Getting children to talk about talk…

Oracy (basically one word for speaking an listening and everything in between) has become more of an educational agenda over the past few years. Research especially is highlighting the importance of creating future adults that are able to express themselves by using their voice. 

Voice 21, a charity that set up within School 21, is leading the way on ensuring that speaking is of the highest priority and is being taught well across the uk (find out more at 

Which leads me to this Wednesday’s CPD which was led by our Primary head of oracy: Amy. It focused on different tools we could use within our classes as a way to learn, promote and reflect on talk in our classrooms.

We looked at the differences in talk and what was the purpose of each within our day to day routine in school: Learning to talk and learning from talk.

So being the sort of person if I don’t use it I lose it… I embarked on implementing it straight into that weeks lessons… and so the rest of this blog is an insight into what happened when I used some of the techniques we explored into a P4C lesson last Friday…


This is an integral part of any good P4C lesson and I was looking for a good one. While having a bit of a google up I came across a video stimulus in the form of ‘Balance’, which is an animation created by Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein in 1989. The blog I got it from recommended it for y5/6 but I thought I would give it a go with my Year 3 students. It focuses on 5 animated (slightly creepy) ‘men’ that are standing on a suspended platform that must be kept balanced. They move around a bit before going fishing and catching a box. They then continue to fight over the box until all but one fall off. It is great for highlighting team work and selfishness. You can find it here:

Oracy techniques used: 

So the focus was on introducing roles and reflecting on there use in our own discussions. The roles used were instigator, challenger, summariser and clarifier which were introduced to the children prior to the discussion. Children were then given counters to add to each ‘role’ as they spoke to ‘visualise’ the conversation they were having. Further to this, there was also a child with the silent role of ‘talk detective’ in the group who had to make notes on who was showing each role to see whether it matched with the counters.

What worked?

The children took to the roles and counter task really well. They did however need reminded to place their counters every time they talked rather than just occasionally. This is something I will continue to build on and use in future lessons. We also introduced a ‘bouncing thumb’ into the discussions to show the speaker that they wanted to challenge or clarify that particular idea so it was not lost in discussion. This has since popped up in other lessons and works well as a silent tool.

What needs more work?

The talk detective did work, but the information they collected (the names of the children who did each role) was rather superficial. This is Something I would like to build on over the next few weeks. I would like to see the children begin to note down not only who spoke but what they said to ensure the roles are being clearly understood.

So what next?

 I am going to develop these tools in the coming weeks… look out for more posts.

This entry was posted in culture, Oracy, Pioneer, Reflection, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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