Oracy: The Literacy of the Spoken Word
In terms of oracy, what the research says is as follows:
Oracy is just as vital as reading and writing in today’s world. That is the allegation made by School 21. What leads us to believe this? The research foundation is solid. (I strongly advise you to look into the work of Neil Mercer and Robin J. Alexander.) It is possible to begin by reading the following papers: Mercer & Littleton (2007) and Wolfe & Alexander (2008) [PDF]). According to the hypothesis, deliberate discussion that is focused on the investigation of complicated ideas helps students think more deeply. Deep thinking helps to build the circumstances for retaining and then mobilising critical knowledge and information. Students’ cognitive abilities are expanded as a result of informed debate, argument, and persuasion.
However, we believe there is more to it than that. Teaching oracy is critical for improving reading and, in particular, writing skills. In terms of development, humans first learn spoken language, which is a precondition for learning to read and write. Furthermore, the cycle of talking before writing is well-established as sound instructional practise in many institutions. It would be difficult to envision teaching writing without engaging in some type of discussion, even if that discussion is limited to teacher-to-pupil interaction. Pie Corbett and colleagues were among the first to develop talk for writing procedures (PDF), which have been proved to significantly improve outcomes.
Oracy Develops Student Voice
Some of the other reasons are less thoroughly researched, but they are nonetheless consistent with our vision and beliefs and worth mentioning. Each and every kid has something to contribute. It is the responsibility of a school to assist children in discovering their own voice, confidence, and composure. Once kids understand who they are and what they are capable of becoming, they will use their voices to make a difference in their communities. Voices are not neutral; they have the ability to mould opinions, resolve disagreements, and overcome obstacles if they are used effectively.
In order to define our oracy curriculum, School 21 employs a structure consisting of four strands. The subject of discussion is:
It is all about logic and argumentation in cognitive science.
Language-wise, it’s a treasure trove of linguistic stretching.
Physical: It is dependent on the position and posture of the body.
Emotional: It is supported by influencing both the mind and the heart.
If you wish to incorporate oracy into your school’s curriculum, here are some ideas on how to get started.
5 Tips to Integrate Oracy at Your School
1. Make Assemblies Interactive and Talk-Rich
All of our assemblies are held in the round — in a circle including the entire year group — and practically all of them include structured talks as part of the agenda. If your year group (grade level) is particularly large, you may wish to divide the circles into smaller sections. A powerful circle of the entire year group and small coaching circles of 15-20 students would be ideal, and you would have enough space for both.
In our inclusive culture, circles serve as a visual representation of the concept of inclusion. Furthermore, they provide as a place for students to talk and reflect on difficult problems in a safe environment. When faced with a challenging scenario, how do you respond rather than simply react to it? “How do you decide which profession to pursue?” Student assembly time can be used for expanding their conversation and developing a school community by utilising drama tactics such as forum theatre (in which one instructor portrays the fictional School 21 misfit Colin Chaos and asks the school for suggestions).
You can also use the following tactics to make your meetings more interactive:
Pass-and-Go: Hold an inclusive discussion about a major topic to ensure that all students have an opportunity to participate. Students “pass” to the person sitting next to them once they have finished speaking.
Points to Consider: Show your kids controversial phrases such as, “A silent classroom inhibits thinking” or “School culture is more essential than curriculum material” to get their opinions. Students should work in pairs to examine both sides of an argument until they can reach a consensus on one.
Partners in Critique: Hold assemblies with students of varying ages, and invite older students to coach younger pupils through major school challenges, such as exams or exhibitions. To aid in the process, a common language for coaching and mentoring should be established.
Circles of Mini-Philosophy for Children (Mini-Philosophy for Children): Provide students with a rich textual stimulus, such as excerpts from R.J. Palacio’s great novel Wonder, and then break it down using important literacy skills to help them comprehend it. Then select what questions the passage raises and have a group discussion about them.
2. Use the Harkness Protocol for Both Students and Staff
Check out these five suggestions for rethinking the standard assembly process for additional information.
Utilize both students and faculty members in the Harkness Protocol.
The Harkness protocol is a useful tool for structuring conversations with students or faculty members. Specifically, pre-reading about a particularly tough idea or challenge (for example, how can we create an innovative school culture?) is required. Is there a reason why the Cold War never became a hot war? Participants arrive with prepared arguments, and after a brief warm-up period, the debate begins. The facilitator takes a step back from the debate and keeps track of what is being said — both in terms of its distribution and its relationship to the broader question. Immediately following the debate, participants summarise their findings using key language, and the facilitator provides meta-reflections on the quality of the discussion, stressing whether any participants dominated the discussion or who made explicit reference to the text. An oval table is the greatest setting for this process!
You should begin by dealing with subjects that would benefit from this type of exploratory discussion if you wish to implement the Harkness protocol at your school. The humanities, for example, cover a wide range of hotly debated issues. Discussing strategic challenges at the school level in this manner would help to guarantee buy-in from the entire staff. At Stevenson School, you may observe the Harkness teaching style in action in the subjects of mathematics, history, and English.
3. Make use of portfolio presentations that serve as examples of learning stories.
he conventional parents’ evening has been replaced by a presentation of magnificent work by students to their parents and coach, rather of the usual parents’ evenings. This is work that has been drafted and redrafted numerous times until it meets the high requirements of School 21. The students must also articulate their learning story in relation to our school attributes (professionalism, expertise, craft, eloquence, grit, humanism, and integrity), as well as comment on their areas of development. A panel of three people, consisting of a teacher, a guidance counsellor, and a parent, determines whether or not they have met the requirements. Two portfolios of their work are shown to the class twice a year, and at the conclusion of each presentation, they are given a percentage that will be used to calculate their final display mark by the time they reach Year 12. This technique is excellent for encouraging introspective discussion and for involving parents in the learning process.
The following is a step-by-step guide on how to begin using this approach: 1.
Obtain agreement from your children’s parents. Explain to them that portfolio presentations are a more accurate means of evaluating their child’s development.
Students should receive oracy training in order to improve their ability to think on their feet. For information on teaching oracy in primary schools, see “Oracy in the Classroom: Strategies for Effective Talk” and “Public Speaking: Oracy Skills for the Real World” for information on teaching oracy in secondary schools.
Inviting school governors — volunteers from the community, parents, and school employees — to serve on the panels is a good idea. When it comes to ensuring that the school’s strategic plan is being implemented, school governors collaborate with the head teacher (the administration). By including school governors (or members of the local community) on the judging panel, the level of competition among the children presenting is raised.
4. Have Oracy “Ignites” Each Year
Every year, we hold Ignites, which serve to dramatise key points of discussion. The purpose of these individual public speaking events is to provide youngsters with a stage on which they can discover their own voice and the courage to command an audience. Students in grades 11/12 (11 and 12 years old) give a five-minute presentation with no notes on a topic of their choosing. At 12/13, they conduct extensive research on an academic topic and collaborate on an expertise Ignite. Students participate in a political Ignite at the 13/14 grade level, in which they formally discuss significant contemporary issues using Oxford-style debating rules (e.g. “This house believes Britain should leave the E.U.”). Students exhibit their work from their Real-World Placement at the 14/15th grade level (12 weeks working with a business or charity). Students are required to perform in front of a big crowd at each Ignite event. By the age of 15, they’re attempting to ignite an audience that includes more than 50 employers!
You might start by contacting the following people if you wish to bring sparks to your school:
For further information and resources, please see the Ignite website.
Start with a group that will last a year and for which you have the necessary curriculum time to commit to it.
Before moving on to more cognitive areas, begin by connecting the presentations to the students’ personal interests.
External audiences should be invited in order to elevate the status of the activities.
5. Dedicate Curriculum Time to Oracy
A couple of hours per week on public speaking can be challenging in overcrowded curriculums, but with a combination of teachers from other subject areas (theatre, English, history, etc.), a couple of periods per week on public speaking can result in a fantastic practise. Our oracy curriculum, in particular, consists of two periods for each pupil at the 11/12 grade level. Each student takes a course in Spanish oracy in the 12th and 13th grades, which seeks to link the skills of talking to a new environment. For starters, students will learn how to develop their own voice by grasping the four strands of oracy (cognitive, linguistic, physical, and emotional), as well as how to master the art of excellent listening and attempt performance poetry. The curriculum then teaches students how to utilise their voices to advocate for human rights through the application of persuasive skills learned through participation in human rights campaigns. Students are evaluated against our oracy framework in each situation, and they also participate in carefully crafted assessments to determine whether or not they have improved.