Speaking and listening

Speaking and listening, discussion and debate: Oracy

Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.

Speaking and listening are crucial for practising and embedding new vocabulary and concepts, and as such form the bedrock on which literacy is built. They also form the basis of social interaction, and are skills to be taught, as listening and turn-taking do not come naturally to children. Harassed teachers, too, do not always give children enough time to develop confidence in speaking.

Discussion and debate sharpen thinking skills and promote understanding. By teaching history as a process of enquiry, a process that demands the questioning and debating of evidence, we advance oracy, historical literacy and thinking skills.

We give children opportunities to develop their oracy through:

  • Problem-solving and defending conclusions reached
  • Group discussion to test meaning and refine ideas
  • Simulation and role play
  • Asking children to pose questions, to predict, to raise doubts
  • Explaining their thinking processes and ideas
  • Evaluating their own learning.

Set rules for class discussion and debate together with the children. A key principle is that whoever is speaking has the right to be listened to. A speaker's ring or stone helps to establish such right.

Points to consider when planning a debate:

1. The key question or issue (e.g. How should Drake treat mutineers?)
2. The evidence the children will use to support their arguments
3. Setting the scene for the debate (e.g. via story or brainstorming)
4. Promoting orderly thinking and good arguments
5. Follow-up work, e.g. writing, presentations.

Most lessons on this website help with speaking and listening!

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