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How to implement Oracy in schools

How to implement Oracy in schools

3 min read
  • Oracy

The importance of Oracy, which is students’ ability to express themselves coherently in spoken language, is an important life skill. Alongside literacy and numeracy, Oracy has long been one of the pillars of education.

But how do we help develop it? And which barriers may have to be overcome? To help us understand how to best implement Oracy, we interviewed Lucy Lowde, an Oracy Lead at her school (and future co-author of a book on Unlocking Oracy), for our Teacher CPD Academy Expert Insights series.

Here’s what we learnt…

Oracy as a whole-school operation

For Oracy to be truly effective, it must be integrated across the entire school. If students are expected to engage in different speaking and listening activities across multiple subjects without a coherent approach, they may become confused. This can lead to them failing to develop their Oracy skills comprehensively.

The balance here is to ensure it doesn’t become an “add-on” or a “tick-box exercise”. This can lead to it being inauthentic and unlikely to make much real impact. Having a unified aim to embed Oracy into learning helps to ensure that students receive consistent guidance and expectations, making it easier for students to understand and master these skills.

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Integrate Oracy into existing systems and subjects

Embedding Oracy into systems that already exist within your school is far more effective than treating it as a bolt-on. By enhancing and building upon what is already in place, schools can create a more seamless transition that doesn’t overwhelm students or teachers. Although we want each subject to embrace Oracy, this will look different in each subject. As Lucy said, “every subject has its nuances”.

Building upon that point, it’s important to understand how different subjects lend themselves to different aspects of Oracy. As Lucy explains, “it’s about understanding how Oracy fits into the subject that you have”. Understanding these nuances can help when tailoring Oracy activities to fit within each discipline, for example:

  1. Logical chains of reasoning in Maths – Encouraging students to verbalise their problem-solving processes, explaining each step and the rationale behind it, not only develops Oracy skills; it also deepens students’ Metacognition and Mathematical understanding.
  2. Explaining processes verbally in Science – Whether describing the steps of an experiment or the lifecycle of a plant, adding a verbal element to activities can help students articulate complex ideas clearly.
  3. Debate and discussion in History and English – Subjects such as History and English are ideal for fostering debate, teaching students to construct arguments, present evidence and listen critically to opposing viewpoints.

A thoughtful approach to Oracy implementation

Implementing Oracy should be a gradual process. Rushing to incorporate too many changes can lead to resistance and burnout. Before implementing Oracy activities, consider whether they work in your context. What works in one school might not work in another, so be prepared to modify or even abandon activities that don’t yield the desired results.

Final thoughts

Incorporating Oracy into your school’s curriculum is not just about enhancing communication skills; it’s about equipping students with the tools they need for academic success and personal development. By taking a whole-school approach, integrating Oracy into existing systems, understanding its role within different subjects, and implementing it thoughtfully, schools can create an environment that fosters essential Oracy skills.

If you are thinking about going down this route, start by evaluating your current curriculum and identifying natural points for integrating Oracy activities consistently across subjects. Remember, the goal is to enhance what you already have. We would like to extend our thanks to Lucy Lowde for sharing her expertise with us. We learned a lot from talking to her and hope this brief summary of our talk helps you! If you want your staff to learn more from her and an all-star line-up of experts, join the Teacher CPD Academy.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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