Oracy – The Key Ingredient?

Richard Hull, Director, Talk The Talk


When I went to secondary school in the 1990s, the internet was still in its infancy. Mobile phones were the size of a brick and used solely as phones. If I wanted to speak to someone, it was either face to face or on the landline after 6.30p.m as my parents insisted it was cheaper!
Compare that to the world our secondary students have been born into. It’s come a long way hasn’t it?
Although technology has put tremendous pace into our lives, an instantaneous pressure has also emerged. I have often wondered about the explosion of coffee shops around the world and think maybe it’s because we’re all so tired due to the rapid pace of life.
I’m not knocking technology – I think it’s truly amazing, but I genuinely believe that it has stopped us from actually talking to one another. I’m sure everyone would agree that it’s so much easier to just send a text message or email.
I also believe that technology has had a worrying impact on students across the world. There is now far less talking going on in the classroom. On average a child now speaks no more than 4 words a lesson – and since talking is essential to the way we think and learn, this will not only have an impact on educational progress, but also on results, future destinations and social mobility.
When we think we have a conversation inside our heads. Thinking and talking are inexorably linked, so if we want more thinking going on in the classroom, surely we also need more talking? And not just talking for the sake of talking, rather more purposeful, subject-specific talk – that should be a key ingredient.
So why isn’t oracy a key ingredient?
Maybe it’s lack of time? With teachers under so much pressure to deliver curriculum content, it’s easy to see how oracy is overlooked.
Or perhaps it’s due to fear? The more shy, underconfident students feel uncomfortable and end up missing out.
Certainly the current high stakes accountability in schools has left teachers under pressure to provide more hard evidence in books.
Perhaps talking is seen as more of a disruption in the classroom, rather than an essential part of thinking and learning?
Oracy is a long-term strategy that requires time to embed and become an integral part of a school’s culture – and since the results are not immediately visible, it has inevitably fallen to the bottom of the pile on the list of importance.
Why should it be?
Learning to speak with confidence is at the heart of effective communication.
The function of talk in classrooms is cognitive and cultural, as well as social. It improves attitudes towards learning, enhances self-esteem, increases self-confidence and leads to a deeper understanding.
Oracy in the classroom also supports teachers in helping them to identify if learning has taken place, and if there are any gaps in student knowledge that might require additional support.
Children with good communication skills are four times more likely to get five A*-C grades at GCSE level (Better Communication Research Programme). And students that can express themselves more clearly will then find it far easier to manage university interviews, work meetings or challenging debates.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has identified oral language interventions as one of the most promising literacy approaches to emerge from research.
Oracy in the classroom – means thinking in the classroom leading to cognitive gains, aiding the retention of subject specific knowledge and developing transferable reasoning skills.
What can we do about it?
Give us a call.
We can come and talk oracy strategy and culture with you. We can even do an assembly with your students if you’d like us to.

Categories: News