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What is Oracy?

In this article, we explore ways of developing a strong culture of language use in the classroom. The importance of oracy in language development cannot be emphasised enough. Discussion is central to all aspects of the curriculum including areas such as grammar development. If the conditions are set up correctly with the right sort of tools, children can have purposeful discussions about the possibilities, effects and meaning of the curriculum.

Oracy can be described as learning to talk and learning through talk. This article focuses on the latter, we are particularly interested in how using active discussions can form the foundation for pupils understanding of curriculum content.

Enabling children to understand the different types of discussion roles available to them broadens their repertoire of classroom talk. As well as being a tool of communication, effective oracy skills enable pupils to participate in deep learning activities where they can exchange ideas, explore new areas and challenge assumptions.

This area of pedagogy has particular significance for disadvantaged or low-attaining pupils. Within this article and the rest of the website you will find examples of how classroom talk can be used for knowledge acquisition and the development spoken language skills. Oracy is the art of speaking eloquently and persuasively. When someone speaks in a persuasive manner, they try to convince others of their point of view. While this type of communication is common in everyday life, it’s also a fundamental part of the curriculum.

Speaking is one of the most basic skills that humans possess. We learn to talk early in life, and our ability to communicate continues to develop throughout adulthood. Regardless of whether someone speaks fluently or struggles to express themselves, learning to speak is the foundational building block of literacy. Learning to read and write is much easier when you understand the basics of spoken communication.

For example, knowing how to pronounce certain letters and sounds allows children to recognize letter patterns and build vocabulary. When kids grow into adults, they continue to rely on their knowledge of pronunciation to decode written text. It’s no surprise then that mastering the art of speech is a critical part of developing literacy. People who lack proficiency in speaking tend to fall behind academically, especially when it comes to reading comprehension. Organisations such as Voice 21 I’ve been promoting effective oracy skills across schools in the UK, it is clear that providing children with the tool of communication sets them up for a lifetime of success.

Oracy is to communicate what literacy is to reading and writing; and numeracy to mathematics. The term ‘oracy’ was first used by Andrew Wilkinson in the 1960s. Andrew believed that oracy – one’s ability to express themself with fluency in speech – must get equal status to math performance and literacy in school curriculums.

In its simplest form, oracy is to be able to express oneself well. It relates to having a broad range of vocabulary to say what one needs to say and the proficiency to structure thoughts so that the person makes sense to others.

More recently, oracy has become even more important. This is because, education in schools is predominantly provided in English (in the UK), but many children lack spoken communication skills because they speak another language at home. Once schools begun reopening after the initial pandemic lockdown, many educators reported a dip in oracy skills particularly in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

How do you measure Oracy Skills?

Many studies have discussed the potential role of teachers and schools in building Oracy skills in students. In recent times, online learning has made serious negative impacts on students such as social isolation, and poor communication skills. After opening, the majority of schools can reduce the negative impact of online education through different competitions, programmes and resources based upon 4 key oracy skillsets: evidence and reasoning; response and listening; delivery and expression; and prioritisation and organisation. Schools must teach and develop students’ proficiency in these skillsets just like literacy and numeracy.

Please view the PDF below for further information

Oracy in the classroom a teachers guide