Why Oracy? Why the focus on talk?
Oracy, communication and questioning are central to our curriculum and the teaching strategies and pedagogy we employ at Spinney Hill. We know that learning - the process of acquiring, retrieving and applying knowledge and skills - happens best in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter) where learning is structured around talk and oracy, and opportunities to explore ideas, put forward viewpoints, reason and hypothesise, and to challenge are key characteristics of teaching and learning in all lessons and across the curriculum.
Achieving our school vision is dependent on ensuring our curriculum drivers drive every aspect of teaching and learning, and at the heart of our drivers is developing children’s ability to talk. It is a simple truth that the child who leaves full-time education with well-developed language skills and can express themselves clearly and articulately will probably do better in all areas of life that one who cannot. For children to be able to communicate and question, to have a secure sense of identity and the aspirations that come with it, and to be a resilient learner, thinking critically and developing opinions, they need to be able to talk; and to do this they need to learn how to talk. Children also need something to talk about. It is all very well having an answer or an opinion, but you need to be able to explain how you arrived at an answer or site the evidence that supports your point of view. For example, if we want children to have an opinion on democracy or migration - recurring themes across our curriculum - they need to both grasp the ‘facts’ and through talk, discussion and debate, explore what lies beneath them. Talk needs context and purpose, and what better context than the curriculum? Not isolated opportunities for ‘speaking and listening’, but learning through talk in every lesson.
At Spinney Hill our intent is for every child to find their voice, literally and metaphorically, in order that they can voice their opinion, challenge the opinions of others, keep themselves safe and, as they grow older, actively take part within all aspects of the democratic process. Oracy is a golden thread which runs through every aspect of our curriculum. Inclusive oracy teaching strategies which have been developed through working in partnership with Voice Leicester and School 21 are embedded across the curriculum. A key characteristic of all lessons is the dialogic or 'ping-pong' style of talk which takes place within them, enabling all children to think critically and develop their ideas, to embed new vocabulary and broaden their vocabularies, and to listen and build on the ideas and opinions of others - and to challenge these.
Talk or oracy needs structure - a framework - just like any other curriculum area. At Spinney Hill we use The Oracy Framework developed by School 21 in conjunction with Cambridge University. The framework synthesises the myriad of skills that constitute oracy into four distinct categories - cognitive, linguistic, physical and social - designed to practically organise and support teaching and learning. This is a tool displayed in all classrooms and referred to by teachers within lessons to guide pupils.
We have broken down the oracy framework into age-specific skills, knowledge and understanding which teachers refer to when planning lessons and teaching. These provide clear continuity and clear progression in the development of skills from the EYFS to Year 6. Where appropriate, these serve as the basis for oracy and talk activities within lessons and are used by teachers in the creation of talk rules which guide and provide a focus for both specific oracy activities as well as general discussion and dialogic talk.
The development of oracy and the teaching and learning strategies which support it are central to our curriculum and key to its implementation, and these are described within part 1 of out teaching and learning strategy - The teaching strategies and pedagogy which support our curriculum: Talk and Oracy.