Lead

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