Oracy and Debating
High-quality classroom talk is essential to pupils’ thinking and learning. It is also linked to improvements in reading and writing, and overall attainment.
At St. Michael's we believe spoken language to be fundamental to the achievement of our pupils. We understand that communication and language are the roots underpinning success in reading and writing and that good communication skills can enhance every type of learning. This is why we ensure that all our children have many opportunities to fully explore their communication and language skills.
The benefits of oracy skills go far beyond academic achievement and employability however, they boost a whole range of social, emotional and interpersonal skills, including self-confidence, self-awareness, resilience and empathy. Having the skills and confidence to speak up and believe in yourself has also been shown to enhance our sense of happiness and well-being, preventing the isolation that comes from feeling side-lined.
Oracy underpins our work across the curriculum as pupils develop the skills to reason, discuss, debate and present their learning in a variety of contexts with increasing skill and confidence. Our pupils are encouraged to explore ideas through discussion, to format their own reasoned arguments, to challenge each other’s opinions, to develop critical thinking skills as well as talk in full sentences with a clear and confident voice. It is our intention to provide an environment that is rich in talk and ensure that, by the time they leave St, Michael's, all our pupils are able to communicate effectively and confidently in a range of different situations, for a variety of different audiences.
Oracy is at the heart of the Talk for Writing approach to teaching English. Therefore, oracy is a fundamental part of teaching and learning at St. Michael's. Providing pupils with lots of opportunity for talk enables them to develop into clear and confident communicators, able to use their voice to articulate their thoughts and feelings. At St. Michael's, oracy is interwoven into all aspects of the curriculum through the application of the oracy skills framework. We develop pupils' cognitive, social, linguistic and physical oracy skills by deliberate practice and careful scaffolding.
Teachers plan for talk across the curriculum and to elevate speaking beyond the classroom. Pupils have a range of planned oracy experiences across all curriculum areas, which include drama and role play opportunities, presentation of learning, talk partners, paired/collaborative work, giving and receiving instructions, asking and responding to questions, listening to stories and visiting speakers, sharing experiences and ideas, explaining their reasoning, and experimenting with words and vocabulary. Not only do we strive to develop spoken language skills through the taught curriculum, but there are many opportunities for children to develop their oracy skills outside of the curriculum, including pupil-led assemblies and whole school assemblies, Faith Council and School Council meetings, the upper Key Stage 2 debating curriculum, spelling bees and other pupil voice activities, playtimes, lunchtimes, school productions and extra-curricular activities.
Respectful and productive relationships between all who form part of the school community are crucial aspects of the school’s ethos. As a staff, we therefore foster good communication amongst ourselves and with our pupils, parents, carers, and with the wider community.
Debating and Oracy
The Year 5 and 6 Debating curriculum is underpinned by the training and curriculum of the English Speaking Union, particularly their Oracy in Action programme.
Oracy in Action is a complete oracy intervention for primary schools, enabling you to deliver a sequenced, evidence-based speaking and listening programme across your school. Developed with leading practitioners with direct experience teaching oracy and leading school improvement, Oracy in Action provides your school with a series of lessons to kickstart meaningful talk in the classroom.
Our Year 5 and 6 debating curriculum is based on a two-year rolling programme, with pupils learning the fundamental skills of effective oracy as per English Speaking Union's Oracy in Action programme, while also studying the contextual knowledge needed to participate in a town hall debate at the culmination of the unit.
The two motions debated during the two-year programme are directly linked to our curriculum driver of cultural heritage:
Motion 1: The house believes that statues linked to Britain's imperialist past should not be displayed in public settings.
Motion 2: The house believes that all inward migration to Britain is a negative thing.
Our oracy curriculum enables children to speak with confidence, clarity and fluency, while adapting their use of language for a range of different purposes and audiences, including the use of Standard English. It emphasises the value of listening and the ability to concentrate on, interpret and respond appropriately to a wide range of listening experiences. Our curriculum teaches children to value their own opinions and be able to express them to others, sustaining a logical argument, while also being open minded and taking account of the views of other, valuing their contributions and respond to them appropriately. It develops in children the necessary skills to present their ideas and share their learning in an engaging, informative way through formal presentations. At St. Michael's we believe that the ability to do all these things is a vital skill that supports success in learning and in life generally.