“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
At St. Francis de Sales, we do not regard silence as being ‘golden’. Our classrooms are rich in high quality talk, using oracy skills as drivers of change. We passionately believe in the motto ‘Oracy First’ as research evidences that purposeful speaking and listening activities aid the development of pupils’ language capabilities; therefore, this secures a foundation for thinking and communication. The potential is then there for oracy to permeate pupils’ lives (both in school and beyond, which could address social disadvantage).
Research has also proven that a child’s ability to use spoken language has a direct effect on their overall level of educational attainment. This is why we do not treat ‘Oracy’ as a discrete subject at St. Francis de Sales – it is a part of our school’s culture and weaves through the entire curriculum as an integral part of teaching and learning. It is also our duty to prepare our pupils to become responsible, independent citizens, who can express themselves effectively and confidently, articulate ideas, speak eloquently using Standard English, influence through spoken language and listen to others with understanding.
Oracy is one of the ‘five common essentials’ at St. Francis de Sales; therefore, opportunities are planned for pupils to develop their use of spoken language across every subject. An oracy skills progression document is followed by staff and pupils are introduced to the skills for their year groups with ‘Oracy Skills’ booklets. Year group posters are also displayed in classrooms as constant reminders of the five key areas to be developed. These are: spoken language, use of voice, body language, organisation and listening and responding. Each of these areas is represented by an image that pupils become familiar with. When appropriate, these images are displayed during lessons (across all subjects) on teachers’ presentations and pupils’ task cards to signal that there is an ‘Oracy Opportunity’.
There are two particular oracy skills that our pupils are constantly made aware of: Standard English and gap fillers. All staff (not just teachers) are instructed to model the correct use of Standard English when speaking in any kind of situation and to avoid using gap fillers e.g. ‘erm’ and ‘like’. As these two particular examples are frequently used by our pupils, classrooms display a sign with a cross through them! Extra support is offered to staff if they require it, and they are also encouraged to correct pupil mistakes when they are talking in any context. It has even become a natural thing for our pupils themselves to notice and offer constructive advice to their peers (and sometimes staff!) when they hear mistakes.
In addition to planning regular oracy opportunities across all subjects, here are some other examples of how we give ‘Oracy’ a high profile at St. Francis de Sales:
- ‘Formative 5’ sessions for verbal feedback at the beginning of every lesson
- Individual knowledge organiser folders for pupils to refer to and discuss with their peers
- Subject leaders regularly seeking pupil voice from a range of pupils and selecting ‘Subject Ambassadors’
- The school council election process and subsequent school council meetings – led by the councillors
- Our Play Pod providing unlimited opportunities for expressive play and talk
- Our focus on children’s mental health and the strategies we have in place to encourage talk
- ‘Global Scholars’ after-school club
- ‘Zoom’ classes with outside agencies