What is Oracy?
Oracy is the ability to articulate ideas, develop understanding and engage with others through spoken language.
The term ‘Oracy’ was first coined by Andrew Wilkinson in the 1960s, in direct response to the growing importance placed on literacy and numeracy. It captures the essential need for talk whilst also emphasising that it is a skill which can be developed through teaching.
At St Silas, we recognise the importance of spoken language and listening skills for our children and we want to equip them with the tools they need to be heard. Good communication is the gateway to learning, friendships and academic achievement which will lead to a successful career. A number of recent Ofsted reports note that a common feature of the most successful schools surveyed was the attention they gave to speaking and listening.
The National Curriculum for English reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. Spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary and grammar and their understanding for reading and writing.
Our Oracy curriculum at St Silas will enable children to:
- speak with confidence, clarity and eloquence;
- recognise the importance of listening in conjunction with speaking,
- be confident in the value of their own opinions and to be able to express and justify them to others;
- adapt their use of language for a range of different purposes and audiences,
- sustain a logical argument, question, reason and respond to others appropriately;
- concentrate, interpret and respond appropriately to a wide range of immersive experiences;
- be open-minded, to respect the contribution of others and to take account of their views;
- celebrate the diversity of languages, dialects and accents in the school and appreciate the experience and value the contributions of children with a wide variety of linguistic abilities;
- share their learning in an engaging, informative way through presentations, recitals, drama, poetry and debate.
How do we teach oracy?
The staff and children of St Silas are currently involved in three evidenced informed initiatives to improve these vital skills.
Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI)
Inclusion is at the heart of our oracy intention and all children are given the support and opportunities they need to thrive in this subject. The Welcomm programme gives children the support they need if they are struggling to find their voice e.g. diagnosed SCLN, lack of confidence.
By embedding oracy in all aspects of the school’s culture and weaving it through the curriculum, children are able to respond to high expectations and explicit teaching and modelling of speaking and listening.
Classrooms buzz with the sounds of purposeful talk, from children learning how to take turns in EYFS to confident speeches in KS2.
The staff and children of St Silas are part of Voice 21 - a three year project which aims to embed oracy into every area of school life.
Oracy skills are crucial to children and young people’s success in school and in their life beyond.
- Oracy increases confidence empowering students with the belief that their voice has value, developing the ability to articulate thoughts so others will listen.
- Oracy improves academic outcomes developing learners who can think critically, reason together and have the vocabulary to express their knowledge and understanding.
- Oracy fosters wellbeing supporting students to build successful relationships, talk through issues, express feelings and resolve conflicts.
- Oracy equips students to thrive in life beyond school helping them to progress, access employment and engage in civic life.
- Oracy narrows gaps enabling disadvantaged students to fulfill their potential.
- Oracy promotes social equity leading to a fairer society where everyone, regardless of background, finds their voice for success in school and in life.
In EYFS, Communication and Language is a key area in the Early Learning goals. EYFS have big books which are added to as the topic progresses. At the start of the topic, children are inspired to begin to predict and discuss items from a talking tub. The children love to present, discuss and reflect upon their learning within the big books and talking tubs.
In EYFS and KS1 children are taught how to read but also develop a love of reading. All children take part in daily phonics (Read Write Inc) and talk through stories (5 books per half term), story time activities and vocabulary.
In KS1 and KS2, knowledge mats are used showing subject specific vocabulary. Word walls display current and past vocabulary which children use to help them articulate their thoughts.
What do we teach?
Oracy skills are taught explicitly so children have the knowledge to be able to use them in a range of contexts such as role play, debating and presenting. Oracy is planned for and is an essential part of every lesson no matter what the subject being taught.
The impact that Oracy has on our children is clear to see. Our children are confident speakers and they embrace opportunities to speak whether it be in the classroom, in worship, or in front of parents. The proof of the Oracy learning that has taken place is heard in the voices of the children that we teach. It will be heard when listening to them recite a poem, watching them turn-take in a group discussion; it will be felt through the profound questions they ask and the attentiveness with which they listen.
Meet the Team
As Oracy is such a big part of what we do at St Silas, there are three key people driving it forward. Mrs Matthews is the Oracy Lead and an Oracy Champion. Mrs Melia and Mr Ellis are Oracy Champions.
Mrs Matthews is one of our Assistant Heads at St Silas. Having taught in three other schools and a secondment with Lancashire Healthy Schools, she brings with her a wealth of experience across two key stages.
Mrs Melia is an experienced EYFS teacher at our school and is passionate about improving and developing the language skills of children from the day pupils arrive at St Silas. She is a fully qualified Elkan Practitioner and has been trained in many other Oracy based initiatives. Mrs Melia is currently leading the Nuffield Early Language Intervention for our youngest children and the Wellcomm initiative throughout the school.
Mr Ellis is another of our Assistant Heads and our maths subject leader. He is an established KS2 teacher, having taught at St Silas for a number of years. This means he knows our families well.
As Oracy Champions, the three of us have access to high quality training from Voice 21, which we share with the rest of the staff. The Voice 21 community gives us the opportunity to join different groups, such as Teaching Speechmaking and Performance Poetry, with like-minded people to share ideas, resources and expertise.
In addition we have:
- Rhyme time - Reception parents invited into class to share rhymes with their child's key person group
- Paul Simpson - Little Big Mouth. helicopter stories, poetry, debating and public speaking
- After school clubs - speaking and listening (EYFS/KS1), debating and public speaking.
- Competitions - debating and public speaking with schools within BWD
- Value Ambassador elections - those who wish to nominate themselves must prepare a speech for their election campaign
- EYFS perform the nativity each year for the whole school to watch and for their parents
- Each class performs their class assembly in church once a year
Support for Parents
- Talking in home language
- Limiting screen time
- Importance of singing rhymes and rhyming activities
- Time to talk and play
These are some extra ideas for home which complement the work done during WellComm:
Making sense of the world through pretend play
Use a large doll/teddy/character toy and some real objects e.g. cup/spoon/brush. Pretend to have a drink and then give the toy a drink. Say e.g. ‘Give Peppa a drink’ and let your child copy what you did. You can also do familiar actions like, washing face, brushing hair, wiping nose, feeding, putting to bed.
Using songs to learn names of body parts
Heads, shoulders, knees & toes
Here we go round the Mulberry Bush: you can add other actions – this is the way we pat our knees/wiggle our fingers/shake our shoulders
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands: you can make up your own actions to this too
Everybody hide your toes (to the tune of ‘London Bridge is falling down’) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaXCf_fPD2k
You and your child each have something to cover your toes e.g. a scarf or towel as you sing:
Everybody hide your toes, hide your toes, hide your toes.
Everybody hide your toes – now lets find them. 1…2….3..woooo (as you uncover them). Repeat with hiding your knees, tummy, chin, head.
Learning what ‘action words’ (verbs) mean
Use a large doll/teddy/character toy. Say to your child ‘Ready steady jump’ and do it together. Let your child make the toy do the same actions – you could try jumping/hopping/kicking/dancing/clapping/waving
Play some music. When the music stops choose an action to do
Understanding instructions without clues
Give your child instructions to go and get things from around the house e.g. its name. If she doesn’t know the name of the item, give a choice e.g. is it a spoon or a bowl? When all the items have been removed from the pillowcase, ask your child to pick up one at a time, name it and put it back in the bag.
Talking about what I have seen and done
When you go out for a walk, point to and name things which may capture your child’s interest e.g. bird, dog, cat, flowers, car, bike, truck, traffic light, items in a shop. You could also take photos then let your child show another member of the family and say what they have seen.
Understanding and using action words
Share books and take it in turns to say what one of the characters is doing in the picture
Use 2 favourite toys. Ask your child to follow an instruction e.g. make teddy jump/ make dolly wave
Using ‘in’ and ‘on’
Use some favourite toys and place them around the house/garden either in or on things. As your child finds the toys, encourage them to say whether the toy is in or on the object.
Learning the names of colours
Go on a colour hunt around the house or garden. You could choose one colour each day and take photos on your phone of the items you have found.
Use some red, yellow, green and blue bricks. Put out 1 of each colour. Build a tower by asking your child for one colour e.g. ‘Find me the red brick’. Make sure there are always 4 colours to choose from and repeat until you have built the highest tower you can4
Learning the meaning of ‘Where’
Play ‘hunt the toy’ with some favourite toys. Place them around the room then ask your child to find one at a time by saying ‘Where’s the……..?’ When your child finds the toy, say the answer for them e.g. ‘Where’s teddy? Teddy’s on the chair’
Using the past tense
Use photos of things your child has been doing and talk about them using the past tense e.g. ‘You played a game, then you washed your hands, then we walked the dog.’ Keep using past tense words throughout the day to describe things you have done together.
If your child uses the wrong word e.g. ‘runned’ simply model the correct word ‘Yes you ran round the garden’