Amanda MoorghenResearch and Resources Senior Officer

3 ideas for… introducing oracy activities into your school

Wednesday 23 Aug 2017

From simple starter activities to whole-school oracy approaches

Oracy isn’t just for the “gifted and talented”. It isn’t reserved for the stage, the debating club or the English classroom. In order to thrive, every child needs to be a confident, critical communicator. Whole-school oracy approaches ensure that every child gets a chance to find their voice.

Here are three approaches that teachers across the UK are taking to support oracy in their schools:

1. Start small – quick activities

It’s great to have the support of the whole school, SLT singing your praises and triumphant celebrations of the power of oracy in your school. But if you’re not in that position, fear not! There’s still a lot you can do in your classroom, year group or department.

Some teachers integrate oracy into daily school life by including oracy activities as lesson starters, or using them in form time. For example, ‘Where do you stand?’ is a fun, quick way to explore students’ pre-existing views and knowledge of a topic, or to encourage them to apply new facts and understanding in a critical context.

Directed oracy activities, where students learn new methods for critical discussion, help to hone communication skills. These new skills can then be developed and practiced during form time, whilst also encouraging students to engage with topical issues of the day, or react to current events.

2. Grow what you’ve got – running a club

Lots of schools run small debating, public-speaking or drama clubs, but often these aren’t open to all students. Older pupils at your school often need little support, just lots of encouragement to start growing these programmes themselves. In many schools the job of coaching younger students and looking out for external opportunities or competitions for club members are taken up by enthusiastic pupils, rather than being an extra burden for busy teachers.

Ensuring all students get at least a small taste of what the club has to offer – for example by allowing keen pupils to run taster sessions, or show their skills off at assemblies – goes a long way to breaking down barriers and helping more pupils see that oracy activities can be for them too.

For more support, check out our ESU guide to running a debate club.

3. Go big! – curricular integration

Increasing numbers of schools around the UK are explicitly developing students’ oracy skills by integrating them into their schemes of work. For some, this means placing key oracy milestones into all subject areas; for others, focusing on one or two subject areas has proved a better approach.

The schools who’ve had the most success with this have found they’ve needed to go beyond asking students to do one or two presentations a term – these key milestones need to be accompanied with dedicated time to allow students to build the skills they need to approach oracy activities with the ability and confidence to succeed.

Whatever you plan for your school in the new academic year, we hope it’s something that gets students talking! To find out more about how the ESU can support your school’s oracy journey, please visit www.esu.org/our-work.

You can find more lesson and activity plans, guides and motion ideas for debating, public speaking and performance on our resources page.