Teacher talk: a whole school approach to oracy

A year on from the first lockdown and we’re looking back and celebrating the consistent commitment from teachers and school leaders across our network to ensure that their students continue to receive a high-quality oracy education.

Below are three Teacher Masterclass presentations, where three teachers have shared their experiences of establishing a culture of oracy in their schools, with a particular focus on vocabulary, curriculum planning and wellbeing: 

1. Subject specific vocabulary at Mayflower Academy, Plymouth 

“In our school we recognised that we needed to do something for our students so that they could make the most out of their life when they leave us.” Amy Parsons, EYFS Class teacher and Oracy Lead, Plymouth Mayflower Academy

Language development of the least advantaged children can be as much as 19 months behind by the age of five (Communication Trust, 2017). With a wealth of evidence such as this, highlighting the ‘word gap’ between the least and most advantaged students, there is increasing demand for a focus on students’ vocabulary development during their time at school.

At Mayflower Academy they have sought to address this through the development of functional language booklets. Each booklet contains context and subject specific sentence stems and target vocabulary, to support their students language development through talk and across the curriculum. 

Download the Functional Language booklet and the Talking Like a Specialist booklet.

 2. Developing a discrete curriculum for oracy at Beckfoot Trust

“We want oracy to help students become knowledgeable and expert learners, committed community contributors and for all our students to become future-ready young people.” Lucy Lowde, Oracy Lead at Beckfoot Trust

Lucy Lowde shares how at Beckfoot Trust they have developed a discrete curriculum for oracy to create a school of ‘confident communicators’. Reflecting on using Voice 21’s Oracy Framework, discussion roles and introducing their own ‘Oracy Passports’ to set expectations around oracy at school and embed it throughout the curriculum.

According to a report from Oxford University Press and CFEY (2o2o), 94% of teachers found it challenging to support pupils’ language development during the national lockdown. In order to maintain the progress made through a whole-school focus on oracy, Beckfoot supported parents to keep talking at home with home learning resources, prompts for parents and opportunities for discussion. 

You can read more about oracy at Beckfoot Trust here.

5. Oracy and wellbeing at Chorlton High School

“What oracy has given us is the space for students to explore their identity and the words and the structures allow them to talk about that with others.” Susannah Haygarth, Language and Literacy Coordinator, Chorlton High School

Susannah was one of the participants in the Voice 21 Education Endowment Fund Pilot in 2016. In her Masterclass she reflects back on how they began their oracy journey, managed that first pilot study and have gone on to embed oracy across their school.

According to the Communication Trust (2017), “Children with language and communication difficulties are one and a half times more likely to have mental health difficulties”. Chorlton High School have sought to tackle this by putting oracy at the heart of their approach to wellbeing.

They have done this by looking at the content of their lessons, including explicit teaching of listening skills, introducing word banks in order to give students the basic tools needed to express themselves and introducing an oracy assessment framework. Susannah argues that we need to assess oracy in order to give it elevated status in schools, alongside literacy and numeracy.

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We’re planning to host a series of public Teacher Masterclasses in the summer term, so do keep an eye on our events page

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