The recently published Speak for Change report highlights the importance of oracy in our post-lockdown classrooms, but how do we ensure all learners develop these vital skills?

Differentiate between reluctant talkers and those with SLCN and SEND

Whilst every classroom includes children with recognised SEND and SLCN, there are others for whom participating in talk itself creates anxiety. Perhaps this is because they are naturally introverted, lack self-esteem or they have had a negative experience of speaking in class in the past. So how can we create the conditions that encourage these children to opt into rather than out of talk?

Discover what your quieter students are passionate about

Susan Cain’s TED talk: The Power of Introverts is a great starting point for anyone hoping to understand more about the demands a talk-filled environment places upon those who are more introverted. Cain speaks about the importance of finding what compels quieter people to speak out – something that ignites a passion, making them want to stand up and be heard. We can apply this thinking to oracy tasks in the classroom. 

For example, if working on a guided reading text, pay particular interest to the characters and themes that engage your quieter learners the most and plan tasks that encourage them to speak about these. 

If planning for presentational talk, finding a topic that inspires your quiet students can be key to unlocking their voices – whether it’s video games or global warming. A carefully-planned speech programme provides the perfect platform for this. 

Develop the Physical strand

Creating opportunities for all learners to develop the skills within the Physical strand of The Oracy Framework benefits quieter children too. Speech and language therapists suggest that unless children are taught these skills explicitly, they may struggle to access other aspects of oracy. Introduce games that build vocal confidence, including playing around with volume and tone in fun ways and experimenting with environment by taking oracy outdoors or to a neutral space free from the perceived pressure of the classroom. 

Trialling different groupings also helps build confidence. Nesting creates an opportunity for rehearsal before talk. Children sound out an idea by saying it aloud to themselves before saying it in front of others. 

Create an equitable classroom

There are other ways to make talk more equitable in the classroom, ensuring that all learners have their voices heard. Talk tokens, no hands up and think-pair-share are all effective ways of promoting the idea that every voice matters. 

Remember that listening is just as important as speaking in an oracy-rich classroom and often our quiet children are great listeners. Create and display your own listening ladder* to signal the importance of these skills to students. Use it as a tool for praise and celebrate the strengths of children who might find other aspects of oracy challenging.  

*This should be adapted to the needs of your learners, including those with SEND.

Get in touch to find out more about any of the approaches mentioned or to let us know how you’re using oracy to support your quiet students by tweeting us @voice21oracy or dropping us an email hello@voice21.org

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