Helping children find their voice

We aim to teach our children how to listen to others, how to speak in an effective way, and how to use these skills to collaborate with others on tasks that have a shared outcome. Some of the many benefits for explicitly teaching oracy and collaboration are reported to include improvements in curriculum attainment in areas such as English, Maths and Science, improved literacy skills, verbal and nonverbal reasoning skills, empathy and socio-emotional development (such as self-esteem and an ability to deal with difficult emotions). We believe that fostering these skills and habits of mind are key to nurturing intercultural, lifelong learners.

Within our curriculum, there are specific and embedded opportunities for learners to develop confidence in the following four aspects of oracy and dialogue as laid out by researchers at the University of Cambridge (Mercer et al., 2014):

  • Physical: speaking confidently, using body language and facial expression; projecting one’s voice.
  • Linguistic: using effective vocabulary, grammar, organizing and structuring talk
  • Cognitive: building on others’ ideas; asking questions, adapting content to different audiences
  • Social-emotional: listening actively, taking turns, liveliness and flair

At our school, oracy and dialogue skills build subject-specific knowledge, such as in maths or science, as the foundation of English learning, are planned for in topic learning opportunities e.g. debating or speech writing (see year group topic overviews), regular Philosophy for Children sessions, weekly LAMDA sessions in Year 2 upwards and various enrichment workshops throughout the year, such as Shakespeare Week, performances and visiting drama specialists. In the context of a profoundly interconnected world facing various challenges, such complex communication skills are widely recognised as invaluable characteristics of productive and intercultural citizens (Autor, Levy & Murnan, 2003; Tony Blair Faith Foundation, 2016).